With no baby lamb available my butcher kindly jointed some lamb shoulder and neck meat into large serving chunks. We conspired to leave the bone in, in a departure from Grossi’s original, but it still worked a treat.
Real baby lamb will cook in a little over an hour especially if it is boned. Standard lamb with the bone left in will take a couple of hours in a moderate to low oven. You can part cook the dish ahead up to the stage of sprinkling over the breadcrumbs and parmesan. Available light fading fast on an overcast afternoon, the photograph here was taken after barely an hour’s cooking with another half or so to go before the addition of the crumb topping but you’ll get the idea of how glorious the final presentation is topped with golden crumbs.The dish deserves a great wine – hard to go past Marchese Antinori Chianti Classico
Roast lamb Roman style (for eight)2.2kg lamb from shoulder and neck cut into about 20 serving sized chunks, bone in2 onions, chopped6 cloves garlic, cut into quarters8 rosemary springs8 sage leavesgood handful of flat-leaf parsley, chopped1 large fresh red chilli, choppedsalt and pepper6-8 medium sized waxy-fleshed potatoes, cut into large chunks400g tin Italian chopped tomatoes and their juice1 cup extra virgin oilhalf bottle dry white winewater100g grated Parmesan200g fresh breadcrumbsextra sprigs of rosemaryPre-heat the oven to 170C. Mix together the breadcrumbs and Parmesan.Drizzle a little of the oil over the base of a heavy, wide, baking dish. Place the lamb in the dish and scatter over the onion, garlic, sage, rosemary, parsley and chilli. Season generously with salt (more than you think) and black pepper and pour over half the remaining olive oil. Massage the lamb pieces with all the seasonings. Tuck the potatoes among the lamb pieces. Spoon over the tomatoes and juice. Pour over the white wine and then drizzle with the rest of the olive oil.Add enough water to come about half way up the lamb pieces. This will provide moisture during cooking and will allow for some delicious juices at the end of the cooking time. Cook for about an hour and a half, turning the lamb and potatoes around in the cooking juices from time to time.Sprinkle over the crumb mix. Place back in the oven for another hour or until the crust is golden and the lamb is cooked. Top up with water from time to time to keep the lamb moist and some serving juices in the pan. Tuck in a few fresh rosemary sprigs here and there just before serving.Serve in the cooking vessel with a green vegetable or salad on the side.