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Spicy Skillet Lamb Ragu

This lamb ragu is a spicy, spring inspired one-skillet dinner. Cavatappi pasta, crushed tomatoes and harissa paste make it flavorful and hearty.

Oh spring? Where art thou???

As I write this, it’s supposed to start snowing any minute here.

On the second day of spring nonetheless.

It’ll be our 4th snowstorm in about 2 weeks and I’m pretty sure it will have (if it hasn’t already) snowed more in March than the entire rest of the winter.

Needless to say, I’m over it. And that’s putting it lightly. Very lightly.

*This post is in collaboration with the American Lamb Board. All content and opinions are my own.
This lamb ragu is a spicy, spring inspired one-skillet dinner. Cavatappi pasta, crushed tomatoes and harissa paste make it flavorful and hearty.

This lamb ragu is me channeling spring through food and pretending like it’s actually warming up outside.

FYI – It’s not.

We just spend the last 3 days digging fence posts, installing wire fence in the woods (which really meant me just leaning against the 100 foot roll of 16 gauge metal wire so it didn’t fall on top of my husband while he painstakingly clipped the fence to the posts without gloves in 28 degree temps) so Holly can run around freely and I can actually get a full day of work in uninterrupted without having to drive to hiking trails every day to get her exercised.

My fingers and toes were numb for about 15 minutes after coming inside and standing in a hot shower.

The weather isn’t even close to spring-like right now. Probably should’ve made some venison stroganoff instead of this but, oh well.

I figure if we just start eating like it’s spring, it’ll eventually happen though, right?

In springs past I’ve made these smoky grilled apricot lamb kebabs, these skillet lamb chops with cipollini onions and these citrus braised lamb shanks but this year, in collaboration with the American Lamb Board, I wanted to keep it simple with this one-skillet meal.

Let’s talk a little about American Lamb before we get into this recipe.

If you’ve been to the grocery store you might’ve realized that almost all the lamb sold there is literally from the opposite side of the world.

A hearty meal with pops of spring flavor, this lamb ragu comes together easily and quickly in one skillet.

I’m not really down with that because it’s totally not necessary when American lamb is produced in so many states right here in the U.S.!

If there’s an option to help support local farmers over those in Australia and New Zealand I really don’t know why we wouldn’t?

I’ve actually had conversations with my local grocery store butchers and asked them to procure American lamb. In my opinion it tastes better (think lamb is too gamey/earthy? Try American lamb – I’d bet you might change your mind) and it hasn’t had to travel tens of thousands of miles to get to the shelf for purchase!

Don’t miss these lamb spring gyros either – one of my all-time faves from the past!

Filled with broccoli rabe, cavatappi pasta and American lamb, this lamb ragu is an easy skillet dinner perfect for the early weeks of spring.

While lamb shanks, chops and kebab cuts can definitely be found on occasion or at least ordered with your butcher, they’re a little more rare than the always present ground lamb in the store.

With a pound of American ground lamb and a bunch of stuff probably already in your pantry, this spicy skillet lamb ragu comes together in less than 30 minutes making it an easy weeknight meal.

If you want to braise a leg of lamb instead, the shredded meat would work great in this skillet recipe as well and you’d have plenty leftover for more lamb filled meals with that recipe!

You can also swap the ground pork out for ground lamb in my baked cauliflower gnocchi recipe too. It’s a similar hearty and comforting dish that comes together in just 30 minutes and is guaranteed to be a crowd pleaser!

I love the broccoli rabe addition for some greenery (no need for a veg on the side) and fresh spring punch but feel free to use any green vegetable here.

Regular broccoli would work well, spinach, kale, Swiss chard or asparagus even.

Cavatappi is one of my favorite fun pasta shapes but again, any similar shape will do.

If you’re like me, you probably have no less than 7 half full boxes of pasta in your pantry, no need to buy another, one of those will suffice!

The spice can easily be left out too (just omit the harissa paste) or amped up for you spice lovers (add a bit more).

