Gnocchi with Lamb Ragù & Sheep’s Milk Ricotta

Last summer i made a Ricotta Gnocchi with Guanciale, Fava beans, Peas & Chanterelles that was a big hit around here. Today i’m presenting you a delicious winter version of potato gnocchi with a lamb ragù that will stick to your bones and hopefully, help you survive winter. Who said there wasn’t any love in this blog?

I learned how to make these gnocchi many years ago from Andrew Carmellini who was the executive chef at Cafe Boulud at the time and who is, in my opinion, one of the finest chef in New York city. Not only he excels at cooking French food, but he’s also a true master at making all kinds of fresh pasta and gnocchi for having trained with the bests in Italy. This is Andrew’s method and recipe I’m sharing with you today and following it religiously will keep you from making the all-too-common potato bullets. Nooo, don’t toss your old gnocchi recipes just yet, buy a potato gun instead! If you have no fun eating them, you might as well shoot’em!.. That’s my motto.. er.. but i’m weird.

This dish is deeply satisfying, pillowy potato gnocchi tossed in a rich, thick and textured lamb ragù enriched with olive oil, a spoonful of sheep’s milk ricotta and a sprinkle of grated pecorino goes on top, a few mint leaves are thrown in to add contrast and a refreshing touch. Perfect!

I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as i did.

Gnocchi w/ Lamb Ragù & Sheep’s Milk Ricotta
(serves 4)

For the gnocchi:

  • 4 large Idaho potatoes
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmegiano-Reggiano
  • 2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour

For the lamb ragu:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 1/2 lbs ground lamb shoulder
  • 1/2 cup finely diced carrot
  • 1/2 cup finely diced onion
  • 1/2 cup finely diced celery
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 1/2 cups dry red wine
  • 1 cup canned whole peeled italian tomatoes
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground fennel
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

To finish:

  • 1/4 cup grated pecorino
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup chopped mint
  • 1/4 cup sheep’s milk ricotta

For the ragu:

  • Heat the olive oil in a large stockpot, add the ground lamb and break it apart with a wooden spoon. Brown over high heat for 5 minutes. Add the carrots, onions and celery and mix well. Cook together until the vegetable soften. Add the tomato paste and stir to incorporate, cook for 2 minutes. Add the red wine and stir to incorporate, scrap down the bottom of the pot and cook wine until it evaporates completely.

  • Add the canned tomatoes and the broth. Then add the bay leaves, cumin, coriander, fennel, red pepper flakes, thyme, rosemary, salt and pepper. Scrap down the sides of the pot again.

  • Bring the mixture to a slow simmer and cook the lamb until the liquid evaporates and the flavors meld, about 1 1/2 hours. The ragu will look like a rich, thick and textured sauce.

For the gnocchi:

  • Preheat the oven to 425’F. Prick the potato several times with a fork; place them on a baking sheet. Bake them until the potatoes are tender enough to be pierced by a small knife, about 1 hour. Remove the potatoes from the oven and let them cool just enough so you can handle them, about 3 or 4 minutes (if you let them cool for too long you’ll end up with potato bullets, not gnocchi).
  • Cut each potato in half lengthwise and scoop out the flesh with spoon. Discard the skins. Pass the potatoes through a food mill or potato ricer over a marble or clean surface.

  • Using your hands, gently stir the beaten egg, parmegiano-reggiano, olive oil, melted butter, salt, pepper, and 1 cup of the flour with the potatoes. Work the mixture into a smooth ball. DO NOT OVERWORK THE DOUGH! If the dough seems a little too moist, add a touch of flour.
  • Take inch-thick slices of the dough and roll them to form a ball. On a lightly floured surface roll out ‘dough snakes’ with the palms of your hands. Cut each snakes into gnocchi-sized pieces (about 1-inch). Place the pieces on a floured tray and cover with plastic wrap until ready to cook.

To finish the dish:

  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the gnocchi and let them boil until they come to the surface (about 3 minutes).
  • Meanwhile heat some of the lamb ragu in a large pan, remove the gnocchi from the water using a slotted spoon or spider and add to the sauce. Finish up with a touch of olive oil, butter and toss.
  • Ladle the gnocchi and ragu into serving bowls, sprinkle with pecorino and a spoonful of sheep’s milk ricotta. Garnish with mint leaves. Enjoy!

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  • Manger La Ville

    This sounds so good. Lamb ragu is one of my personal favorites. Also Andrew Carmellini will be on MArtha Stewart next week. I am very excited to see him, he is uber-talented.

  • Mike of Mike’s Table

    What a coincidence–I had just followed the other gnocchi post over the weekend and was smitten with the results. I love the sound of the sauce for this one–it looks like the perfect winter meal

  • Giff

    this sounds fabulous Zen. I love the ragu. Been meaning to make gnocchi again since before *last* winter and I have to crack on and do it.

  • Colloquial Cook

    A propos de ricotta, j’ai goûté de la ricotta fumée chez Batali l’autre jour, c’était d’ailleurs la seule bonne chose de toute la soirée. Oh, lucky man, you who have access to such rare delicacies as ground lamb shoulder.

