Cookbook Profile

Lamb and Tomato Stew
from an Italian Farmhouse

Makes 4 servings


I love this exceedingly simple stew, typical of farmhouse cooking in southern Italy, because of its intense flavors. The lamb and tomato seem to melt together. One of the reasons these kinds of southern Italian stews taste so good is because the marrow-rich shank bones are used, which enrich the gravy. Another is that they are cooked with wine, and wine in stew is so perfect that many Italian cooks associate one with the other. This is a wintertime stew, as you might guess from the fact that I call for canned tomatoes, fresh ones being out of season and generally not very good tasting at that time of year.

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium-size onion, chopped
2-1/2 pounds lamb shank and shoulder on the bone,
     trimmed of any large pieces of fat and cut into chunks
5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 cup robust red wine
One 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

In a casserole, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Cook the onion until translucent, stirring, about 5 minutes. Brown the lamb on all sides, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic, wine, and tomatoes and season with salt and pepper. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, until the meat is soft, about 4 hours.


Italian Cuts of Lamb

Italian butchers cut up lamb differently than American butchers. In Italy, both the head (testa) and the feet (piedi) are sold for stews. The neck (collo) is also a good stew meat, as is the shoulder (spala), which will often include the (ossobuco) (shank). The breast meat (petto) is usually used in braises and ragouts, while the loin and rib chops, called (quadrello )or (costolette), are grilled, broiled, or baked. Whereas American butchers sell the whole leg, Italian butchers cut up the leg into the lower portion, called the (cosciotto), and the (sella), or saddle of lamb. Four types of lamb are sold by Italian butchers: (abbacchio), or milk-fed lamb; (agnello), mature lamb; (montone), mutton; and (castrato), castrated lamb. The milk-fed lamb is a milder tasting meat than the other cuts.


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Real Stew
300 Recipes for Authentic Home-Cooked Cassoulet,
Gumbo, Chili, Curry, Minestrone, Bouillabaisse, Stroganoff,
Goulash, Chowder, and Much More
by Clifford A. Wright
Harvard Common Press
$32.95 cloth, 464 pages, ISBN: 1558321985
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400 illustrations
Recipe reprinted by permission.


Real Stew



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This page created January 2003