* This is a sponsored post for Welsh Lamb *
This rich and hearty lamb ragu is the ultimate comfort food and it is so easy, as it is all done in the slow cooker. Succulent and melt in your mouth Welsh Lamb shoulder that just falls apart, in a rich herby tomato sauce, all mixed through some pasta. Slow Cooker Lamb Ragu is a comforting and warming meal, that freezes well, making it perfect for batch cooking.
This is a cosy and comforting meal in a bowl and a delicious way to use flavour packed Welsh Lamb. You can make a big batch of it to go with spaghetti, gnocchi or even topped on a baked potato. The best thing about it, is that it looks far more impressive than it actually is. I mean, it IS impressive, but it's super easy to put together. Just brown the meat and vegetables and dump it all in the slow cooker for 5 hours.
Ragu is a generic term used to describe a rich, slow cooked meat sauce. It should have a lot of flavour and it is usually served with pasta. Typically it will involve tomatoes, however meat is the star of the dish. You have probably already had a ragu before, as bolognese is a ragu. Bolognese tends to have more sauce, whereas ragu is more meat than sauce. Have you tried our Slow Cooker Bolognese before?
If you are looking for some more meaty slow cooker recipes to try, then why not try our Slow Cooker Beef Brisket, Slow Cooker Chicken Korma, Slow Cooker Beef Barbacoa or Slow Cooker Honey Mustard Chicken?
Why you will love it
- Comforting - This is a big hug in a bowl. Slow cooker dishes are usually super comforting, but this one is extra comforting with the shredded Welsh Lamb and the rich tomato sauce.
- Freezes well - This freezes so well, so we like to make a big batch to keep extras in the freezer for busy week nights.
- Great use of Welsh Lamb - If you haven't cooked with lamb before, then this is a great place to start as it's a very forgiving recipe and pretty much fool-proof.
- Versatile - We love this served on pasta, but there is so much more that you can do with leftovers. More on the below.
- Lamb - We used a 1.3kg boneless Welsh Lamb shoulder for this recipe. More on Welsh Lamb below. Lamb shoulder is usually fairly tough, and quite fatty (which is where all the flavour is), but cooking it low and slow really breaks it down and makes it nice and soft.
- Flour - This is used as a coating for the meat because flour is full of starch that will caramelise quickly and give a deeper colour and flavour. It also helps to thicken the sauce when it is in the slow cooker.
- Salt and pepper - Season to taste.
- Oil - This is what the lamb is browned in. We used a good quality olive oil.
- Carrot and celery - This is the base of any good ragu. Make sure to chop them up nice and small.
- Onion - This is also the base of the ragu. You can either use a small brown onion, or you can use shallots which would add a sweeter flavour.
- Tomatoes - Crushed tomatoes (chopped, tinned) are what make up the majority of the sauce for this ragu. Try to use the best quality ones you can, as the cheaper ones tend to be really watery and it will give you a watery sauce. More expensive tinned tomatoes will give you a nice thick and rich sauce.
- Tomato purée - This not only to add a burst of tomato flavour, but it helps to thicken the sauce as well.
- Stock - This helps to make up the sauce. Try to use lamb stock if you can, as it will add to that rich lamb flavour. You could use vegetable or mushroom stock if that is all you can find.
- Red wine - This is optional, but it adds a real rich flavour to the ragu.
- Worcestershire sauce - This is always a great addition to a meat stew, as it gives it a little flavour boost.
- Garlic - Fresh is always best, however you could use ready chopped garlic from a jar if you prefer. Make sure that it is very finely crushed or diced, almost like a paste, as this will ensure that the garlic is evenly distributed in the ragu.
- Rosemary - This is the perfect herb to go with lamb. You could use dried basil instead, which would go well with the tomatoes.
A full ingredients list with measurements is in the recipe card below.
Step by step
One: In a small bowl, combine the flour, salt and pepper.
Two: Add the flour to the diced lamb. Mix well so that all the lamb is coated.
Three: Heat the oil in a pan and add the coated lamb. Heat so that the lamb is browned on all sides, about 5 minutes. Once browned, set aside.
Four: Add the diced carrot, celery and onion to the pan. Cook until softened, about 5 minutes.
Five: Add the softened vegetables to the slow cooker and then add the lamb.