  • doggybloggy

    whats going on with you – you wasscally wabbit?

  • Olga

    What a great meal for a cold winter night!

    I made gnocchi for the first time a few weeks ago, but mine were much simpler :)

    I wonder if I can make this same meal w/the meat I won? 😛

  • One Food Guy

    Hey Chef, this looks awesome! But I have to know, where can I get some sheep’s milk ricotta? I have been unable to find any place around Boston that carries it. I’m begging you, please, where can I get me some sheep’s milk ricotta!!

  • Ben

    lol at shooting your potatoes if you can eat them. I am loving this recipe and will have to give it a try this winter.

  • Mandi

    Ok, I think I am now officially ‘in love with you’….

  • acey

    yummyumm! i imagine it would be perfect for the rainy days here in the tropics, too. hehe… zenman, can i just kidnap you or something? haha. you know i love you and your blog, right? 😀

  • Heather

    I love gnocchi – it is the most forgivable of all homemade pastas.

    I love ragu too. I bet this would be dy-no-mite with beef short ribs.

  • The Short (dis)Order Cook

    Mmm…gnocchi. How I love the gnocchi. There aren’t many better pasta dishes out there.

    Your ragu looks fantastic too. I’m also a big fan of lamb. Great combination.

    Now for that potato gun…

  • Mochachocolata Rita

    oh mama…hmmm i wonder how does ground fennel taste like…(pardon my ignoranceeeeee). ground corriander and cumin = stars of my kitchen

    cud u ship some gnocchi here? i don’t feel like begging in city super (anymore) these days (they put up a sign. it’s my pic with a cross and a NO on it)

  • Kristin

    That looks awesome. I recently made a flop batch of gnocchi. I’m willing to give it another shot. If all else fails I can bust out the box pasta and eat the lamb ragu while launching gnocchi across the house so the dogs can fight over them. P.S. Dogs can’t tell the difference between good and bad gnocchi. At least someone enjoyed them.

  • Cakespy

    Holy gnocchi that looks amazing. My mom and I used to make gnocchi back in the day (you know, when I grew up in exotic NJ)…you are beginning to inspire me to make it again…

  • Manggy

    Oh, YUM… Something to try with the limited equipment I have here in Noo Joisey! I hope I don’t screw it up! By the way, do you think instead of taking a chance at a restaurant we could have you whip up these wonderful dishes instead? 😉 He he he :)

  • Clumbsy Cookie

    Oh Zen I love gnocchi so much! Will you make it for me next time I’m in NY? And I’m soooooo buying that potato gun!

  • we are never full

    i could tuck into that on a freezing cold night like tonight.

    too bad a. carmellini is gone from avoce. this was the meal i ate there and it was phenomenal (i think andrew had it over pappardelle). yours totally does the original justice. mmmm.

  • foodhuntress79

    Lamb/ sheep is good for people with Blood Type B. (Hmmm…I don’t know how it could relate to this marvelous recipe?)

    More warmth for Zen Chef this winter. Will send you a bottle full of sunshine :)

  • jfoureur

    One Food Guy,
    you should be able to find it at fromaggio-kitchen in cambridge,
    it's called "manouri" also maybe one of barbara lynch's places.
    good luck & bon appetit

  • glamah16

    Yhe best gnocchi I ever had was at Spiaggia in Chicago. They were perfect soft clouds. I am definately going to try this version so I can get something attainable to heavenly gnochhi.

  • Nina Timm

    Never before have I been more inspired to try my hand at Gnocchi….thx Zen, you’ve inspired me a lot today!!!

  • Darius T. Williams

    So, really – who can go wrong w/this?

  • 5 Star Foodie

    These gnocchi look incredible! It’s my first time on your site and you have really great recipes!

  • Marc @ NoRecipes

    That looks incredible! Gnocchi is one of those things I’ve never managed to quite get right. I’ll have to try out yours sometime.

  • Emily

    You amaze me. This sounds amazing.
    I don’t know what else to say. Speechless.

  • Chicopea

    mmm perfect for these cold nights. The ragu looks fantastic and I have lots of gnocchi love.

  • TavoLini

    LOL–I love the potato gun reference! Sometime, you’ll have to come see our 10 foot long PVC potato gun masterpiece–we spent last 4th of July dodging the cops after hitting some billboards 😉

  • peter

    I love gnocchi. I love lamb. I need to put this on my mental list for the near future…….

  • cook eat FRET

    damn you zen chef
    this literally looks and sonds last meal good
    and i am not just saying that
    perfect food
    my kinda food
    and i am a huge carmellini fan and love his new book

  • winechick

    Just discovered your blog. I love the photos and your recipes. Great use of ingredients. Will be making the red curry and the apple tart this week!

  • Nell

    These look incredible. I will try them this weekend, but I see butter in the instructions to add to the potato mixture, but not in the ingredients?

  • Dotti

    I’ve made it yesterday and it was delicious!! Thank you! I had some lamb ragu left for today and ate it with pasta.. it was yummy too 😉