It’s an adaptable hearty dish perfect for the cold first few weeks of spring!

And if it doesn’t warm up soon, I may just have to resort to this slow cooker lamb stew instead. Not really too bad of a sacrifice I guess.

Love this spicy skillet lamb ragu recipe?

Try these other skillet recipes:  Turkey Skillet Mac and CheeseCreamy Skillet Turmeric Chicken with Chickpeas, Smoky Steak Potato and Pepper Skillet or, Ground Beef Pasta.

This lamb ragu is a spicy, spring inspired one-skillet dinner. Cavatappi pasta, crushed tomatoes and harissa paste make it flavorful and hearty.

Spicy Skillet Lamb Ragu

This lamb ragu is a spicy, spring inspired one-skillet dinner. Cavatappi pasta, crushed tomatoes and harissa paste make it flavorful and hearty.
5 from 2 votes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Servings 4 servings


  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound ground American lamb
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seed
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 small yellow onion chopped
  • 2 large cloves garlic minced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 tablespoon harissa paste
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 1 cup crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 head broccoli rabe chopped
  • 1/2 pound cooked cavatappi or other similar shaped pasta*
  • chopped mint/basil for topping
  • grated parmesan for topping


  • Add olive oil and lamb to a large skillet over medium-high heat. Break up the lamb into small pieces as it cooks. Cook until browned. You can drain some of the fat out of the pan at this point if desired or leave it, up to you.
  • Add the cumin, coriander, fennel seeds, smoked paprika, salt and pepper and stir to combine with the lamb.
  • Add the onion, garlic and thyme, stir again and cook until onion is softened, about 3 minutes.
  • Add the harissa paste and tomato paste, stir until incorporated and cook 1 minute.
  • Add the broth, crushed tomatoes and broccoli rabe. Stir again until combined. 
  • Cover the skillet and let cook until broccoli rabe is fork tender, about 5 minutes.
  • Add the cooked pasta to the skillet, stir to combine and heat through.
  • Garnish with freshly chopped mint, basil and grated parmesan cheese before serving.



*Use gluten-free pasta to make this recipe gluten-free.

Nutrition Facts

Serving: 1SERVING | Calories: 523kcal | Carbohydrates: 28g | Protein: 35g | Fat: 30g | Saturated Fat: 11g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 16g | Cholesterol: 111mg | Sodium: 804mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 5g

This website provides approximate nutrition information for convenience and as a courtesy only. Nutrition information can vary for a variety of reasons. For the most precise nutritional data use your preferred nutrition calculator based on the actual ingredients you used in the recipe.

Cuisine American
Course Main Dishes
Keyword ground lamb, lamb ragu, ragu

Gina Matsoukas is the writer, founder, photographer and recipe developer of Running to the Kitchen — a food website focused on providing healthy, wholesome recipes using fresh and seasonal ingredients as much as possible. Her work has been featured in numerous media outlets both digital and print, including MSN, Huffington post, Buzzfeed, Women’s Health and Food Network.

Recipe Rating

Nova @ The High Strung

Thursday 18th of April 2019

This is perfection! I am working on a ragu this week as well and I was thinking of using a nice fresh pappardele!!! Great minds... Thanks For Sharing ...

Deb Lowe

Monday 4th of June 2018

Love this recipe. Can you please include the nutritional information along with your recipes? It will make it so much easier for those tracking protein, fat, carbs. Thank you!

Ronald Miller

Saturday 14th of April 2018

Looks like a healthy and delicious pasta recipe. Thanks for your helpful instruction.

Ronald Miller

Monday 16th of April 2018


Margot Brown

Saturday 31st of March 2018

Hi, can this be coooked in. Crockpot? Please advise.

Thanks, Margot Brown

Running to the Kitchen

Sunday 1st of April 2018

I have not tried it in the slow cooker but I'm sure you could adapt the recipe to do so.

Kim Beaulieu

Sunday 25th of March 2018

This is seriously gorgeous.