Six: Add the garlic, rosemary, stock, wine and Worcestershire sauce.
Seven: Add the tomato purée and chopped tomatoes. Mix well.
Eight: Cook on low for 7 hours or high for 5 hours.
What lamb to use
We used a 1.3kg boneless Welsh Lamb shoulder and we found that it was enough to serve 6 people. Lamb has such an incredible flavour, that a little goes a long way. Cooked low and slow, it just falls apart when cooked and it so juicy and tender. Lamb is such a great source of protein, zinc and Vitamin B12 and has high amounts of omega 3, vitamin E, beta carotene and beneficial fatty acids, so it's a great meat to serve with a Sunday roast.
We wouldn't recommend using other cuts of lamb for this recipe. Lean cuts like chops wouldn't work for the long cooking time, but you could make this with lamb shanks. If you wanted to use minced lamb, then we would recommend you adapt our bolognese recipe mentioned above.
Why Welsh Lamb?
We are really passionate about using locally sourced and seasonal products as much as we can. Only the best of the best goes into creating PGI Welsh Lamb. They create premium, superior quality PGI Welsh Lamb using the best that Wales has to offer.
Welsh livestock farmers are famous all over the world for producing lamb that tastes superb. The non-intensive environment in which livestock are reared develops succulent, sweet and tender meat. The sheep in Wales have thrived for centuries on the natural grassland available all year round, in one of the most unspoilt corners of the world, and you can really taste the difference.
Lamb can actually be a really affordable meat, because cuts like the shoulder have a lot of flavour, so a little bit goes a long way, and Welsh Lamb has a LOT of flavour. The distinctive taste of Welsh Lamb comes from the green pastures of the hills and valleys, a temperate climate, mineral rich soils and unspoilt environment. It all comes together to produce lamb of the highest quality. Find out more at Welsh Lamb.
What to serve with slow cooker lamb ragu
We think pasta is the perfect addition to slow cooker lamb ragu. Generally, the thicker/wider the pasta the better, because this is such a heavy sauce that it needs something bigger to stick to. So, we would recommend pappardelle or linguine over spaghetti. If you wanted to use another pasta shape, you could use rigatoni as the ragu ends up inside the tube which is nice. You could also use gnocchi which is nice and chunky. We love putting leftovers on a Baked Potato.
Everyone knows that garlic bread and pasta are a match made in heaven. Carby heaven! Either buy some ready made, or make your own easy garlic bread by cutting up some French stick and spreading it with a mix of butter, crushed garlic and dried herbs. Then pop it in the oven for 10 minutes. Why not try our Cheesy Garlic Bread recipe?
You could also keep it simple with a big green salad. The key to an epic green salad is to use a variety of greens, like romaine, spinach, kale and rocket. You want leafy greens, but crunch too. Then you need the perfect dressing. Why not try our Lemon Vinaigrette, Honey and Mustard Dressing or Tomato and Basil Vinaigrette. You could also try our Grilled Little Gem Salad.
Store: We always make more than we need, as leftovers keep really well. You can store leftovers in the fridge in an air tight container for 3 days. It actually tastes better the next day, as it allows all the flavours to come together.
Freeze: This ragu freezes really well. We wouldn't recommend freezing it with the pasta, but just the ragu. Let it cool completely and then transfer it to freezer bags and they can be laid flat in the freezer. They will keep in the freezer for up to 3 months.
Defrost: You can defrost the ragu in the fridge overnight.
Reheat: You can reheat this slow cooker lamb ragu in the microwave or in a pan on the hob. Make sure it is piping hot before serving.
Frequently Asked Questions
You don't have to, but we really recommend it as it adds such a depth of flavour. Depending on the size of your chunks of lamb shoulder, it will only take about a couple of minutes to brown. Basically, you want to trigger the Maillard reaction. It is a chemical reaction between amino acids and reducing sugars that gives browned food its distinctive flavour. You don't have to though, and you can just throw everything into the slow cooker and leave it if you are really short on time.
There really is no rule here, just make sure that the meat you are cooking can fit in your slow cooker. We use a Crock Pot DuraCeramic Slow Cooker and we love it. What I love most about it is that you can put the bowl insert on the hob too. So, you can brown the meat in the slow cooker bowl. You can also sear the meat in it first. I also love that it has a clear lid, as I am so impatient that I want to keep looking and seeing what it is doing. If you don't have a clear lid, then lifting it to see will release lots of the heat and add to the cooking time.
