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not-so-rapid Lamb Ragú

Has anybody seen the episode of Nigella Express where Nigella makes a bowl of ultimate comfort in the form of a rapid lamb ragú?  She comes home and in true Nigella-style, throws her bag on the counter, pulls out a pan, and throws a few things in before she even takes off her coat.  One of the steps she takes to make this rapid is using a jar of sweet onion confit.  Well, as much as I liked the sound of that...I was at a loss as to where I could procure such a thing.  I figured slowly caramelizing onions would be just as fabulous.  If not more so.  Also, she uses pancetta...of which I hadn't the cash to buy right then.  I used trusty bacon instead, but reserved it to add back in the end, because I don't like to lose that glorious texture and have to bite into floppy bits.  Also, adding the garlic in...and then pulling it back out when I pull the bacon out to reserve it?  Holy shnikeys.  That leaves slivers of garlic glory!  So, garlicky bacon bits sprinkled over a comforting ragú of lamb and lentils that have sweet onions laced between them!!!  Yeah.  I totally made like Nigella and piled my bowl high whilst batting my bedroom eyes and sashaying off into a world of secret bliss.
not-so-rapid Lamb Ragú
adapted liberally from Nigella Express (Rapid Ragú)
serves 4...or 2 if you're starving...because it's extremely hard to stop eating this!

pat of butter
1 tsp. sugar
3 medium onions, sliced thin
1 Tbs. olive oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled & smashed
½ lb. bacon, cut in ¼" strips
1 lb. ground lamb
1 (14.5 oz.) can diced tomatoes
½ c. water
1/3 c. white wine
1/3 c. lentils, either split or par-boiled ~20 mins.
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
extra-sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded
extra-wide egg noodles
Here's the not-so-rapid part...caramelizing the onions.  Place the butter in a large sauté pan over low heat.  Add onions and sprinkle with sugar.  Stir occasionally and cook down until the onions are a deep golden color, smell sweet as candy, and have reduced to ~ ½ cup in volume.  This should take about 1 hour.  Set aside and start with the much-more-rapid part.

Heat the oil in a medium-sized saucepan and add garlic.  After 30 seconds, add the bacon.  Cook until bacon is just finished.  Remove it with a slotted spoon to a paper towel-lined plate and reserve.  

Pour off all but 1 Tbs. of the fat in the pan and add the lamb.  Once the lamb has browned, add the tomatoes, water, wine, lentils, and reserved caramelized onions.  Bring to a boil.  Partially cover, reduce heat to a simmer and cook for ~20 minutes, stirring from time to time.  Once lentils have cooked all the way through, it's done.

While the ragú is simmering, cook your egg noodles according to package directions.  

Serve a steaming heap of the ragú over the warm egg noodles and sprinkle liberally with the reserved bacon and the cheese.

I found myself wishing I'd doubled...or even tripled this recipe.  It is a pot full of pure comfort.  And don't we all need a little comfort in our lives?  Yes.  We do.

*I am sending this over to Pia at Cook Healthy who is hosting Presto Pasta Nights #201 this week!