June 20th, 2024

A hearty pasta dish that’s made a favourable return to Esther’s Autumn/Winter menu, Sean’s Mutton Ragu has long been a tradition in his home and features in his cookbook My Family Feast: A World of Family Recipes and Tradition. Sean reckons that “mutton’s got a rich, hearty flavour and texture, and slow-cooking it on the bone just makes the sauce even better.” And who are we to argue? A dish that was first cooked for him on a trip to Italy, make your own memories by creating this comforting dish at home.

Sean Connolly’s Strozzapreti Mutton Ragu with Basil and Parmigiano
Serves 10 | Prep time: 45 minutes | Cooking time: 3 hours for the braise
Sean’s Hot Tip: Keep a close eye on the sauce. This step is really important. If it hasn’t been reduced enough, it will be too watery but reducing too much will leave you with a bitter sauce.

1 red onion, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp thyme, picked finely chopped
2 bay leaves
75g tomato paste
250ml white wine
2L tomato passata (Mutti is the best)
50ml extra virgin olive oil
Salt & pepper

5kg mutton shanks or meat
4 bay leaves
4 garlic cloves, roughly crushed
2 onions, roughly chopped
2 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
5L chicken stock

Pack of strozzapreti (or another robust pasta with thick tubes or ribbons)
Fresh basil leaves, to garnish
Parmesan, to garnish


  1. For the sauce, combine the red onion, garlic, thyme and bay leaves in a saucepan and sweat gently until soft with no colour. Add the tomato paste and cook for a further 3 minutes.
  2. Add the white wine and reduce by two thirds. Add the tomato passata and reduce until the mix is quite thick.
  3. Simmer over medium heat then reduce to low heat and cook for 30 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. While the mix is warm, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and mix in the olive oil.
  4. Refrigerate until required.
  5. Pre-heat oven to 160°C. For the meat, season the mutton well with salt and pepper and brown evenly. Combine the mutton with the bay leaves, garlic, onions, carrots and chicken stock. Cover tightly with two layers of tin foil and braise in the oven for about 3 hours or until the meat is falling off the bone.
  6. Remove the meat from the oven and allow to cool in the cooking liquor. Once cool, remove the meat from the bone and flake.
  7. Pass the mutton’s braising liquids through a sieve or strainer and then combine with the tomato sauce. Reduce it to infuse the sauce with the meat’s rich flavour. The stock used for cooking contains valuable flavour that should not be discarded.
  8. Cook your pasta according to your packet instructions.
  9. Combine meat with the tomato sauce and pasta, being careful with the consistency of the sauce.
  10. Sprinkle with basil leaves and shaved parmesan, to serve.


See how yours compares to the OG, and book your table at Esther.

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