Abbacchio alla Cacciatora, Lamb alla Cacciatora

This is a classic Roman recipe, drawn from the late Livio Jannattoni’s La Cucina Romana e del Lazio. Who can resist his introduction?

“A tasty, rich smelling stew: A first-rate dish! To be made, of course, according to tradition; it’s a dish that even affirmed professionals like Ada Boni wax enthusiastic over, albeit using restrained, almost scolarly prose. “Roman abbacchio is delicious,” she writes, “and Roman cooks have a number to truly classic dishes that show it at its best. Foremost is Abbacchio alla Cacciatora.” The term cacciatora refers in this case to the seasoning, which is a mixture of garlic, rosemary, and vinegar.”

In terms of cut, you’ll want leg or loin; either cut or have your butcher cut the meat into pieces weighing a little less than two ounces (40 g) each. Exactly how much meat will depend upon your diners; Ada Boni suggests a kilo (2 1/4 pounds) for “six hungry people”, but other cooks suggest more, as much as 2 kilos (4 1/2 pounds) for six, and Roman restaurant cooks generally figure 300-350 g (12-14 ounces) per person.

So, to serve six:

  • 3 to 4 1/2 pounds (1.5-2 k) lamb
  • 1/2 a glass of olive oil or rendered lard
  • 1/2 a glass of vinegar
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 1/2 tablespoon flour
  • Garlic
  • Sprigs of fresh rosemary
  • A fresh sage leaf
  • 2 anchovies, split, rinsed, boned and shredded (optional)

Pour the oil into a broad skillet, add the lamb, and brown the meat over a brisk flame, seasoning to taste with salt and pepper and stirring the pieces about with a spoon to brown them on all sides.

Lower the flame and add a garlic clove, a sprig of rosemary, and the sage leaf. Turn the heat back up and continue browning the meat for a few more minutes, turning it and sprinkling it with the flour, then add the vinegar and an equal amount of water. Scrape the bottom of the pan to dislodge any particles that happen to have stuck down, reduce the heat to a simmer, and cover; simmer the meat until done, adding a little more liquid if the sauce looks too thick.

While it’s cooking, scoop a spoonful or two of the juices into a bowl and combine them with the anchovies to make a paste. When the meat is done, stir the paste into it and heat for another minute, then serve.

Mr Jannattoni also gives a succinct version from Roman cook Giggi Fazzi:

“Heat a pot with oil and sauté garlic and hot pepper in it, then add the chopped lamb, season with salt, and brown the meat over a brisk flame. When it’s good and browned, sprinkle it with wine, cover, and turn down the flame (half way); cook another 15 minutes. Every now and then give it a glance, then sprinkle the rosemary needles over it, followed by the vinegar, recover, raise the flame slightly, and after 10 more minutes. Serve it hot.”

Mr Fazzi includes wine, he notes, omits the flour, replaces pepper with hot pepper, and omits the sage.

And finally, chef Leopoldo Cacciani of Frascati’s Ristorante Cacciani starts out with a whole unweaned lamb weighing 7-8 k (15-17 pounds), which he chops into pieces that aren’t too small, lest they fall apart. Heat good olive oil in a cast-iron pot, not one made of steel, and gently add the lamb. Heat the pieces for about 10 minutes, allowing them to barely brown, then spoon out most of the oil, and mix in a previously blended mixture of garlic, capers, rosemary, hot pepper, and salt; continue browning and then stir in dry white wine (Frascati if possible) and vinegar to taste. Cover and simmer 10-15 minutes, then uncover and cook until the watery part of the wine has boiled off. Spoon the lamb into heated plates and serve it with a good Frascati.

“A fairly new version,” says Mr. Jannattoni, “which nonetheless diplays considerable respect for tradition. A tasty dish imbued with rustic spiciness that works well with the local wine. “


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Categories: Holiday dishes, Lamb and Kid, Recipes from Rome & Lazio, Cucina Romana e Laziale

Author:Cosa Bolle in Pentola

Italy boasts an astonishing number of varietals, denominations, and wines, and tremendous changes are sweeping the land. New wines are being created, new DOCs are being introduced, and the existing denominations are overhauling their regulations both to reflect the practices adopted by their member wineries and to favor improvements in quality. Even the most staid and stolid region can flower seemingly overnight, emerging with exciting new wines and wineries that require rewriting the enological maps and rethinking one's positions. And, of course, recipes too, because cuisine and wine are closely intertwined and it's difficult to imagine one without the other.


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