Lamb is a very popular meat in Italy and is the main dish for Easter Sunday and Christmas dinner in Bru’s house – Italians don’t eat turkey and ham on Christmas day like we do!! Abbacchio is the name given to a dish traditional in Rome at Easter. The MIL actually makes something similar where the lamb is cut into pieces and cooked in a sort of egg and lemon sauce which is absolutely delicious. I’ve mentioned before that lambs are slaughtered at a younger age in Italy and there are different names used according to when they are slaughtered. I know we are quite far removed from the slaughter and production of meat in Ireland and I know I wouldn’t know the difference and didn’t even know myself that there were so many different stages of slaughter until I did a bit of research.
The last time I did a post on veal it provoked a bit of a discussion but I do think we need to become more informed about our meat, where it comes from, how it was raised etc myself included as I need to become more knowledgable about the meat that I eat. I’m always amazed when I’m in Italy and they know everything about the animal they are eating and happily eat most of the animal i.e. Offal – brains, bone marrow, sweetbreads, liver, kidney, heart and tripe!! This post is as much about teaching myself as it is to inform you!! So here is the science bit about lamb in Italy:

Agnello da latte(called abbacchio by the Romans) – these are milk fed lambs slaughtered at 3 or 4 weeks old, when their meat is very pale and tender.

Agnello – these are slightly older lambs, between 9 and 12 weeks old, weighing up to 15kg. These are both milk fed and raised on the pasture.

Agnellone – are killed at about 6 months old and the meat is mostly used in stews and ragu.

Castrato or Montone – the meat of the castrated ewe is more popular in Southern Italy where they love a stronger taste of lamb. The meat is of intense red colour and not so lean. It is ideal for stews but is also roasted if the animal is not too old, or even grilled with rosemary and basted with olive oil and lemon juice.

Pecora – meat from the adult ewe is used in the same way as Castrato but will be a little tougher.

Mutton – meat from an animal over 2 years old is mainly eaten in the South where many recipes were developed for it’s use in stews.

The most common methods of cooking lamb in Italy is roasting and stewing, in Ireland I think lamb chops and rack of lamb might be more popular- I know we rarely had leg or shoulder in our house growing up but then fish fingers did feature regularly so…..:)!!

Roasting – the best cuts for roasting are first the leg, then the saddle and then the shoulder. The shoulder is tender and tasty and this is what I used in this recipe but it can be fatty and is quite difficult to carve neatly.

Braising, Stewing and Curries – The front part of the lamb is particularly suitable for stewing or braising with vegetables and early seasonal produce, such as petit pois, artichokes and baby onions. It is also ideal for curries and cooking in an egg sauce. The front parts include the middle neck, shoulder, fore shank and rack.

Chops – small chops from the loin are particularly tender and are delicious dipped in egg, then in breadcrumbs and fried in butter. 



 – leg or shoulder of lamb

 – 4 anchovies from a jar or tin cut in half.

 – 6 sage leaves

 – 3 rosemary sprigs, needles removed.

 – 1 sprig of thyme(optional)

 – 4 garlic cloves – peeled and sliced

 – 5 tbsp white wine vinegar

 – 5 tbsp white wine

 – olive oil

 – margarine

 – sea salt and black pepper


 – preheat the oven to 190 degrees

 – grease a roasting tin with margarine

 – using a small pointed knife, make small incisions all over your meat. Insert the sage,  some of your garlic, anchovies, rosemary needles into the incisions.

 – brush the lamb all over with olive oil, place in your roasting tray and season.

 – sprinkle the garlic and remaining rosemary on top, pour in the vinegar and wine and roast for 1 – 1 and a half hours depending how you like it cooked. I found mine drying out a little so I added some water to the tray half way through.

 – serve with roast potatoes and enjoy!!


Buon Appetito!!

reference – Carluccio and The Silver Spoon.