Why is lamb a popular springtime tradition in Italy?
Like many other parts of Europe, Italians eat seasonally with lamb at the top of the menu at this time of year. Shepherds have tended their flocks for thousands of years in central Italy, in areas such as Lazio, Abruzzo and Molise, where the mountainous landscape and lush green meadows make ideal terrain for sheep to graze on.
Easter is the most important religious celebration of the year in Italy, and lamb is an important Christian symbol, represented in religious images and famous Renaissance masterpieces throughout history. No Easter feast is complete without a roasted leg of garlic and rosemary lamb.
Lamb vs mutton, what’s the difference?
Lamb is a delicacy, tender and exquisite in taste. There is little fat on lamb and the meat can vary in colour from a tender pink to a pale red. It is best prepared with a mild seasoning, so as not to overpower the taste, while mutton is a lean and dark meat, with richer, more meaty flavours. While chops are suited to the grill, leg and shoulder are delicious baked with rosemary and the forelegs are often made into a kebab (spiedini) or as a mince. Stewed lamb also makes a great pasta filling!
Regional flavours and dishes?
In central Italian regions like Abruzzo, Agnello cacio e’ovo is a very popular dish of lamb in a lemon, egg and cheese sauce. Locals in Abruzzo also enjoy Arosticini, skewered lamb, often served alongside delicious antipasti.
Abacchio, milk-fed lamb, is a delicacy found in the countryside of Lazio and is enjoyed particularly at Easter. Near Lazio, in Rome, Angello a Scottadito, grilled lamb rib chops, is also a wonderful, traditional dish.
How to: Cook roast leg of lamb with Giovanni Rana Simply Italian Butter & Sage Sauce
Make your Sunday roast extra special with Giovanni Rana’s delicious Simply Italian Butter & Sage Sauce. Score a leg of lamb, then coat with the Butter & Sage Sauce, pressing it down between the cuts to make it more tender. If it dries out towards the end of roasting, spread more sauce on top before carving. Serve with minty new potatoes and spring vegetables like asparagus, peas and broad beans. Pair the lamb with a good bottle of Chianti. Try Chianti Poggio Galiga 2013 Grati, a rich wine with cherry fruits and a subtle hint of vanilla.