Rigatoni with Lamb

I don’t know about you, but my winter blues are in full effect. And that upcoming blizzard here in Boston? Ugh.

(Also, since when did they start naming blizzards? Is it going to be that bad that it needs a name?)

Anyways, I may not be able to change the weather, but I can certainly feed myself some comforting food. It was perfect timing when the American Lamb Board recently sent me some delicious ground lamb to work with as part of Lamb Lover’s Month. Turning it into a hearty, meaty pasta dish was just what the doctor ordered.

To make my rigatoni with lamb ragu a little interesting, I added just a touch of the warm exotic spices like cinnamon and allspice that I often associate with ground lamb. I also boosted the flavor, texture, and nutrition of the ragu with some roasted eggplant cubes.

And for a little extra punch, I whipped up a mixture of goat cheese and creme fraiche to dollop on top. I loved the way it melted into each bite. The tang of the cheese and some mint leaves I threw in at the end added a dimension of fresh flavor, which served as a nice reminder that spring will come soon enough!

Rigatoni with Lamb and Eggplant Ragu and Goat Cheese Cream

Yield: 4 servings

Rigatoni with Lamb and Eggplant Ragu and Goat Cheese Cream


  • 1 medium eggplant (about 1 1/2 pounds), peeled and cut into half inch cubes
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large shallot, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 pound ground lamb
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/3 cup dry red wine
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes, pureed without the liquid
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 pound rigatoni
  • 2 tablespoons fresh mint, chopped
  • 5 ounces goat cheese
  • 3 tablespoons creme fraiche


  • Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Coat the eggplant cubes in two tablespoons of the olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Lay out the cubes on a sheet pan in a single layer and bake for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until eggplant is tender.
  • Meanwhile, heat the remaining olive oil in a large high-sided skillet or dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the shallot and cook for a couple of minutes until it starts to soften. Then, add the lamb and season with salt and pepper. Cook the lamb until lightly browned, breaking it up as its cooking. Add the garlic and cook for another minute, making sure the garlic doesn’t burn.
  • Add the red wine and stir to pick up any bits that have stuck to the pan. When the wine has reduced, add the tomato paste, tomato puree, bay leaf, cinnamon, allspice, and oregano. Simmer for 20 minutes. About halfway through the cooking time, add the cooked eggplant cubes.
  • While the sauce is simmering, start cooking the pasta. Cook until it is very al dente and transfer to the pan with the sauce, reserving a couple cups of pasta water. Add some pasta water to the pan little by little until it reaches desired consistency, and cook for another couple of minutes until the pasta is al dente. Stir in half of the chopped mint. Test for seasoning and add additional salt and pepper if necessary.
  • Using a small whisk, whip together the goat cheese and creme fraiche. Top each portion with a spoonful of the goat cheese mixture and additional fresh mint.

Rigatoni with Lamb

What flavors do you like with lamb?

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