Sicilian Lamb Spezzatino with Saffron and Mint

Mediterranean cooks certainly know their way around lamb and combine it with spices that their Northern counterparts would never dream of using.   The results are often revelatory flavors that not only bring out the best in lamb, but also bring out the best flavor in some of the least flavorful cuts of lamb, such as the shoulder.   This is a great dish on a warm summer evening.


Time:   1:30

  • 4 pounds lamb shoulder chops cut 2 inches thick
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 cups diced red onion
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • Pinch of saffron
  • 2 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped fresh mint


Season chops generously with salt and pepper. Put olive oil in a wide deep skillet over medium-high heat. Lightly brown lamb on both sides, then remove and set aside. Lower heat to medium, add onion to pan and season with salt. Cook, stirring, until softened and lightly colored, about 5 minutes.

Stir garlic, saffron and tomato paste into onions and cook 1 minute. Add wine and simmer for 2 minutes, then return lamb to skillet. Add 4 cups water, just to cover meat, and bring to a boil. Put on lid, turn heat to low and simmer gently for about 45 minutes, until quite tender.

Remove lid and raise heat to a rapid simmer. Simmer until juices have reduced by nearly half and sauce has thickened somewhat (may be prepared ahead to this point). Taste and adjust seasoning. Just before serving, reheat and stir in chopped mint.

YIELD 4 to 6 servings

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