Wide noodles like pappardelle are the best choice for rich, meaty ragus. At 1 inch wide, they wrap themselves nicely around pieces of lamb, and their surfaces are good for absorbing sauce. Here a slow simmer tenderizes what can sometimes be a tough cut, and the addition of cloves enhances the lamb's rich flavor. This makes a generous amount of sauce; leftovers can be frozen for another meal.
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium carrot, finely minced
2 medium celery stalks, finely minced
1/2 small red onion, finely minced
2 pounds boneless lamb (shoulder or leg) cut into 1/2- inch cubes
4 bay leaves
4 whole cloves
, wrapped in cheesecloth and tied
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
, or more to taste
1 cup dry red wine, such as Chianti
1 cup chicken stock or chicken broth powder
2 cups canned Italian plum tomatoes, preferably San Marzano, with their juice, pureed
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 tablespoons kosher salt
, plus more to taste
1 1/2 pounds pappardelle or dried seminola bucatini
1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Place a 10- to 12-inch skillet over medium heat, and when it is hot, add the oil. Add the carrot, celery, and onion and cook until soft, 5 to 7 minutes.
Add the lamb, raise the heat to high, and cook, stirring frequently, until the meat has lost its raw appearance, about 5 minutes. Stir in the bay leaves, cloves, and pepper, then continue cooking, stirring constantly, until the meat has browned, about 5 minutes. Add the wine and continue stirring until it has almost completely evaporated, 5 minutes.
Add the stock and tomatoes, stir well, and bring to a boil. Add the thyme and reduce the heat to low. Cover the skillet with a tight-fitting lid and simmer gently until the sauce has begun to thicken, about 30 minutes.
Remove the cover and cook until the sauce is thickened and no longer soupy but not dry, about 15 minutes.
Taste the sauce and season with salt if necessary. Remove the clove sachet and bay leaves and discard. Set the sauce aside while you cook the pasta.
Fill a 10-quart pot with 7 quarts water and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the 2 tablespoons kosher salt, and then drop in the pasta. Cook the pasta until tender but still al dente, about 3 minutes (longer if using dried pasta).
Drain the pasta and transfer to a large bowl. Add the sauce to the pasta 1 cup at a time, tossing gently to combine between additions, until the sauce coats the pasta. Sprinkle with the grated cheese and serve immediately.