Abbacchio alla romana (Baby lamb Roman-style)

Abbacchio alla romana at Da Bucatino in Rome
At Da Bucatino in Rome

When I was recently in Rome, I enjoyed a plate of “abbacchio alla romana” at Da Bucatino (, a restaurant just downstairs from the apartment I was renting. This is an always packed trattoria in the Testaccio neighborhood just south and across the river from Trestavere, near the center of Rome. I love to pick restaurants based on where (1) the locals are and (2) no menus in English can be found. Da Bucatino delivered on both counts.

Abbacchio (pronounced ab-bac-chio) is baby lamb, but it’s almost impossible to find it in the USA, so I use nice racks of lamb with the “fat cap” still attached; these are widely found in good-quality US markets.

Abbacchio alla romana
My version in Los Angeles

When I got home, I went about re-creating this dish as closely as I could, and the results were great. After some research, I learned that those crazy Romans combine anchovies with the lamb to create the sauce for this dish. And it’s almost always served with peeled and roasted Yukon Gold potatoes, which I’ve included below.

For medium-rare lamb, cook until the internal temperature reaches 140 degrees. It will rise to 145 degrees before you eat. You’ll want to add the mixture of garlic, rosemary, and anchovies 10-to-15 degrees short of this final temperature.

This recipe serves four.

Ingredients and Directions:

  • 2 peeled cloves garlic, 1 rough-chopped, the other left whole
  • 4 sprigs of rosemary – from 2 sprigs, remove leaves and rough chop
  • 2 or 3 good-quality oil-packed anchovies – patted dry with a paper towel
  • Coarse salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon red wine or white vinegar
  • 1 rack of lamb – not Frenched, if you can find it. 2 ribs per serving. If you are extra-hungry, serve 4 ribs per person as shown.
  • 4 Yukon Gold potatoes – peeled, cut vertically into wedges and rinsed
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup wine wine

Special Equipment:

  • Mortar and pestle (you could use a spice grinder instead)
  • Meat thermometer
  • Sheet pan
  • Oven-proof skillet big enough to hold the lamb in a single layer
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. If you have a stove-oven combination, place your serving plates on an unused burner on the stove top to warm from the heated oven below.
  2. Place the rough-chopped garlic clove, rough-chopped rosemary, anchovies, a good pinch of coarse salt, and a pinch of pepper in the mortar. Using the pestle, create a thick paste. Add the vinegar to create a wet paste.
  3. Cut the rack of lamb into the desired serving size (2 or 4 ribs per serving). Thoroughly season each piece on both sides with salt and pepper.
  4. Place the potatoes in a pot of well-salted water. Bring to a boil and par-cook for about three minutes. Drain and place on paper towels to dry.
  5. Place the partially cooked potatoes on a sheet pan an add a little olive oil and a good amount of salt and pepper. Place in the preheated oven on the upper rack. You’ll need the lower oven rack for the lamb. Cook until the potatoes are crispy and very light brown, about 40 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature if they they begin to burn. Remove from oven when done and lightly salt.
  6. In the meantime, using a skillet large enough to hold the lamb, add a little olive oil and place on medium-high heat. Add the remaining garlic clove and rosemary sprigs and cook in the hot olive oil for a few minutes to season it. Discard both the garlic and rosemary. In the seasoned oil, sear the lamb rib chop pieces on all sides and remove to a plate.
  7. Add the white wine to the hot skillet to deglaze the pan. Cook and let the wine evaporate a little.
  8. Add the lamb back to the skillet and place in the oven with the potatoes. Cook until the internal temperature reaches 10-to-15 degrees short of the final temperature (140 degrees for medium-rare) – turning occasionally. Remember that the skillet handle is HOT at this point. Use a thick oven mitt or silicon hot pad.
  9. Quickly remove from oven and add the garlic-rosemary-anchovy paste. Turn the lamb pieces until coated and return to the oven.
  10. Remove the skillet containing the lamb from the oven when the internal temperature has reached 140 degrees. Remove the lamb to warmed serving plates.
  11. Add the cooked potatoes to the remaining sauce in the skillet and toss to coat. Distribute the potatoes to the plates with the lamb and serve.

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