This make-ahead recipe from the new Vancouver Eats cookbook that gives the illusion that you’ve been slaving away at the stove all day.

For visitors coming to Vancouver, the shortcut to local immersion is undoubtedly a culinary one. Stopping by the jazz-bar-inspired Kissa Tanto for Italian-meets-Japanese small plates or piling into a booth at Minami in Yaletown for rounds of the city’s best blowtorch-seared aburi sushi—this is how you get to know the real Vancouver: through its food. That’s why we dig Vancouver Eats, the new cookbook from foodie doyenne Joanne Sasvari. It’s packed with home-cook-friendly recipes from Vancouver’s top chefs and their restaurants—Hawksworth, Savio Volpe, Maenam, CinCin, Farmer’s Apprentice, Forage and more—including David Robertson’s Dirty Apron Cooking School. A signature experience in itself, the Dirty Apron is where Robertson has been teaching Vancouverites how to hand-make pasta and braise roasts for nearly a decade, and now he gets to teach you. If you don’t get a chance to visit his kitchen for a hands-on cooking class and dinner, turning the page for his braised lamb shoulder and butternut squash-ricotta gnocchi recipe is surely the next best thing.

Recipe: Braised Lamb Shoulder with Butternut Squash-Ricotta Gnocchi

Courtesy of David Robertson, chef, The Dirty Apron Cooking School

Braised lamb shoulder

1½ lbs boneless lamb shoulder, cut into 3 equal pieces

2 tbsp vegetable oil, or as needed

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1 large onion, chopped

1 carrot, chopped

1 stalk celery, chopped

4 cloves garlic, finely chopped (divided)

1½ cups dry red wine

1 cup crushed tomatoes, canned

½ cup beef stock, or as needed

½ cup chicken stock, or as needed

¼ cup maple syrup

2 tbsp sherry vinegar

2 sprigs fresh thyme

1 sprig fresh rosemary

1 bay leaf

1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

Shaved parmesan, for garnish

Handful of arugula, for garnish

Butternut squash-ricotta gnocchi

1 medium butternut squash, cut in half lengthwise and seeds removed

Vegetable oil, for brushing

1 cup drained ricotta

1 large egg, lightly beaten

¾ cup grated parmesan

1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg

1 tsp kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1⅓ cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting and dredging


1. To make the braised lamb shoulder, preheat oven to 300°F. Heat a large frying pan over high heat and add enough vegetable oil to coat. Season lamb on all sides with salt and pepper. Carefully add lamb to pan and sear until brown on all sides. Place in a Dutch oven or braising pan and set aside.

2. Add onion, carrot, celery and half of garlic to the frying pan and cook for 5 minutes, until tender. Pour in wine and bring to a boil, scraping any bits of meat from the bottom of the pan. Cook for 10 minutes, until liquid is reduced by half.

3. Stir in canned tomatoes, stocks, maple syrup and vinegar and bring to a boil. Pour mixture over lamb. The liquid should almost cover the lamb—if it doesn’t, add more stock or water. Add thyme, rosemary and bay leaf. Cover with a lid or foil and braise in the oven for 3 hours, until meat is fork tender. Set aside to cool to room temperature, then refrigerate for at least 4 hours or preferably overnight to let the flavours settle and develop.

4. Remove fat, which will have solidified. Gently reheat over low heat. Once the braising liquid has come to liquid form, remove the lamb. Strain theliquid into a bowl and discard the solids. Cut lamb into bite-sized cubes.

5. To make the gnocchi, preheat oven to 400°F. Lightly flour a baking sheet. Lightly brush cut side of butternut squash with oil. Place squash cut-side down on a baking sheet and roast for 1 hour, until tender. Set aside to cool slightly, then scoop out flesh. Discard skin.

6. Measure 2 cups squash and chill in the fridge for at least 1 hour. (You can freeze any remaining squash to use another time.)

7. In a large bowl, combine 2 cups squash, ricotta, egg, parmesan and nutmeg. Season with salt and pepper and mix well. Gradually fold in flour, taking care not to overwork the dough. Dredge dough in flour. On a clean work surface, roll out dough by hand into a rope with a ¾-inch diameter. Cut rope into 1-inch pieces and place onto prepared baking sheet. Refrigerate until needed.

8. Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil. Drop gnocchi into the water and cook for 1 minute, until they float to the surface. Using a slotted spoon, transfer gnocchi onto a lightly oiled baking sheet and toss lightly to prevent them from sticking to each other. Set aside to cool.

9. To assemble, heat olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add remaining garlic and sauté for 1 minute, until fragrant. Add lamb and quickly sauté. Pour in 2 cups of braising liquid and simmer until reduced to your desired consistency. Add gnocchi and gently toss together. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with shaved parmesan and arugula. Serves 4.