Stuffed Lamb Rolls from Abruzzo

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Even those who claim they don't especially like lamb will no doubt love these little bundles first created in Abruzzo, Italy. They are filled with a flavorful stuffing and smothered in a white wine and tomato sauce for a hearty, satisfying dish. The lamb rolls can be assembled up to 8 hours in advance and refrigerated until ready to cook.

Cooking Method:
Braising Braising
Servings :
  • Ingredients
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    2 Tbsp. olive oil
    4 oz. pancetta, thinly sliced, cut into 1-inch pieces
    4 large garlic cloves, minced
    3 hard-cooked eggs, finely chopped
    3 oz. Pecorino Romano cheese, finely grated
    8 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
    6 Tbsp. fresh bread crumbs, preferably homemade
    Sea salt, or Kosher salt
    Black pepper, freshly ground
    4 lbs. Butterflied Leg of Lamb, trimmed of excess fat
    1 yellow onion, chopped
    2 Tbsp. tomato paste
    3/4 cup dry white wine
    1 cup Lamb Stock (or water)
    1 (28 oz.) can peeled whole tomatoes, drained and chopped
    Generous pinch of Nirmala's Wild Fire Chili Blend, or crushed red pepper flakes


    In a sauté pan, heat the olive oil and cook the bacon over medium-low heat until crisp, turning once. Lift the bacon from the pan and drain. Leave the fat in the pan. Chop the bacon very finely and set aside.
    In a bowl, combine half the garlic, the eggs, cheese, 6 tablespoons of the parsley, the bread crumbs, 1/2 teaspoon salt, abundant pepper, and the bacon. Stir the stuffing well.
    Cut the lamb into 8 equal pieces (avoid areas with lots of tough connective tissue and reserve this abundant scrap for lamb stock). Cover each piece with plastic wrap and, using a meat mallet or the bottom of a small, heavy skillet, pound the lamb into rectangles about 1/4 inch thick (see "Tip" below). Lay a piece of lamb, with a short side facing you, on a work surface and spread 3 heaping tablespoons of stuffing on the lamb, distributing it evenly up to 1/2 inch from the three nearest edges and 1 inch from the far edge. Lightly pat the filling into place. Carefully roll the lamb away from you into a roll. Repeat with the remaining lamb and stuffing. Tie the rolls by wrapping butcher's twine around them 2 or 3 times and set aside.
    Salt the lamb rolls. Heat the reserved skillet over medium-high heat and, working in batches, brown the rolls on all sides, about 10 minutes per batch. Add a little more oil to the pan if needed. Transfer to a plate and set aside. If the stuffing leaks slightly and begins to burn, scrape the skillet and remove the browned bits.
    Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook the onion, stirring occasionally, until pale gold at the edges, about 8 minutes. Add the remaining garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the tomato paste and cook for 1 minute more, stirring. Add the wine and simmer for 3 minutes, scraping the bottom of the skillet to loosen any browned bits. Add the stock, tomatoes, chili blend, and 1/2 teaspoon salt and bring to a simmer.
    Add the lamb rolls and any accumulated juices to the skillet and reduce the heat to low. Cover and cook at a bare simmer until tender, turning the rolls and basting them every so often, about 1 1/2 hours.
    Remove the lamb rolls and set aside. Raise the heat to high and cook the sauce at a rapid simmer until concentrated but still pourable, about 5 minutes.
    Meanwhile, snip and remove the twine from the rolls. Divide the lamb among serving plates and smother with the sauce. Sprinkle with the remaining 2 tablespoons parsley and serve.


A typical butterflied leg of lamb weighs between 6 and 7 pounds. The ingredients in this recipe can be increased by 50% to use a whole leg and serve 6 to 8 adults. Alternatively, any unused lamb is great for cutting into cubes for kabobs or strips for stir fry. When we flatten boned meat cutlets or chicken breasts, we put them between two pieces of wax paper, plastic wrap, or in a plastic bag on a work surface. (We prefer a butcher's block, of course, but you may not have one in your home kitchen! A countertop is fine.) Use the bottom of a heavy frying pan, the flat side of a meat mallet or cleaver, or a rolling pin to flatten the meat. Begin with very light taps and increase the pressure just slightly as the meat thins out. Never pound too forcefully or you will break down the connective tissues and the meat will lose some of its texture. Gently pound the meat to form a shape that resembles a rectangle, or as close as you can. If there are holes in the rectangles, patch them with pounded scraps that are a little larger than the tear. Pound these into place.

Serving Suggestions:

Tomato sauces often cause trouble for fairly full-bodied red wines that are short on good levels of acidity, and so when it turns out that the soft and warmly flavored Montepulciano d'Abruzzo reds take so well to it, you wonder why. But beneath the generous and dark-fruited surface of these wines, there's a firmness, a kind of &quot;silent&quot; acidity that gives them the backbone to handle pesky tomato sauces and much more. A favorite in our tasting comes from one of the region's best producers of Montepulciano d'Abruzzo, Cataldi Madonna, but any number of these widely available wines would be excellent. For a Montepulciano with an unusual provenance, look for Bonny Doon Vineyards' Il Circo: Montepulciano &quot;Il Domatore di Leoni&quot;—Italian grapes in a Santa Cruz, California, cloak.