One bite of this classic lamb ragu and you’ll feel like you’re sitting on a sun drenched trattoria patio in the mountains of Italy up high in sheep country, even if you have never been there. It’s rich, authentic, satisfying, and best of all, easy and effortless.
If you’ve ever wanted to up your pasta game, changing up your protein is a great place to start. Have you ever noticed that the super authentic Italian pasta places are always doing their pasta sauces with wild boar, duck, bison, or other exotic meats, but at home we’re always making sauces with ground pork and beef?
But, if you look closely at the menu, they almost always also have a lamb ragu too, and that’s because lamb is one of the most traditional and authentic proteins you can get for Italian food. It also happens to be pretty easy to come by and it’s usually the same price as beef, if not even a little cheaper. Lamb is a wonderful meat: rich and tender and only slightly gamey enough to be interesting, but not offensively so for people who aren’t so adventurous.
This is a modernized take on a super classic Umbria ragu. Lamb, garlic, rosemary, and cheese combine together to make something so rich and flavorful you’d never believe it was just a couple of hours of passive cooking. Even though most ragus are just simmered on the stove anyway, doing your ragu in the instant pot locks in your flavors and guarantees your sauce can’t burn or boil dry.
Traditionally this is served with a homemade egg tagliatelle, but here I’ve paired it with this amazing lorighittas Steph made. Any fresh pasta, even store bought, will be a million times better than dried for this sauce though.
How to cook fresh pasta
To cook fresh pasta, drop it in salted boiling water until it floats, then transfer to a nonstick skillet and toss with sauce for 1-2 minutes
How to make a great instant pot pasta sauce
Making a traditional tasting ragu in the instant pot is really simple. Once you have the basic process down, it works for any ragu:
1. Saute your soffritto in high quality olive oil on high for at least 3-4 minutes. Go for a really deep caramelization: the flavor of the ragu comes from the soffritto.
2. Add your meats, cheese rind, and bay leaf. We don’t try to brown the meats because we’re looking for a silky smooth ragu, and although browning meats helps build flavors, it also adds an unwanted (for me) crunchy texture sometimes.
3. Top with enough chicken stock to barely cover the meat. As the meat cooks, it releases more liquid, so we’re going for just enough to build pressure and transfer heat here.
4. Cook on high pressure for 2 hours. You can go as short as 30 minutes, but I’ve found that 2 hours replicates about a 6-7 hour simmer, which is the magic time when it comes to ragu.
5. Quick release and switch back to saute high for 8-10 minutes, or until it reduces to a thick and creamy sauce. Finish with cheese and rosemary. Finishing with spices at the end helps preserve their delicate flavors and imparts a fresher feel to the sauce.
Instant Pot Lamb Ragu Recipe
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 2 hrs 20 mins
Total Time 2 hrs 30 mins
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic crushed or diced
- 1/2 small carrot diced
- 1/4 medium onion diced
- 1 stalk celery diced
- 2 tbsp proscuitto minced
- 1 lb lamb 1/2″ cubed
- 1 parmigiano rind (about 2.5oz)
- 1 bay leaf
- chicken stock enough to cover (about 1/2 cup)
- 1 cup Pecorino or Parmigiano Reggiano
- 1 stalk rosemary
Set the Instant Pot to saute high. Add the olive oil and saute the diced garlic, carrot, onion, and celery until well caramelized, at least 3-4 minutes.
Add the proscuitto, lamb, parmigiano rind, and bay leaf. Add enough chicken stock to just barely cover the meats. Place the lid on the Instant Pot and set to high pressure for 2 hours.
Quick release and remove the lid, then switch to saute high. Reduce, stirring occasionally, until a thick sauce has formed, about 8-10 minutes.
Finish with the cheese and rosemary. Serve with fresh pasta.
To serve, heat up about 1-4 to 1/2 cup of sauce for each portion of pasta in a nonstick skillet. Cook the pasta until al dente, then transfer the pasta to the skillet. Toss until the pasta is well coated and glossy, then finish with extra cheese, red pepper flakes, and rosemary as desired.