Recipe: Abbacchio alla Romana | Roman-style Suckling Lamb

Written by Katie Parla on March 25, 2024

Abbacchio alla Romana | Katie Parla

Abbacchio—a suckling lamb that is about a month old and weighs no more than fifteen pounds— is a springtime fixture on Rome’s tables. In the days leading up to Easter, I place a special order with one of my favorite Roman butchers (Sartor, Liberati, or Mariani) 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 huge Easter feasts, which typically include no fewer than fifteen 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. 

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 garlic cloves, finely chopped

3 rosemary sprigs, leaves 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 the 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. 

Remove the lamb from the refrigerator and allow it to reach room temperature. 

Preheat the oven to 350˚F.

Pour the vinegar over the meat and evenly redistribute the marinade. Roast the lamb for about 1 hour, turning the lamb and pouring the wine over the meat after 30 minutes. The lamb is done when it is golden brown and pulls away from the bone easily. Transfer the meat to a cutting board and let rest for 15 to 20 minutes. 

While the lamb rests, make the sauce. Drain off the lamb fat from the pan, then set the pan on the stovetop over medium-low heat, adding up to ¼ cup wine, scraping up the 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 over top. 

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