Lamb Shanks Alla Romana


Author: Bob and Robin Young


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Baby milk-fed lamb or abbacchio is one of the wonders of Roman cooking, in particular in the spring. Lamb that young is not often found in markets in our neck of the woods, but the same techniques work well with mature lamb as well. So the other day I took some lamb shanks I had in the freezer, braised them slowly until the meat was falling-off-the-bone tender, and finished them with flavorings typical of abbachio alla romana, Roman-Style Baby Lamb. The result was certainly different, but delicious all the same. I served the shanks with polenta, a combination perhaps more typical of America than Rome, but all the same it makes a fine combination for a piatto unico.

Degree of Difficulty

Degree of Difficulty: Moderately difficult


Servings: 4




Lamb Shanks, bone in

Olive Oil







Sea Salt and fresh ground Black Pepper to rasre

White Wine

For The Finish

1 - 2



2 - 3

Anchovy Fillets

A spoonful or two white wine vinegar, enough to form a paste



Sautè the garlic and rosemary in olive oil (or lard) in a heavy casserole until the garlic has been ever so lightly browned and fragrant. Remove both the garlic and the rosemary from the pot.


Add the lamb shanks to the seasoned fat and brown them well on all sides. Season them generously with salt and pepper, turning all the while. Add a splash of white wine to the pot, turning the lamb shanks around once again to coat them well. Then cover the pot tightly and lower the heat. Let the lamb shanks simmer, covered, until very tender, about 2½ hours. Moisten as needed, with a bit more wine.


About 20 minutes before the lamb is done, mash together the garlic and anchovy finely, then add a bit of the vinegar, enough to form a loose paste. Add this mixture to the lamb and mix well. Then finish simmering the lamb. Serve hot as a secondo. For a one-dish meal (but not in the usual Roman style but very nice all the same) accompany with some hot polenta.

Cooking Times

Preparation Time: 30 minutes

Cooking Time: 2 hours and 30 minutes

Total Time: 3 hours