Pan-Fried Ricotta Gnocchi with Lamb Ragu

I am going to skip all my usual flowery introductions (I just like to talk, okay??) and get right down to business on this one. Here are the important things you need to know about this recipe:

1.) It’s unbelievably delicious.
2.) It looks REALLY impressive.
3.) It’s actually really easy to make (and not ALL that time-consuming).
4.) You will feel like a bad-ass when you’re done making it. Because you are.

Pan-Fried Ricotta Gnocchi with Lamb Ragu

Pan-Fried Ricotta Gnocchi with Lamb Ragu
serves 4-6 as a main course
gnocchi recipe (barely adapted) from here

For the gnocchi:
15oz whole milk ricotta*
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup grated parmesan
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
4 T butter
2 cloves garlic, smashed
additional parmesan for garnish

Pan-Fried Ricotta Gnocchi with Lamb Ragu

For the ragu:
1 T olive oil
1 T butter
1 large (or 2 smaller) carrots, cut into very fine dice
1 medium sweet onion, very fine dice
1/2 a large red bell pepper, very fine dice
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb ground lamb
2 T tomato paste
1/4 tsp celery salt
1 cup dry red wine
15 oz can of diced tomatoes
1 bay leaf
kosher salt
black pepper
3 T fresh parsley, minced

*If your ricotta is on the watery side, spoon it into a mesh strainer and set it over a bowl for an hour or two. This will give you a thicker, less wet base to begin with.

1.) To start, get the ragu going. Heat a pot over medium heat, and add the olive oil and butter. Once the pan is hot, add the carrots, onion, and bell pepper, and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until just fragrant, about 30 seconds. Season with a small pinch each of salt and pepper.

Pan-Fried Ricotta Gnocchi with Lamb Ragu

2.) Move the vegetables to the side of the pot, and add the lamb. Season the lamb with a bit more salt and pepper, then break the lamb up with a spoon, and cook until the meat is no longer pink. Drain any excess fat from the pot.

Pan-Fried Ricotta Gnocchi with Lamb Ragu

3.) Add the celery salt, and the tomato paste. Stir until the tomato paste coats all the meat and vegetables, and cook for a minute or two, so the paste caramelizes a bit. Add the red wine, diced tomatoes, and the bay leaf, and allow the mixture to come to a boil. Immediately lower the heat and bring the mixture back to a simmer; cover partway with the lid, and simmer for about an hour, until the ragu is no longer watery, and has cooked down to a thick, rich sauce.

4.) While the ragu simmers, you can make the gnocchi. In a large bowl, combine the ricotta, eggs, parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Mix until thoroughly combined.

Pan-Fried Ricotta Gnocchi with Lamb Ragu

5.) Add the flour to the ricotta mixture, and stir until the flour is fully incorporated. Lightly flour your countertop, and turn the gnocchi dough out on to the counter. Pat it into one cohesive ball, and then cut into three equal pieces.

Pan-Fried Ricotta Gnocchi with Lamb Ragu

6.) Take each of the three pieces, and gently roll them into long ropes, about 1″ wide. Use a paring knife to cut the ropes into pieces about 1/2″ wide. Move the gnocchi to a parchment-lined baking sheet (be careful to lay them out in a single layer – they’ll be a bit tacky, and will definitely stick together).

Pan-Fried Ricotta Gnocchi with Lamb Ragu

7.) Heat a large skillet over medium-low heat, and melt two tablespoons of butter in the skillet. Add the two crushed gloves of garlic to the pan, to the infuse the butter.

8.) Add the first batch of gnocchi to the pan, setting them cut-side down, and leaving enough room between them to turn them easily. You will likely need to pan-fry them in 3 or 4 batches. Allow the gnocchi to cook on the first side for 2-3 minutes, until they’re golden brown, then flip and cook the second side until brown. Remove the gnocchi to a paper towel-lined plate, and continue with the rest of the gnocchi, adding more butter to the pan as needed.

