Friday, May 21, 2010

Urban Italian Menu: Lamb Ragu, Sheep's Milk Ricotta, and Grilled Country Bread


Last summer I went on a spree buying several Italian cookbooks and Urban Italian by Andrew Carmellini was one of them. Distracted by whatever food I was cooking at the time, I put this book up on a shelf in my library and forgot about it. Recently, I have been inspired to cook from each cookbook in my collection and took the book back off the shelf. Turns out, Andrew Carmellini is from the Cleveland, Ohio area, right around the corner from where I grew up. The introduction to the book includes almost 30 pages dedicated to Carmellini's rise as a top notch chef. I have to say that this is my favorite part of the book. True to his Cleveland roots, Carmellini "tells it like it is" when it comes to his culinary adventures. I loved reading over his rather candid details, cherishing each word. From time to time, I need a break from all that has become "politically correct" and Carmellini's tales did that for me.

I went back and forth about what to make for this post. Carmellini's recipes range from standard Italian fare to sophisticated Italian fare with an urban twist. It was hard for me to pick a dish to represent this book. In the end, I chose the cover recipe, Carmellini's Lamb Ragu. To accompany the Lamb Ragu, I went with the Sheep's Milk Ricotta (which was akin to a ricotta cream in my case) and his Grilled Country Bread.

Carmellini's Lamb Ragu was a welcome break from the typical Beef Ragu. Ground lamb was cooked with carrots, onion, celery, tomato paste, dry red wine, San Marzano tomatoes and a lovely blend of warm spices. In fact, it was the cumin, coriander, fennel, and red pepper flakes that added a special warmth to this recipe. The ragu was served atop rigatoni with a dollop of the sheep's milk ricotta and a sprinkling of fresh mint. It was hearty, flavorful and very satisfying! We enjoyed it over the pasta, but really enjoyed it served atop the grilled country bread and thought it would make a fantastic pizza.

The Grilled Country Bread was made with a loaf of Pugliese from a local bakery. It's insane how tasty that bread became once slathered in olive oil and rubbed with a garlic clove, or two. In fact, I've made this bread several times since then and always eat far more than my fair share. For his Sheep's Milk Ricotta, Carmellini buys Sardinian sheep's milk ricotta, but I was only able to find regular cow's milk ricotta. The cow's milk ricotta was whipped in a mixer with whole milk, table salt, fleur de sel, black pepper, fresh thyme, and dried oregano. My mixture turned out rather thin, more like a ricotta cream, but it was delicious all the same. I loved this ricotta alone with the bread and also atop the lamb ragu.

Notes/Results: Every recipe was well written and produced great results. We loved every part of this meal, which we enjoyed with the leftover red wine. (I myself enjoyed quite a bit of the red wine). This is definitely the kind of food that my family likes to eat. My son wouldn't try the ragu, but my daughter did enjoy it. We didn't tell her that it was lamb. Sometimes it pays to keep secrets!

All in all, I really like this book for it's tales of culinary adventure. The recipes, although some are simple and straight-forward, tend to be more tedious and lengthy than what I normally like to do. For the most part, I see myself mainly browsing through this book enjoying the tales and pictures. On special occasions or when I have time for something a little more special, I will definitely use this book as a go-to resource for delicious food.

23 comments:

  1. I have been eyeing this book on your sidebar and just waiting for you to post something from it. You know I'm an Ohio girl, too, so his Cleveland roots interested me, as well! The ragu looks fantastic, but the ricotta cream really caught my attention. I may have to try and get my hands on a copy of this book! Thanks for sharing!

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  2. This cookbook sounds awesome!! I think your idea to make this into a pizza would be delish!:)

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  3. I have had this book on my amazon wishlist for FOREVER! I'm so glad you featured a recipe from it! That lamb ragu looks delicious and I would probably love to have that creamy ricotta as a sauce in and of itself. Great review and great recipe!

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  4. once again, i'm completely sold on your book review. i love the ragu, especially the switch to lamb.

    i have to lie to my kids all the time to get them to eat their food. fish is always chicken, and there are never onions in anything :) the things we do to get our kids to eat!

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  5. I think if I ever made lamb I'd have to keep it a secret from my family too. :) I'll have to see if our library has this cookbook. I love Italian!

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  6. I have untouched cookbooks too. Maybe I'll pull some out this weekend and try something new.

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  7. Your timing is great! My family leaves for a cruise to the Greek Isles in a couple of weeks and I want to try some Greek inspired dishes to get us in the mood. These dishes, along with a Greek Lemon and Pasta Soup my friend recommended earlier today, will be Sunday supper in our house!

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  8. Kim, it looks and sounds like a fabulous meal. You've made me curious about the cookbook. I hope you are having a grand day. Blessings...Mary

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  9. I have been wondering about this book. The ragu looks delicious! I made Giada's once and loved it but this looks even better especially with that ricotta--yum!

    Good for you working through all your cookbooks. I have been on that project for a while now--I just need to stop buying them or I'll never catch up! lol!

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  10. I have this book on my wish list. This really looks fantastic! I'm especially smitten with the Ricotta Cream. And what a unique pizza that would be. I would have to lie to my entire family about it.

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  11. Wow! This entire meal looks great! We love grilled bread and topping it with the sheep's milk ricotta would have me over the moon. Yum!

    Can I tell you a secret? I think your Lamb Ragu picture looks better than the cover.

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  12. Wait....I thought Ragu came in a jar! (ha ha ha)

    Actually, I did think that until about 10 years ago. LMAO how you kept the lamb secret.

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  13. My cookbook want list just grew by one!!

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  14. Good review. I am big fan of lamb and a ragu recipe is one of our very favorites. Lamb and pancetta is the one we like. This looks wonderful Kim. I don't know where you find time yto do all this!!

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  15. That lamb ragu looks so hearty and delicious!
    Have a wonderful weekend.
    *kisses* HH

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  16. Oo coming from an Italian family, I already know I'd love this book!

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  17. Your picture of this says it all. I am inspired to try and "sneak" this one past Mike. If I say lamb anything, he says baahhh. Guess it's worth a try though since I want some;D

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  18. Oh my goodness, this does look amazing! Great choice! I bet it was so terrific on that yummy bread. That's just the way I'd do it. Mmm Good! I'll have to find this cookbook. :)

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  19. That book has been on my list for a while - I think this summer I will finally pick it up. I love the idea of lamb ragu - my daughter won't eat lamb but everyone else does. And it just looks perfect.

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  20. I love your review. This is the kind of meal my family really enjoys.
    mimi

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  21. Good morning,

    I’m an intern with Superior Farms and I noticed your great article on your preparation of lamb! I have neglected to tell people that they were eating lamb numerous times, however, after they tell me how amazing it tastes I let them in on my secret. Also, I thought you might be interested in our summer grilling promotion at www.GrillLamb.com. We’re giving away a Mediterranean cruise for two and promoting simple Mediterranean seasonings for lamb. We are hoping to get more lamb lovers this summer by highlighting delicious recipes and cooking tips. If you have any posts coming up, we would love to hear about them! Also, look for us on Facebook.

    Thank you for your time!

    Sincerely,

    Lacie Hoffman

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