One of Abruzzo’s tastiest traditions, agnello cacio e ovo (lamb in a lemon, egg & cheese sauce), arrives with end of Lent and the Easter celebrations.
I am not sure how much Lent fasting really features anymore in modern Italia, we’ve just been out and bought secret stashes of meat for our neighbour on her request, much to our amusement and the surprise of her family who couldn’t believe that she was breaking (even secretly) her normal self-imposed yearly abstinence. Oh to be old enough to break the habits of a lifetime!
You’ll often find agnello cacio e ovo served throughout the year in Abruzzo agriturismi as an antipasti dish which is great, as beyond its tastiness, it’s incredibly rich so works brilliantly as a little taster.
Historically the lemon-egg based sauce which features in kind throughout Southern Med countries from Israel upwards is not just to give a taste of the sun, but the lemon aids digestion on delicate stomachs that have been upholding religious traditions and plain style eating. The eggs of course symbolise resurrection and continuity for Christians; lamb was traditionally eaten not just for its seasonality but it used to be believed that the devil couldn’t appear in its shape. Why go to all that trouble of fasting and cleansing if he arrived on your plate, what terrible indigestion!
The best thing about this dish for lazy cooks like me is that it’s so easy to make, you can go off to do something else at the same time and it only involves one saucepan so hardly any washing up!
An Abruzzo Easter Springtime Tradition - Agnello Cacio e Ovo
- 700 g shoulder of lamb cut into chunky bite-sized pieces and trimmed of all fat
- Olive Oil
- 1 Garlic clove smashed
- 3 Sprigs of Rosemary adjust according to your personal taste
- Salt and Pepper to taste
- 1 glass of Trebbiano d'Abruzzo
- 3 Eggs
- Juice from 1 Lemon
- 100 g of Grated Pecorino Cheese
- In a pan large enough to contain all the ingredients, add the olive oil and fry the garlic clove, add the rosemary and immediately afterward add the lamb and brown. (I cut out all pieces of bones left by the butcher as I just hate sucking on them and dissecting the meat, but I did retain them and added to the pan to cook with the pieces of meat for their flavour.
- Pour in the wine and let it evaporate slowly on the lowest heat as it cooks and moistens the meat. Stir occasionally for almost an hour until the meat is super tender. Do make sure that it doesn’t cook dry, replacing with a little bit more wine as needed to keep it moist. The end result should leave you with the lamb being lightly coated in a wine gravy like juice.
- Whilst the meat is cooking beat the eggs in a bowl adding the lemon juice and pecorino cheese.
- When the meat is done, remove the pan from the heat, remove the garlic (and bones if you're like me) and add the beaten eggs. Stir gently until the eggs thicken to a creamy consistency (just like when you make a carbonara sauce) Put it back on the heat for a few minutes only if the "cream" is too liquid. Season with salt & pepper (with both the lemon juice & Pecorino cheese for our tastes we didn’t feel it needed additional salt).
- Serve with roast potatoes and a large mixed green salad.