This lamb ragu gnocchi bake is a rich ground lamb pasta topped with mozzarella cheese and baked to meaty, saucy, cheesy deliciousness. Have this lamb pasta bake on the dinner table in under an hour for a hearty comfort meal.
Lamb ragu starts with sautéed aromatics and diced eggplant. Once the ground lamb is browned, it’s time to throw in the tomatoes and simmer. When pillow-soft gnocchi is added it’s nearly ready for the oven.
Topping the lamb pasta with mozzarella cheese is the perfect finishing touch. The final product is a flavorful, savory, gooey, filling dish that you’ll want to make again and again.
Reasons This Lamb Ragu Recipe Works
- Quick and Easy to Make! As fancy as it may sound, this ragu recipe is made with mostly pantry staples. Keep this recipe simple by using ground lamb. It cooks faster and is easier to prepare than lamb shoulder.
- Easily Customizable! Swap the cheese, pasta, or meat to make this dish more palatable.
- Perfect for Feeding a Crowd! Serve this family-style and everyone can grab a heaping scoop at the dinner table. This also works for potlucks.
What is Lamb Ragu?
Lamb ragu is an Italian dish made with lamb, tomatoes, and garlic. Ragu is a meaty tomato-based sauce usually served with pasta or polenta. The most popular ragu is bolognese.
The traditional recipe includes ground meat (i.e., lamb, beef, pork) but some lamb ragu recipes use braised lamb instead.
Ingredients You’ll Need
- Cooking oil: Use this to sauté the veggies.
- Aromatics: Finely chopped yellow onions and garlic cloves are a rich foundation of flavor for the sauce.
- Eggplant: Cut them into small cubes. This makes the dish heartier and the mild flavor amplifies the taste of the other ingredients.
- Ground lamb: Ground lamb has a distinct flavor that sets it apart from other ground meats. It has a robust, slightly gamey taste with a savory and earthy quality.
- Spices & Seasoning: Use dried oregano, smoked paprika, onion powder, dried thyme, kosher salt, and black pepper as desired.
- Red pepper flakes: This ingredient is optional but great for a spicy kick.
- Tomatoes: Use a can of crushed tomatoes and add tomato paste for concentrated flavor.
- Gnocchi: Add tender cooked gluten-free gnocchi to the sauce. Ensure gluten-free if necessary.
- Fresh Herbs: Fresh basil and parsley add a vibrant pop of color and flavor.
- Cheese: Use small mozzarella balls (or cheese of choice) and freshly grated parmesan cheese grated on top when serving.
How to Make Lamb Ragu
SAUTÉ. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large Dutch oven or a heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Then add diced onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until they become translucent and soft, which usually takes about 5 minutes.
ADD EGGLPLANT. Next, add the diced eggplant into the pot. Season it generously with salt, as this helps to soften the eggplant and release its moisture during cooking. Allow the eggplant to cook for 7-10 minutes or until it has softened. Since eggplant tends to absorb a lot of oil, you may need to add 1-2 teaspoons of cooking oil to prevent sticking or burning.
ADD LAMB. Then add the ground lamb and spices to the pot. Using a wooden spoon or spatula, stir the lamb until the fat begins to soften, and the meat breaks down. Continue cooking, stirring frequently, until the lamb starts to brown and sizzle in its own fat, which typically takes 5 to 8 minutes.
SIMMER IN TOMATO SAUCE. Stir in the tomato sauce and chopped parsley, mixing well. Season with salt and pepper and bring the mixture to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low and let it cook for approximately 10 minutes. Meanwhile, follow the package instructions to prepare the gnocchi.
COMBINE. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Once the gnocchi is cooked, drain it and add it to the lamb ragu. Mix in the fresh basil, stirring to combine all the ingredients.
ASSEMBLE AND BAKE. Carefully transfer the lamb ragu gnocchi into an oven-safe dish. Distribute the mozzarella balls (or your cheese of choice) evenly throughout the dish. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until it becomes bubbling and golden.
SERVE. Serve your lamb gnocchi with ample freshly grated parmesan cheese and garnish with fresh bits of basil, oregano, or thyme leaves if desired. Enjoy!
Substitutions + Variations
- Cheese: Although this recipe uses mozzarella and parmesan, you can add your favorite cheese, or vegan cheese, or omit the cheese entirely. Try adding dollops of ricotta cheese for a creamy quality. Instead of parmesan, try pecorino cheese.
- Pasta: Instead of gnocchi, serve ragu pasta with pappardelle.
