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Italian Baked Lamb

This is one of the easiest meals in my repertoire that can be made for 2 (halve the recipe below) – or up to 20 people – which I have!  I simply cook the recipe as provided a few times over in separate baking dishes up to the point of adding the pasta, then finish it all off an hour or so before the party in rotation, covered with foil at the end to let it rest as I transfer it.
I cooked this on the large scale for my husband’s birthday served alongside pasta Genovese (i.e. farfalle, or ideally trofie, pasta with pesto, beans and boiled new potatoes) – taken to the park where we set up one lazy, long, lunch table and played old fashioned sack and three legged races etc – was one of his all time favourite birthdays.
You can use lamb cuts from chops to large steaks of leg or shoulder, any type of short soup pasta as well. The idea is to slow cook it in a tomato based sauce with the lamb poking out the top to brown as it cooks, then adding enough liquid to cook the pasta and peas and provide a delicious thick sauce with hopefully a few crunchy edges.

Pictured: Italian Baked Lamb

1.2kg lamb cutlets, chops or steaks
5 bay leaves
1x 400g tin of diced tomatoes
3 cups chicken stock
A splash of extra virgin of olive oil (more if the lamb is lean)
A splash of balsamic vinegar (optional)
2 tsp dried herbs (I like a mix of oregano and tarragon) – use 2 tbsp fresh marjoram or oregano if available
4 -5 garlic cloves, crushed
Sea salt and pepper
1 ½ cups short, soup pasta – ditali, risoni, baby macaroni
2 cups frozen baby peas

Preheat oven to 190°C.

In a baking dish, lay the bay leaves on the bottom placing the lamb on top.
Pour the tomatoes and 1 cup of the stock over the lamb. Splash the oil and vinegar on top of the lamb cuts and sprinkle the herbs, garlic, salt and pepper on top. Make sure the lamb is not completely covered so it can brown a little in the oven during cooking.
Place the dish in the oven for one hour, turning the lamb over half way. (You can cook the dish up to this point in advance, and when you are keen to serve bring the dish back up to a good heat in the oven, and then continue as below).

Add the pasta, the rest of the stock and cook a further 20 minutes, stirring a few times. If it seems a little dry, boil the kettle and add a little hot water – not too much however so the sauce stays thick.

Add the peas and cook the last 10 minutes.

Serve with salad.

Serves  4 - 6

Pictured: Three Legged Race