Orecchiette pasta with slow-cooked lamb sugo

Orecchiette pasta with slow-cooked lamb sugo

Dean Cambray

Lamb neck is one of those inexpensive-but-tasty cuts. It’s often overlooked as being tough, as it is full of connective tissue. But this makes it lovely and gelatinous when cooked. And being on the bone, it’s full of flavour.

Cooked long and slowly in a rich tomatoey braise, lamb neck makes the perfect pasta sauce. Serve it with lots of parmesan, some crusty bread and a bottle of good Italian wine.

Lamb sugo


Quantity Ingredient
1.6kg lamb necks, (ask your butcher to chop each neck in half, so they’ll fit in your casserole dish easily)
freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
2 medium onions, roughly chopped
2 medium carrots, roughly chopped
2 sticks celery, roughly chopped
6 garlic cloves, crushed
2 bay leaves
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
1 cup red wine
1.5 litres tomato passata
500g orecchiette pasta
100g butter
1/2 cup parsley, roughly chopped
extra-virgin olive oil, to serve
grated parmesan or pecorino, to serve


  1. Season the lamb necks with salt and pepper. Heat half the oil in a heavy-based saucepan or casserole dish and brown the lamb all over. Transfer the browned neck pieces to a plate and keep warm.
  2. Add the rest of the oil to the casserole. Add the onion, carrot, celery, garlic, bay leaves and basil and sauté gently for 5 minutes, or until the vegetables start to soften. Stir in the red wine and tomato passata then return the lamb necks to the pan. Season again and bring to a simmer. Cover the casserole and cook for 2–2 ½ hours, stirring regularly to ensure the sauce doesn’t stick to the bottom and burn. By the end of the cooking time the meat should be very tender and fall away from the bones. Leave to cool slightly, then discard the bones. Chop the meat roughly and return it to the sauce. The sugo can be made to this stage ahead of time and kept in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 4 days.
  3. When ready to eat, heat the lamb sugo in a large saucepan. Bring another large saucepan of salted water to the boil. Add the orecchiette pasta and cook according to the packet instructions. Drain the pasta and stir in the butter until it melts. Tip into the sugo and toss well to coat the pasta evenly. Scatter on the parsley and serve with a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil and a handful of parmesan.
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