- Lamb: Use cubed boneless lamb shoulder as an alternative to ground lamb. It’s got plenty of marbling which translates to lots of flavor.
- Meat: Want a more complex flavor? Combine ground lamb with pork.
- Veggies: Thow in some greens. Add fresh spinach or kale when preparing the tomato sauce.
- Vegetarian Ragu: You can omit the lamb and make this a meatless meal. The eggplant has a meaty texture and absorbs all the flavor of the sauce. Add more eggplant to replace the lamb. Mushrooms are another alternative.
- Creamy Lamb Pasta: Some recipes include heavy cream for an enriched texture.
Tips To Nail the Recipe
- Chop your veggies, herbs, and aromatics before you begin cooking so everything is within arm’s reach and ready to go.
- Don’t use lamb chops for ragu because it’s too lean for this recipe.
- When you add the gnocchi to the tomato sauce, mix it well before placing it in the oven. You want the gnocchi to mingle with other ingredients for a more intense flavor. This elevates it from homemade to restaurant quality.
- This is one of those dishes that taste even better the next day so it’s fine to make this 1 day in advance.
What to Serve with Lamb Ragu
Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days. For longer storage, freeze it for up to 3 months. Thaw it overnight in the fridge. Reheat leftovers over medium-low heat on the stovetop.
What is lamb ragu made of?
Make lamb ragu with ground lamb, onions, garlic, eggplant, tomato sauce, and fresh herbs. Some recipes include red or white wine or broth too.
Is ragu and Bolognese the same thing?
Bolognese, also known as ragu alla bolognese, is a type of ragu. It’s a slow-cooked ground meat sauce usually served with pasta like tagliatelle or fettuccine.
What makes a ragu a ragu?
Ragu is usually cooked low and slow in a braising liquid like tomato sauce or broth for deep flavor.
What is the best cut of meat for a ragu?
The best cut of meat for ragu is a combination of ground meats (like lamb and pork). Using a blend of meats enriches the flavor for a deeper, savory taste. For slow cooking, a tougher cut of meat like a chuck roast is ideal.
What wine goes best with lamb ragu?
Bold red wines complement the savory notes of lamb. Consider pairing your lamb pasta with Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot.
I Hope You Enjoy This Lamb Pasta Recipe!
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More Lamb Recipes To Try!
- Greek Lamb Burgers Recipe
- Jerk Lamb Chop Recipe
- Garlic Herb Lamb Shoulder Chops
- Garlic Herb Lamb Shoulder Chops
- Greek Orzo with Lamb Meatballs
Easy Lamb Ragu Gnocchi Bake
- 2 tablespoons cooking oil
- 1 medium yellow onion finely chopped
- 1 small eggplant cut into small cubes
- 6 garlic cloves finely chopped
- 1 pound ground lamb
- 1 tbsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- Kosher salt and black pepper as desired
- Pinch of red pepper flakes optional
- 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 16 ounces gnocchi 1 package
- 1 bunch basil about 3 tbsp chopped
- 4 tbsp fresh parsley chopped
- 1 oz package Small mozzarella balls (or cheese of choice)
- Freshly grated parmesan cheese grated on top when serving
- Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Add diced onions. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions have become translucent and softened, about 5 minutes.
- Then add the diced eggplant. Season generously with salt. This helps soften the eggplant and release the moisture while cooking. Cook for 7-10 minutes, or until eggplant has softened. Eggplant is highly absorbent so you may need to add 1-2 tsp of cooking oil to the pan to prevent the eggplant from sticking or burning.
- Add the ground lamb, along with the spices. Using a wooden spoon or a spatula, stir lamb until the fat starts to soften and the meat begins to break down. Continue to cook, stirring frequently until the lamb begins to brown and sizzle in its own fat, 5 to 8 minutes.
- Stir in the tomato sauce and chopped parsley. Mix well, season with salt and pepper, and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low and continue to cook for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare the gnocchi according to package instructions.
- Preheat the oven to 375°F
- When the gnocchi is cooked, drain it, then add it to the ragu. Mix in the fresh basil and stir to combine all the ingredients.
- Carefully transfer the lamb ragu gnocchi into an oven-safe dish. Place the balls of mozzarella (or cheese of choice) evenly throughout the dish. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until bubbling and golden
- Serve your lamb gnocchi with plenty of freshly grated parmesan cheese and fresh bits of basil, oregano, or thyme leaves if you like. Enjoy!