Slow-cooked lamb ragu in a rich, tomato sauce served with soft, fluffy cauliflower gnocchi is the ultimate impressive meal and will knock the socks off your guests.
So we go from Summery Salads to Winter Warmers in a matter of days because that is what the weather is doing to me right now. One day it’s slightly warmer, the next day I’m wondering if it’s safe to make a fire in my room because it feels like I’ll freeze to death.
But honestly, I’m not complaining because I actually love it. I love that in one week I can indulge in succulent shredded lamb ragu in a garlicky tomato sauce served with soft pillows of cauliflower gnocchi and the next day I get to eat a glorious Moroccan chicken salad. Because let’s face it, who doesn’t want all of that?
I saw the idea for cauliflower gnocchi a while ago on Instagram and the idea immediately spoke to me. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you’ll know that I am pretty obsessive over cauliflower (that’s putting it mildly) and the thought of it in gnocchi (another thing I’m obsessive over), had me swooning.
A few weeks ago I had some lamb shoulder left over after a Sunday lunch and decided to shred the meat and cook it even longer in a really rich sauce consisting of garlic (and lots of it), tomato, red wine and fresh rosemary. The perfect thing to mop up all that sauce? Cauliflower gnocchi, of course.
And yes, you can serve the ragu with shop-bought gnocchi but if you have the time (this is perfect weekend food), I beg of you to make your own. You will not be sorry as there is just nothing like fresh gnocchi. It’s pillowy and soft and fluffy and luscious and you will be in heaven, I promise. The cauliflower does make the gnocchi very soft, which is not a bad thing, but if you are worried that they might be a little too soft, simply add another 1/2 cup or so of flour. That will firm them up a little and make them more robust.
I like roasting the cauliflower before pureeing to ensure maximum flavour but it also ensures the cauliflower is quite dry when you puree it. This is essential because boiling/steaming the cauliflower will result in more moisture which in turn will mean the dough will need even more flour and the end result will be gnocchi that is quite tough.
This is the kind of food I like to cook on a chilled Saturday when I don’t have much on, I can start the lamb and potatoes in the morning, allow them to slow-cook then leisurely make the gnocchi dough and finally finish everything off just before dinner time. It’s that slow food that allows you to experience the utter joy that accompanies cooking and the end result is a meal that will have you craving more. Guaranteed.
for the ragu
- 1 kg lamb shoulder
- 1 onion quartered
- 6 garlic cloves skin on
- 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
- 1 cup red wine
- 1 cup beef/lamb stock
- salt & pepper to taste
- 1 red onion finely chopped
- 4 garlic cloves thinly sliced
- 1 x 400g can chopped tomatoes
- 2 teaspoons tomato paste
- salt & pepper to taste
for the gnocchi
- 1 kg baking/fluffy potatoes
- 2 cups cauliflower florets
- 2 egg yolks
- 1½-2 cups cake/all purpose flour
- salt to taste
- 1 cup semolina for dusting
- To make the lamb ragu, pre-heat the oven to 160°c.
- Place the lamb shoulder, along with the quartered onion, garlic cloves, rosemary, red wine and stock in an oven-proof dish then season to taste and cover with foil/a lid.
- Place in the oven and allow to roast slowly for 3-4 hours until the lamb is tender and falling off the bone.
- In the meantime, place the potatoes on a baking sheet and bake for 45 minutes – 1 hour until a skewer is easily inserted.
- Place the cauliflower on a baking sheet and drizzle with a little olive oil. Allow to roast alongside the potatoes until golden brown and cooked through.
- Remove the potatoes and cauliflower from the oven and allow to cool slightly.
- Puree the cauliflower and set aside.
- Halve the potatoes and scoop the flesh into a bowl, using a potato masher/fork, mash until there are no lumps. Add the cauliflower puree.
- Add the egg yolks and mix well.
- Add the flour, 1/2 cup at a time and mix in gently, you don’t want to over-work the dough. I only needed 1.5 cups of flour for my gnocchi but some mixtures might need a bit more. It’s best to make sure your potatoes are quite dry before adding the flour though as the more flour you add, the tougher your gnocchi will be.
- When you’ve added enough flour to result in a soft dough, break tennis ball sized pieces off of the dough and roll into long strips on a floured surface. cut the strip into 1cm gnocchis and place on a tray sprinkled with semolina (the semolina won’t absorb into the gnocchi) until you are ready to cook them. If you like, you can also use a fork to make indents in the gnocchi which create little spaces to suck up more of the ragu sauce.
- When the lamb is cooked, remove from the oven and shred.
- In a saucepan, saute the red onion and sliced garlic until soft and translucent then add the tomatoes, tomato paste, shredded lamb and all the lamb’s cooking juices.
- Reduce the heat and allow to simmer for 30-45 minutes until the sauce has reduced slightly and the lamb is very tender.
- To cook the gnocchi, bring a large pot of salted water to the boil and drop the gnocchi in carefully. When they float to the surface they are ready. Remove them with a slotted spoon and place straight into the ragu.
- Serve immediately.