Yes, you can do some of the prep in advance. You can sear the meat and then keep it until the next day and then follow the rest of the instructions. You can also do that with the carrot, celery and onion too. It might take longer to cook as it will be cold straight from the fridge.
You can either cook the slow cooker lamb ragu on high for 5 hours or low for 7 hours. If you have the time, cook it on low. The cooking time will depend on what slow cooker you have, as they all cook differently. Ceramic slow cookers tend to cook slower than metal ones.
Yes, you can easily double the recipe and it won't change the cooking time. Just make sure you have a frying pan big enough to brown double the lamb and a slow cooker big enough for double all of the ingredients.
The best way to check that lamb is cooked is to use a meat thermometer. The safe internal temperature for cooked lamb is 62°C/145°F. It should be inserted into the thickest part of the meat that's not touching any bone.
As long as you use a gluten free stock, and make sure there is no cross contamination, then this can be gluten free.
Chianti is a great wine to go with a ragu. It is a dry, red wine made only in a specific part of Tuscany.
Yes, you could, but cooking it in such a short space of time just doesn't achieve the same depth of flavour.
• If you wanted to add some extra flavour to this lamb ragu, then you could deglaze the pan after you have softened the onions, carrot and celery. You can do this with the red wine and lamb stock. This will help to release the browned bits at the bottom of the pan which will add lots of flavour.
• Another way to add lots of flavour is to add a Parmesan rind to the slow cooker bowl with the rest of the ingredients.
• Traditionally, a little bit of double (heavy) cream and Parmesan would be added to the ragu and pappardelle mix to make it extra indulgent, but we left that out to keep this a little bit lighter.
• If the ragu feels a little too thick once mixed with the pasta, then you can loosen it up a little with starchy pasta water.
• You can add some chopped bacon or pancetta for extra flavour.
More lamb recipes
Slow Cooker Lamb Ragu
- 2 tablespoon Plain flour
- 1 pinch Sea salt and black pepper
- 1.3 kg Welsh lamb shoulder - cut into chunks
- 1 tablespoon Olive oil
- 2 Carrots - diced
- 1 rib Celery - diced
- 1 Onion - diced
- 3 Garlic clove - crushed
- 1 teaspoon Dried rosemary
- 200 ml Lamb stock
- 60 ml Red wine
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tablespoon Tomato puree
- 400 g Chopped tomatoes - tinned
- In a small bowl, combine the flour, salt and pepper.2 tablespoon Plain flour, 1 pinch Sea salt and black pepper
- Add the flour to the diced lamb. Mix well so that all the lamb is coated.1.3 kg Welsh lamb shoulder
- Heat the oil in a pan and add the coated lamb. Heat so that the lamb is browned on all sides, about 5 minutes. Once browned, set aside.1 tablespoon Olive oil
- Add the diced carrot, celery and onion to the pan. Cook until softened, about 5 minutes.2 Carrots, 1 rib Celery, 1 Onion
- Add the softened vegetables to the slow cooker and then add the lamb.
- Add the garlic, rosemary, stock (dissolved in 200ml boiling water), wine and Worcestershire sauce.3 Garlic clove, 1 teaspoon Dried rosemary, 200 ml Lamb stock, 60 ml Red wine, 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- Add the tomato purée and chopped tomatoes. Mix well.1 tablespoon Tomato puree, 400 g Chopped tomatoes
- Cook on low for 7 hours or high for 5 hours.
- If you wanted to add some extra flavour to this lamb ragu, then you could deglaze the pan after you have softened the onions, carrot and celery. You can do this with the red wine and lamb stock. This will help to release the browned bits at the bottom of the pan which will add lots of flavour.
- Another way to add lots of flavour is to add a Parmesan rind to the slow cooker bowl with the rest of the ingredients.
- Traditionally, a little bit of (double) heavy cream and Parmesan would be added to the ragu and pappardelle mix to make it extra indulgent, but we left that out to keep this a little bit lighter.
- If the ragu feels a little too thick once mixed with the pasta, then you can loosen it up a little with starchy pasta water.
- You can add some chopped bacon or pancetta for extra flavour.