Anything that is meaty, has been braised for hours, and is then spooned over a creamy polenta is a winner in my book. This lamb ragu is no exception. This dish was inspired by a conversation Jenny and I were having about what to cook for Easter – which led to a discussion of lamb inspired dishes – and so here we are. We wanted to share something that would be easy to serve for a crowd and that could be prepared well in advance.
Ragu, or an Italian meat sauce, can be super decadent. In Italy, however, whenever you come across a dish served with a savory meat sauce (typically with pasta) the sauce itself is typically thought of as a condimento or the complimentary element that lightly dresses the focus of the dish which is the noodle itself. In this dish I think of the polenta as being every bit as important as the ragu itself.
Although polenta can be prepared well in advance and kept warm, it does require a bit of babysitting in the beginning stages. I recommend bringing the water to a simmer, whisking the polenta in, then keeping a close eye on the consistency for the next few minutes. Often times the instructions on the package will give a 3:1 water to polenta ratio but I often find I need to add another cup or two of water and keep a close eye on it for the first 10 minutes or so. Once you get it to the right consistency you can add your butter and parm and stick a lid on it and keep it warm until you’re ready to go. Depending on how far in advance you prepare the polenta, it may thicken a bit in the pot so you may have to add some hot water just before serving.
If you have a dutch oven you’re gonna wanna break it out for this one, otherwise you could just braise the lamb shanks the whole way on the stove top.