Pan-Fried Ricotta Gnocchi with Lamb Ragu

9.) When the gnocchi are all fried, garnish them with some freshly grated parmesan cheese. Pile some gnocchi into the bottom of a bowl, and then top with a generous ladleful of lamb ragu. Sprinkle a bit of fresh parsley over the top.

Pan-Fried Ricotta Gnocchi with Lamb Ragu

Do you think it would be a problem if I ate ricotta gnocchi every day for the rest of my life? Because that’s the plan, at this point. For every dinner, every day, I will fry up a handful of pillowy, cheesy gnocchi, and then douse them with freshly grated parmesan cheese, pile them into a bowl, and eat them in bed while watching crappy reality TV. Because I’m an adult, and I can.

Pan-Fried Ricotta Gnocchi with Lamb Ragu

Okay, seriously… this meal was GOOD. The ragu is rich and hearty, but the gnocchi are light and airy and crispy on the outside, so they make a perfect pair. You could easily pair either component with something else – the ragu would be great with spaghetti, or spooned over some roasted potatoes. The gnocchi would be fantastic with a simple marinara sauce, or some browned butter with sage. But, I think you should try them together first, because I they’re kind of made for each other!

Go forth and impress your friends and family,

(Side note: If you find that the gnocchi recipe makes too much, you can easily freeze them. Just lay them in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet, and pop them in the freezer for a couple hours. Once they’re pretty solid, you can load them into a ziploc freezer bag, and keep them until you’re ready for them! When you’re ready to make them, pan-fry them the same way – they’ll just need an extra minute or two.)

Greek Lamb Chops with Yogurt Mint Sauce

Let’s talk about lamb. In general, I find that people either love lamb, or they really, really hate lamb. It’s pretty rare to find someone who feels neutral about lamb, in my experience. And I will be honest with you – I hated lamb. I hated it A LOT. Every time I tried it, it was just SO gamey and overly intense with its flavor of ANIMAL. I am in no way squeamish about the fact that eating meat = eating an animal, but lamb was just too much for me.

As with most experiences in my life in which I discovered I actually liked a food I thought I hated (my mom would love to tell you about the time I discovered that ravioli was actually delicious), I was being polite. We were enjoying a little family weekend at my sister and brother-in-law’s house in Illinois, and they had decided to make a big, beautiful dinner… with lamb being the star of the show. Now, my family knows I’m not a huge meat eater, and that I have zero problem making my meal out of all the sides, and avoiding the meat. So, of course, I encouraged them to make their lamb dish, and I would just opt out if I needed to. When the meal was ready, the lamb smelled INCREDIBLE – so, I figured I’d try one little lamb chop, hate it, and pass the remainder on to my husband. I took one little bite of the lamb (smothered in the delicious greek yogurt and herb sauce), and I LOVED it. I proceeded to eat something like 4 lamb chops, to the amazement of myself, and my entire family. And this recipe shall remain on our “special dinners” list from now on. (I won’t lie to you, lamb ain’t cheap. That’s why this isn’t on our “regular old Tuesday night dinners” list – this bad boy is special occasions only.)

Greek Lamb Chops with Yogurt Mint Sauce

Greek Lamb Chops with Yogurt Mint Sauce
recipe modified slightly from here
serves 4 generously

For the lamb:
two racks of lamb, frenched, and cut into 8 chops each
6 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
4 tablespoons fresh rosemary, roughly chopped
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
juice of 4 lemons
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup dry red wine

For the yogurt mint sauce:
generous 1/2 cup fresh mint leaves
1 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh dill
6 green onions, white and light green parts
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon olive oil
juice and zest of one lemon
one cup of plain greek yogurt (please do not use fat free – use 2% or full fat)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1.) Start by making the marinade for your lamb. In a food processor, combine the garlic, rosemary, oregano, salt, and pepper, and pulse until everything is finely minced. Remove the herb mixture to another bowl, and add the lemon juice, olive oil, and wine; stir until everything is well-combined.

Greek Lamb Chops with Yogurt Mint Sauce

2.) Place your lamb chops in a single layer in the bottom of a baking dish, and pour the marinade over them, turning them to make sure all the meat gets coated. Cover the dish tightly, and refrigerate overnight. Late the next morning, turn the chops over, and allow them to keep marinating until just before you’re going to cook them.

