Rich and tender slow cooker lamb ragu is perfect for serving with pappardelle or polenta; this dish makes a perfectly cozy family Sunday meal.
The slow cooker and a large piece of lamb are made for each other. Just a minimum of preparation, then give the cooker the time it needs, and the results are always perfect: irresistibly tender and flavorful meat.
Just the way this particular recipe for slow cooker lamb ragu is. The meat is perfectly tender; the gravy is rich and packed with flavor. You will lick the plate clean. Serve this over some pappardelle or soft polenta, and you will need nothing more.
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- I prefer the shoulder, but the leg is fine as well, a piece weighing about 1.3/ 3 lbs.
- If you use boneless meat, about 1 kg/ 2.2 lbs. should be enough.
- As you can see in the photographs, I had a piece of meat that still had the skin on. That is fine, but if you have a skinless cut, that is even better; the dish will have less fat in it. I try to remove as much of the skin as possible before shredding the meat.
- I had already chopped bacon. If you have a whole piece, chop it roughly.
- You could leave out the bacon, and the dish will still taste very good. However, I like it better with the bacon; it is hearty and imparts the lamb ragu extra flavor.
- I use homemade lamb stock when I have it. However, when I don’t, I go for chicken or beef stock. Lamb stock is not often available in stores, so chances are that unless you make it yourself, you might have to replace it anyway. When using commercial stock, make sure it is low in sodium; regular sorts might make the dish too salty.
- Vegetables: onion, garlic, carrots, canned tomatoes.
- Spices: dried thyme, bay leaves, chili flakes, salt and pepper.
- Other ingredients: tomato paste, red wine vinegar.
How to make lamb ragu in the slow cooker?
- Season the meat and brown it in a heavy-bottomed pan on all sides (1). Transfer it to a plate.
- Cook the bacon cubes in the same pan until they start to render the fat. (2)
- Add finely chopped onions and garlic and cook for a few more minutes until softened. (3)
- Stir in the tomato paste.
- Pour in the red wine and stir (4).
- Add stock, chopped carrots, thyme, bay leaves, chili, and canned tomatoes. Stir well.
- Transfer the food to the crockpot. Place the meat on top.
- Cook for 8 hours on low.
- Remove the meat from the pot and discard as much of the skin as possible. Shred the meat with two forks.
- Return the shredded pieces to the pot, stir well, and adjust the taste with salt, pepper, and vinegar. Add only half of the vinegar first, stir and taste, and add more if necessary.
How to serve slow-cooked lamb ragu?
Serve immediately or reheat before serving.
An extremely popular way of serving lamb ragu is with pappardelle; no idea why… but people seem to like it… Indeed, a tasty combination, but rest assured that any other kind of pasta shape will taste equally delicious.
My favorite combination is ragu with soft basic polenta, I am crazy about polenta in any form, and the way it soaks that gravy is just out of this world. You can also serve the dish with mashed or boiled potatoes, bulgur, or rice. Sprinkle a bit of freshly grated Parmesan on top if you like.
Make in advance
You can cook the dish in advance, transfer everything to another pot, let it cool, and refrigerate until ready to serve. Reheat on the stovetop before serving.
Alternatively, you can brown the meat on the stove and make the sauce on the stovetop as well. Let everything cool and keep refrigerated until the next day or when ready to cook in the slow cooker.
What to do with leftovers?
The slow cooker lamb ragu keeps well in the fridge for at least 2-3 days, and you can reheat it repeatedly; it gets even better after reheating. You can freeze the leftovers for up to 3 months in an airtight container. Defrost in the fridge and reheat properly before serving.
What to serve with it?
More ragu and stews
Slow Cooker Lamb Ragu
- 3 lbs lamb shoulder or leg
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 4.5 oz bacon cubes
- 1 medium onion
- 2 garlic cloves
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- ½ cup dry red wine
- 3 carrots
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 2-3 bay leaves
- ½ - 1 teaspoon dried chili flakes to taste
- 28 oz chopped tomatoes canned
- 1 cup lamb stock Note
- 1 tablespoon cider or red wine vinegar more to taste
- fine sea salt and ground black pepper
- Season: Heat the oil in a large heavy-bottomed pan. Season the lamb generously with salt and pepper and brown it on all sides. Remove onto a plate.
- Cook: Add the bacon cubes to the same pan, cook for about 2 minutes until some fat renders. Add the finely chopped onions and garlic. Cook for about 5 minutes until softened. Stir in the tomato paste for about 1 minute. Deglaze the pan with the red wine and stir for about 30 seconds.
- Fill the slow cooker: Pour the contents of the pan into the slow cooker. Add the chopped carrots, dried thyme, bay leaves, chili, chopped tomatoes, and lamb stock. Stir to combine. Place the lamb piece on top.
- Cook on low for 8 hours until the meat is very tender. Remove the lamb from the pot and shred it with two forks, discarding as much skin as possible.
- Adjust taste: Return the meat to the sauce and adjust the taste of the ragu with salt, pepper, and a little vinegar.
- Serve: Transfer to a warm serving bowl before serving. Serve with pappardelle or any other kind of pasta.
- The lamb stock can be replaced with chicken or beef stock. Use homemade or low sodium stock.
- Serve with pappardelle or any other kind of pasta shape. And you might like to try the ragu with polenta as well. Of course, mashed or cooked potatoes, bulgur, couscous, or rice are great as well. And don’t forget a sprinkle of Parmesan on top.