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The secret to spectacular Lamb Ragu is time. Stir a short list of ingredients together and let them bubble away until the individual flavors meld and blossom into something greater. This culinary wisdom comes from my Italian friend Giovanna, who taught us to make authentic Ragu Sauce in her cooking class in Tuscany. She said: “Take your time with each step, and never rush the process…”

Lamb Ragu with pasta on a white plate.

For regular readers, it’s no surprise to hear that I’m not much for recipes that require a lot of tedious preparation. This lamb ragu is no exception. It takes about an hour to cook, but it’s easy enough for a weeknight – almost all of the time is hands-off. Cut up a few ingredients, get the ragu going, and pour yourself a glass of wine. Then check back once in a while to give the sauce a stir. That’s my kind of fussy.

Lamb Ragu Ingredients

Lamb Ragu Ingredients on a linen surface.
  • Olive Oil: Choose extra-virgin olive oil that has a fresh, fruity aroma, good signs of quality and flavor.
  • Onion: Look for onions that are firm and heavy for their size, with dry, papery skins.
  • Celery: Celery heads should have crisp, tight stalks and vibrant green leaves. Avoid those that have yellowed or wilted leaves.
  • Carrot: Look for carrots that are bright in color, firm, and smooth, steering clear of those that are limp or have begun to sprout.
  • Garlic: Choose garlic that’s firm with unbroken skin, avoiding bulbs that are soft or have green shoots.
  • Ground Lamb: Choose ground lamb that is pinkish-red in color and has a fresh smell.
  • Dry Red Wine: Opt for an Italian red wine that you enjoy drinking, you’ll notice the difference in the ragu’s depth of flavor.
  • Crushed Tomatoes: Look for canned San Marzano tomatoes for their sweet flavor and low acidity.
  • Feta Cheese: Choose feta that is white and creamy with a tangy, salty flavor, avoiding overly crumbly or dry varieties.
  • Fresh Mint or Basil: Be sure the herbs are vibrant, green, and aromatic, with no signs of wilting or browning.
  • Salt: Choose pure sea salt or kosher salt, without added iodine or anti-caking agents, for a clean flavor.
  • Black Pepper: Opt for whole peppercorns that you can grind yourself, as freshly ground black pepper has a fuller, more pungent flavor.

Delicious, beautiful, simple recipe. I made it last month with lamb. Perfect! Right now I am giving a final simmer to a batch made last night with ground wild boar. Just as good! Thanks!

Lamb Ragu with pasta on a white plate photographed from the top.

Recipe Options

  • Preferred Pasta: I’m partial to pappardelle or tagliatelle, but short pastas like gemelli or rigatoni also work well.
  • Make It Yourself: If you love homemade, try making your own pasta with this quick and easy pasta dough made in the food processor.
  • Beyond Pasta: It’s also wonderful over rice, offering a different but equally tasty base.
  • Cheese Choices: I like to top it with sheep’s milk feta, ricotta, or shaved Pecorino Romano or parmesan, each adding its own unique flavor.
  • Top with Fresh Herbs: Don’t forget to add slivers of fresh basil or mint for a fragrant finish.
  • Add Some Heat: If you like a spicy ragu, red pepper flakes add a flavorful heat.

How to Store and Reheat

Store any leftover lamb ragu in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. For longer storage, freeze it in a sealed container or freezer-safe bag for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight before reheating gently on the stovetop.

How to Make Lamb Ragu

In a wide, high-sided skillet, heat olive oil over medium and sauté onion, celery, carrot, and garlic until the onion is translucent. Brown the ground lamb in the same skillet, then pour in the wine and simmer until reduced by half.

Mix in the crushed tomatoes and simmer on low until the ragu thickens and the flavors meld. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve the rich sauce over your choice of pasta, like pappardelle or tagliatelle, or a bed of hot cooked rice, topped with crumbled feta and fresh basil or mint for an extra burst of flavor.

Recipe Video

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Lamb Ragu

5 from 4 votes
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 1 hour 30 minutes
Total: 1 hour 40 minutes
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian
Calories: 439
Servings: 8 people
A hearty and simple pasta sauce recipe that is wonderful served over pasta or rice. Cook pasta or rice according to package directions to be hot when sauce is ready to serve.


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion finely chopped
  • 1 rib celery finely chopped
  • 1 carrot finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 2 pounds lean ground lamb
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 28 ounces crushed tomatoes with juice ideally San Marzano
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 7 ounces feta cheese crumbled, to taste
  • 1/2 cup torn fresh mint or fresh basil


  • Heat olive oil in a wide, high sided skillet over medium heat. Add onion, celery, carrot and garlic. Cook and stir until onion is translucent, about 10 minutes.
  • Add lamb; cook and stir until the lamb has browned and most of the liquid has evaporated. Add wine and let simmer, stirring occasionally, until wine has reduced by half, about 10 minutes. Stir in tomatoes with their juices; bring to boil.
  • Reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, until ragu is thick and flavors have fully melded, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Serve ragu sauce over hot cooked pasta such as pappardelle or tagliatelle (save some of the pasta water to loosen the sauce if necessary) or over hot cooked rice. Serve garnished with crumbled feta and fine slivers of fresh basil or mint.


  • Note that nutrition information does not include pasta or rice.


Calories: 439kcal | Carbohydrates: 11g | Protein: 25g | Fat: 30g | Saturated Fat: 15g | Cholesterol: 104mg | Sodium: 505mg | Potassium: 379mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 1735IU | Vitamin C: 11.9mg | Calcium: 182mg | Iron: 3.2mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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  1. David @ Spiced says:

    5 stars
    I don’t cook with lamb all that often, and I’m not really sure why. We didn’t eat lamb that often growing up, so maybe that’s the reason? Either way, I do enjoy it, and this lamb ragu sounds super flavorful and delicious! Comfort food central right here!

    1. Marissa Stevens says:

      I’m the same, David. My mom doesn’t care for it, so I didn’t grow up eating it either. But Keith and I discovered how much we love it about a decade ago and now we enjoy it one way or another a few times a month!

  2. Jean Sand says:

    We just had a lamb Ragusa here st an Australian winery. Would love to serve this for our annual Christmas/wine tasting dinner. Would it be OK to make ahead and reheat for our party?

    1. Marissa says:

      I love that you plan to make this ragu for your annual dinner! Yes, absolutely you can make it ahead and reheat. It will be even more flavorful that way.

  3. Lydia Fish says:

    How about serving this over polenta, for those of us who are avoiding wheat?

    1. Marissa says:

      Hi Lydia! Yes, absolutely! We often have it over rice and it would be delicious over polenta as well.