The weather has taken a decidedly nippy turn and the only thing on my mind is heartily warming food. Enter my recipe for Lamb Shoulder Ragu with red wine. 

Traditionally enjoyed over Easter, roast lamb is a lesson in slow cooking. For this recipe, I’ve replaced more popular cuts like leg with lamb shoulder – a superior joint for cooking low and slow. The meat works well when pulled, and thus is ideal for a rich ragu redolent of garlic, tomato and rosemary. Ask your butcher to cut but not sever the upper shank attached to the shoulder – this way the meat can be easily accommodated in a roasting pan. Based on the size of the lamb shoulder, I’ve implemented a two-step process to the ragu – beginning with roasting off the shoulder in a marinade of herbs, garlic, lemon and white wine. The ragu sans lamb is cooked separately, with the tender pulled lamb added once the sauce is already cooked. The ragu then simmers for an extra 20 to 30 minutes to allow the lamb to further melt into the sauce. 

A labour of love, I would suggest dedicating a weekend to preparing this feast from scratch – with the only distraction being to add another log to the fire and pour oneself a glass of red wine. There is something to be said for autumnal cooking – sheltered from the season’s bracing wind inside a kitchen steamy with lamb-scented promises, finding contentment in the uncluttered methodology of preparing a roast. 


As this is indeed a recipe where wine features most prominently, the choice of which to use in the ragu is important. Leopards Leap Culinaria Grand Vin 2019 is a robust Bordeaux-style blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (51.84%), Merlot (28.4%), Malbec (12.35%), Petit Verdot (4.94%) and Cabernet Franc (2.47%).

Aromas of red fruit, with a subtle nose of cassis, tobacco and a hint of cedar are complemented by fruity mulberry notes in the aftertaste. Ripe, rounded tannins ensure a firm, elegant structure that holds its own when paired with flavourful lamb dishes. 

Since no ragu is such without a starch and I couldn’t simply select one, I’m proffering the choice of either a rich risotto flavoured with Parmesan or silky ribbons of pappardelle. If opting for the risotto, dish the rice on to a warmed serving platter and generously spoon the ragu over the top, dotting with fresh basil or oregano. For the pasta, cook until al dente before pulling it from the water and placing it straight into the sauce. The residual water on the pappardelle will loosen the ragu, allowing it to coat the pasta. As for the ragu, I recommend serving it a day after cooking so as to allow for those aforementioned flavours to amalgamate. Any lucky leftovers can be easily frozen to be enjoyed another day – either as a sauce, or the filling for a pie.

Lamb Shoulder Ragu with Red Wine

Prep time: 45 mins /Cook time: 5.5 hours /Serves: 6-8

You will need:

  • 3.5kg lamb shoulder
  • 200ml olive oil
  • Sea salt and ground black pepper
  • 10 sprigs of rosemary
  • 5 sprigs oregano
  • 2 heads of garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 2 lemons
  • 1 large onion or two leeks
  • 1 bottle dry white wine

For the sauce:

  • Butter or olive oil
  • 1x 250g punnet of portabellini mushrooms, washed
  • Half a head of celery, leaves removed
  • 3-4 shallots or 2 large onions
  • 3 sprigs rosemary
  • 3 sprigs oregano
  • 3 sprigs thyme
  • 1 bottle Leopards Leap Culinaria Grand Vin 2019
  • 2x 400g tins of whole tomatoes in tomato juice
  • 4-6 large tomatoes, chopped
  • 4-6 large garlic cloves, peeled
  • Sea salt and ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 220°C. Place the lamb shoulder into a roasting pan. The lamb should fit snugly. Finely chop half the rosemary and all of the oregano and zest and juice the lemons – keeping the lemon halves. In a bowl, combine the herbs, lemon zest and juice and garlic with the olive oil. Use a sharp knife to slice little pockets all over the lamb shoulder. Use a teaspoon or fingers to push some of the marinade into these pockets. Rub the rest of the marinade over the lamb and season liberally with salt and pepper. Turn the lamb so that it is skin side up, with the rib section facing down. Halve the onion and place under the ribs, along with the lemon halves and remaining rosemary. Pour in half of the white wine and use kitchen foil to cover the lamb, tucking in the corners to seal the dish. 

Roast the lamb shoulder at 220°C for the first 30 minutes, then reduce the heat to 160°C for a further 4.5 hours. About halfway, add the remaining wine. The lamb will steam as the wine slowly evaporates, caramelising and rendering as it cooks. When ready, the lamb should fall apart at the lightest touch from a fork.

While the lamb roasts, prepare the ragu base. Heat a little butter or olive oil in a large heavy-bottomed and lidded casserole. Finely chop the mushrooms, celery and shallots and sauté until gently caramelised. Increase the heat, finely chop the herbs and add to the pot along with a grind each of salt and pepper. Pour in the bottle of Leopards Leap Culinaria Grand Vin 2019 and deglaze. Over high heat, reduce the liquid slightly and add in the tinned and chopped tomatoes. Cook the sauce over low heat with the lid slightly ajar to allow the mixture to gently reduce. 

Once the lamb is ready, remove from the oven and allow it to rest for 10 minutes. Then, using two forks, gently shred the meat, either discarding the bones or keeping them for stock. Be sure to remove and discard all gristle, sinew and large pieces of fat. Add the shredded lamb to the ragu sauce, thinning the sauce with any leftover pan juices from the lamb or a little stock or hot water. Crush in the garlic and stir to combine. Cook the ragu for a further 20-30 minutes and preferably leave overnight to allow the flavours to develop.


Parmesan Risotto

Prep time: 5 mins /Cook time: 30 mins /Serves: 4

You will need:

  • 250g arborio rice
  • Half a head of celery, finely chopped
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • Butter or olive oil
  • 150ml white wine
  • 1-2 litres chicken or vegetable stock
  • Salt and pepper
  • 250ml grated Parmesan

In a deep saucepan, heat the butter or olive oil over medium heat and sauté the celery and shallots until translucent – no not brown. Season with salt and pepper and add in the rice, coating it in the residual butter. Deglaze with the white wine and reduce the heat to low. Ladle in half of the stock and stir to combine. Repeat with the rest of the stock until the rice is cooked – al dente with a small amount of bite. Remove the risotto from the heat and scatter over the grated Parmesan, stirring it into the rice. Serve the risotto immediately with the warmed ragu.

Alternatively, serve the ragu with pappardelle, fresh basil, lots of grated Parmesan and a few glasses of Leopards Leap Culinaria Grand Vin 2019


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