Greek Lamb Chops with Yogurt Mint Sauce

3.) At the same time you turn the chops, make your yogurt mint sauce. Add the mint, dill, green onions, red pepper flakes, lemon juice, and olive oil to your food processor, and pulse until finely minced. Then, add the greek yogurt, salt and pepper, and pulse a few more times, until everything is well combined. Cover the sauce and let it sit in the refrigerator for at least 3-4 hours, so all the flavors have a chance to marry.

Greek Lamb Chops with Yogurt Mint Sauce

4.) Remove the lamb from the fridge about 30 minutes before you want to cook it. Heat a large grill pan (or your grill) to medium-high heat, and brush it with a little bit of olive oil. Remove the chops from the marinade, sprinkle with a bit more salt and pepper, and grill for about 4 minutes on the first side, 3 minutes on the second side. If you prefer your lamb more toward well-done, grill them for about 5 minutes per side. Remove them to a large platter, and cover them tightly with foil. Allow them to rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Greek Lamb Chops with Yogurt Mint Sauce

Serve the warm chops with the cold yogurt sauce, and enjoy! I served our chops with a side of roasted chickpeas, and some cauliflower steaks, and it was one of the best meals we’ve had at home in a long, long time. The lamb has an insane amount of flavor, and is unbelievably tender and juicy – combined with the cold, herby yogurt mint sauce? Heaven.

This meal is PERFECT for company – it’s quite impressive, and the bulk of the work can be done ahead of time! Once the meat is marinated, and the sauce is made, you’re ready to throw the chops on the grill when company arrives (and your oven is totally open for whatever sides you decide to serve it with). For all those reasons, it would also make a lovely holiday meal, if you’re okay with non-traditional foods. These chops would even be great for a cocktail party – lamb chops are fairly small, and that bone makes a great handle for eating them without a fork and knife. A platter of lamb chops with a side of sauce for dipping would make a great, slightly heartier appetizer.

Side note: the leftover yogurt mint sauce is amazing on everything! We put it on some chicken sandwiches, used it to dip vegetables, and basically ate it straight from the bowl. Do not discard the extra sauce, whatever you do!

Greek Lamb Chops with Yogurt Mint Sauce

I was essentially gnawing on the chop bones like a cave woman,

lamb meatballs and orzo.

Y’all. If you’re a Gamecock, can you even believe Saturday happened? What a day. From Gameday Saturday morning  to a lovely afternoon (eh, a bit warm) of tailgating,  to a crazy, crazy game! It’s great to be a Gamecock.  I asked Tina last night whether Michigan had even played Saturday, and if so, did they win… and, well, I hope she’s speaking to me right now. It’s hard to say. (they did win. Go Blue.)

Anyway. Y’all know we like to make meatballs around here. We’ve made quite a few actually. So when I came across this recipe for lamb meatballs on Cooking Light this summer, I knew I’d be making them at the first sign of cooler weather. This is certainly nothing fancy, though you could up the culinary ante by making your own marinara, but it’s a distinct and delicious change from ground beef or poultry.

Lamb Meatballs with Orzo.
Cooking Light

2 cups hot cooked orzo
1/3 cup panko
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 pound lean ground lamb
1 garlic clove, minced
1.5 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
2 large egg whites
1 tbsp olive oil
2 cups jarred marinara sauce
3/4 cup (3 ounces) crumbled feta cheese

Preheat oven to 375°. Cook orzo according to package directions; drain. Keep warm.

Combine panko and next 6 ingredients (through garlic) in a medium bowl; stir in 1 1/2 tablespoons parsley. Add egg whites, stirring mixture until just combined. Mixture will be very wet. Shape mixture into 12 meatballs; cover and chill meatballs 5 minutes.

Heat oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add meatballs to pan; cook 8 minutes, turning to brown on all sides. Drain well; wipe pan clean with paper towels. Return meatballs to pan. Spoon marinara sauce over meatballs; sprinkle with cheese. Bake at 375° for 11 minutes or until meatballs are done. Serve over orzo.