Abbacchio—a suckling lamb that is about a month old and weighs no more than 15 pounds— is a springtime fixture on Rome’s tables. In the days leading up to Easter, we place special orders with our butcher (shout out to Roberto Liberati) for a whole abbacchio, then marinate it and roast it the with salted anchovies, garlic, herbs, and vinegar—the Roman way. The exquisitely tender meat is the protagonist of our huge Easter feasts, which typically include no fewer than 15 friends and family, but I have scaled the recipe down to just the shoulder for more accessible daily use. I have also included a pan sauce, which may not be traditionally Roman, but is delicious. For the best results, marinate the lamb overnight before roasting.
Abbacchio alla Romana
Suckling lamb, Roman style
Serves 6 to 8
1 bone-in lamb shoulder (about 4 pounds)
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 springs rosemary, picked and finely chopped
6 sage leaves, finely chopped
2 salted anchovies, cleaned and formed into a paste
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 cup dry white wine plus more for pan sauce
Place the lamb shoulder in a roasting pan and season evenly with salt. Set aside to rest for about 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix together the black pepper, olive oil, garlic, rosemary, sage, and anchovy paste. Using your hands, massage the marinade over the rested meat, distributing evenly. Cover the meat with plastic and refrigerate overnight.
Preheat oven to 350F. Remove the lamb from the refrigerator and allow it to reach room temperature. Pour the vinegar over the meat and redistribute the marinade evenly.
Roast the lamb for about 1 hour, pouring the wine over the meat and turning the lamb over halfway through. The lamb is done when it is golden brown and pulls away from the bone easily. Remove from the oven and set aside to rest for 15 to 20 minutes.
While the lamb rests, make the sauce. Drain off the lamb fat from the pan, then transfer the pan to the stove over medium-low heat, adding up to ¼ cup wine, scraping up browned bits from the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Cook until the sauce is reduced, about 5 minutes.
Cut the lamb into thick slices and serve with the pan sauce drizzled on top.