Agnello alla Romagnola (Lamb Stew with Peas, Pancetta and Tomato)

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It’s Spring and when it’s spring I see lambs frolicking in the pastures. And it makes me think of how good they will taste as lamb chops or lamb shank 😉 A part of lamb that is not as popular is the neck, but when prepared correctly it has a lot of flavor.

In Romagna, the region of Italy between Bologna and the Adriatic coast in the Po Valley, lamb is stewed with peas and pancetta in a tomato sauce. I really liked the sound of that, and so I gave it a try. I used lamb neck and cooked it sous-vide, but you can just as easily prepare this the traditional way. Cooking the lamb sous-vide will just make it more tender and especially more juicy. This is easy to make and it was delicious. Here’s what I did…

Ingredients

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For 4 servings

600 grams (1.3 lb) lamb neck

60 grams (2 oz) pancetta

150 grams (1 cup) peas, fresh or frozen

60 ml (1/4 cup) sieved tomatoes (tomato puree, passata di pomodoro)

80 ml (1/3 cup) lamb stock

1 clove garlic, minced

1 Tbsp minced fresh rosemary

1 Tbsp olive oil

salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 tsp corn starch

Instructions

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Cut the pancetta into strips. Mince the garlic and the rosemary.

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Cut the lamb neck into chunks and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

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Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add the pancetta.

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Stir until the pancetta is golden (but not crispy).

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Add the garlic and rosemary, and stir for a few seconds.

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Add the lamb.

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Brown the lamb on all sides.

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Add the lamb stock…

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…and the sieved tomatoes.

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Stir to incorporate. If you are preparing this the traditional way, cover the pan and cook over low heat until the lamb is almost tender. Then add the peas and continue to cook until they are tender. Taste and adjust the seasoning and serve.

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To go the sous-vide route, take the lamb out of the frying pan and put it on a plate to cool off. Reduce the sauce over medium low heat until it has been reduced to about two thirds.

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Add the juices that will leak out of the lamb back to the sauce.

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You can’t vacuum seal the meat with the sauce with a regular ‘clamp’ style vacuum sealer. You have two options:

With a chamber vacuum sealer, allow the meat and sauce to cool off and then vacuum seal.

Or use a ziplock bag and the water displacement method, in which case it is okay if everything is still warm.

Cook the lamb sous-vide for 24 hours at 57C/135F.

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After the meat has finished cooking sous-vide, separate the meat from the sauce and set aside. Put the sauce in a frying pan and bring to a boil.

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Add the peas…

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…as well as a slurry made with 1 tsp corn starch and 2 tsp cold water.

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Stir and cook until the corn starch has bound the sauce somewhat and the peas are tender.

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Add the meat and stir just long enough over medium heat to warm the meat back up. (The whole point of cooking the meat sous-vide is to avoid the core of the meat to get hotter than 57C/135F, so make sure not to cook it for too long as otherwise the meat will end up dry after all.) Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

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Serve the meat with the sauce on preheated plates.

Wine pairing

An outstanding choice with this dish is a Sangiovese di Romagna from the same region as the dish. The acidity of the sangiovese goes well with the tomatoes, and sangiovese from this region is a bit more mellow than it’s cousins Chianti, Brunnelo and Vino Nobile from the other side of the Appenines, and are thus more suitable for lamb.

Flashback

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This almond meringue cake with amarena cherries brings back memories of our visit to Ireland when Conor’s ‘Wife’ made a similar delicious cake with raspberries for us. Happy days!

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19 thoughts on “Agnello alla Romagnola (Lamb Stew with Peas, Pancetta and Tomato)

  1. Oh, I DO like this loving lamb as much as I do. Haven’t made it un quite this manner. Have not bought lamb neck awhile either but have fond memories of eating it lots and lots in my childhood years. In those days it was one of the cheapest meat cuts in Australia: we were penniless migrants from Europe – German money of the time could not be exchanged for any other currency! Mom discovered lamb neck and must have made up a dozen different recipes to make it palatable ofttimes – it was my favourite and I shall be ordering it soonest 🙂 !

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    1. Thanks, Fae. It is so delicious because the neck muscles have done a lot of work and there is a lot of marbling in the meat. It is of course the good people of Romagna that should get the credit for the recipe 😉

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      1. Oh, not at all here. I have a great butcher and only buy my meat there. I live in rural France so butchers more common than in big cities. I could ask for it specially but it costs a lot more if you want speciality cuts so I seldom do.

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  2. This looks great Stefan! I tried lamb for the first time in 2014 at a winery and it was delicious. I look at it in the grocery store all the time wondering how I would even attempt to cook it so it’s nice to see detailed recipes like this one for inspiration.

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  3. Mom’s Mom, though Marchigiana, added peas to a number of sauces and stews. Those recipes are long gone but mentioning peas in a sauce will sometimes jog Zia’s memory. I wonder if your stew will stir a memory or two. I do hope so but, even if not, I want to make this dish. It sounds wonderful, Stefan.

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    1. Thanks, John. Le Marche are adjacent to Romagna, so I am not surprised there are some similarities. If you can’t find neck of lamb, you could also use shoulder or shank. Or even leg. This was really good and I’ll definitely make it again myself. Let me know what Zia thinks and if it brings up any memories.

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  4. You saw some ‘lambs frolicking in the pastures’ and your first thought is that you want to eat them?!Sous vide them? !!!

    Methinks you have sold your soul to the sous vide machine!

    (This is an inspiration waiting to be tried. And I surely will.)

    🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Kees and I both think it is hypocritical to only eat meat and fish that doesn’t remind us of the animal that it came from (without bones and as nondescript in shape as possible). So we enjoy making comments about lambs and such.

      The alla Romagnola preparation would also be good with lamb shanks sous-vide, by the way.

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