Rigatoni with Hearty Lamb Sauce

Serves 4 to 6

1 pound Rigatoni, Medium Shells or other medium pasta shape, uncooked
12 oz. lamb stew meat or 2 pounds shoulder lamb chops
1 cup canned Italian plum tomatoes, or 1 cup canned crushed tomatoes
1 tbsp. olive or vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 tsp. finely chopped fresh rosemary or 1/2 tsp. dried rosemary*
1/2 tsp. finely chopped fresh thyme or 1/4 tsp. dried thyme
1 1/2 cups dry red wine
1 pinch each ground nutmeg and ground cloves
Salt and pepper to taste
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Ask the grocery butcher to remove fat from the meat and coarsely grind the lamb for you. Or, remove the fat and bone and coarsely chop the meat in a food processor. Place the plum tomatoes in a bowl and break up with a fork until coarsely crushed.

Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the lamb and garlic and cook until the meat begins to brown, about 3 minutes. Add the onion, rosemary and thyme; cook 1 minute. Add the crushed tomatoes, wine, nutmeg, cloves and salt and pepper to taste. Heat to a boil and reduce the heat to simmering. Cook, uncovered, until the lamb is very tender, about 45 minutes. Check the lamb occasionally. There should always be enough liquid to cover the meat. If not, add a small amount of water.

Prepare pasta according to package directions; drain. Return the pasta to the pot. Add the lamb sauce to the pot and cook over low heat until heated through, stirring constantly. Stir in half the Parmesan cheese. Divide pasta among serving bowls. Sprinkle with remaining cheese and serve.

*Note: If using dried rosemary, soften it as follows: Place the rosemary in a heatproof bowl and pour about 1 cup boiling water over it. Let stand 5 minutes. Drain before using.