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Recipes and Stories

23 April 2014: Easter Lamb Pasta

Penne with a Touch of Easter Lamb and Asparagus

One of the loveliest things about a feast day, I always think, is the leftovers. Bits of roast to eat cold with horseradish sauce or warmed in its gravy, cold ham and asparagus, potato gratin or baked macaroni, both of which warm-over so nicely. Soup that can be warmed or thinned with milk and served chilled, either as is, or with other things added to it.

This year I made a Roman-style Easter Lamb, pot roasted with garlic, rosemary, and white wine. Since we had only four of us at the table, there was a good bit left over.

It was easy to decide what to do with it. In her second book, the incomparable Marcella Hazan related that one of Italy’s loveliest and simplest of pasta sauces was the pan juices and bits of meat leftover from a roast, which she said was sometimes called “col tocco d’arrosto” that is, “with a touch of the roast.”

A touch of the roast it was, then, and since there was also some leftover asparagus, a one dish supper was soon on the table.

Penne with a Touch of the Easter Lamb and Asparagus
Serves 4

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1½ cups quick-cooked or blanched asparagus, cut into 1-inch lengths
1 generous cup diced leftover Easter Lamb, Roman Style (recipe included below)
½ cup leftover reduced pan juices from Easter Lamb, Roman Style
¾ pound penne
½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

1. Bring 4 quarts water to a rolling boil in a heavy-bottomed, 6-to-8 quart pot over medium high heat. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the asparagus and when it is sizzling, add the lamb and toss until it is warmed through and starting to brown a little. Add the pan juices, stirring and scraping the pan bottom, and bring them to a boil. Turn off the heat.

2. When the water is boiling, add a small handful of salt (the water should have the salinity of sea water), stir, and then stir in the penne. Cook, stirring occasionally, until it is al dente, using the package directions as a loose guideline (the pasta should be firm to the bite but not tough and chewy at the center).

3. When the pasta is almost ready, return the sauce to medium heat. Drain the pasta through a perforated (not wire mesh) colander, being careful not to over-drain it, and immediately add it to the pan with the sauce. Toss until it is well-coated with sauce and turn off the heat. Turn it into a warm serving bowl and sprinkle with half the cheese. Toss well and serve, passing the remaining cheese separately.

Pot-Roasted Easter Lamb, Roman Style
Unlike the usual Easter leg of lamb that’s roasted rare to medium, this is gently pot-roasted until well-done and fork tender. Trust me on this one. While best made with bone-in shoulder of very young lamb, nowadays we’re lucky if our markets have anything but chops, racks, and whole leg, so I’ve adapted it using a boned leg. If you have a pan large enough, try it with a whole leg—the flavor is so much better when it cooks with the bone.
Serves 6-8

3 pounds butterflied leg of lamb or 4 pounds bone-in shoulder or sirloin cut of the leg
¼ cup olive oil
Salt and whole black pepper in a peppermill
4 small to medium cloves garlic, lightly crushed and chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
2 cups dry white wine

1. Position rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 300 F. Trim the lamb of excess fat and wipe dry. Season well with salt and pepper and rub into surface.

2. Heat the oil in a large enameled iron casserole or lidded roaster over medium high heat. When it’s hot but not smoking, add the lamb and brown it well on all sides. Sprinkle in the garlic and rosemary, and heat through until the garlic is fragrant and beginning to color. Add the wine and bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer 3-4 minutes, then cover and bake in center of the oven until the lamb is fork tender, about 2½ hours.

3. Remove the lamb from the pan to a platter, loosely cover it with foil and let it rest 30 minutes before carving. Tip pan and spoon off excess fat. Put the pan over direct medium-high heat and quickly reduce cooking juices until they are lightly thickened. Thinly slice the lamb and serve with the pan juices passed separately.

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