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April 23, 2024

American Lamb Leg and Saffron Cavatelli


Recipe Provided By
Chef Katie Gallego


plated braised American Leg of Lamb


  • 3 lbs American Lamb Shoulder, cut into large chunks
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
  • 1 tablespoon anise seeds
  • 1/4 cup American absinthe
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 2 stalks celery, sliced
  • 1 cup beef or lamb stock
  • 1 can (14 oz) diced tomatoes
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • fresh parsley, chopped (for garnish)
  • rosemary, one bunch
  • 1 cup of prunes
  • 1 cup of dried apricots 

For the Homemade Semolina Pasta:

  • 400 grams semolina flour
  • 250 grams water
  • 2 teaspoons saffron
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt 


Pat the American Lamb dry with paper towels. Season generously with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

In a large Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Increase the heat to high with oil and add the lamb chunks to the pot. Sear the lamb until all sides are browned, about 6-8 minutes. Remove the lamb and set aside.

Add the fennel and anise seeds, toasting them until they start to pop and become fragrant, about 1-2 minutes.

Reduce the heat to medium and carefully pour in the American absinthe to deglaze the pot, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom with a wooden spoon. Add the chopped onion, minced garlic, sliced carrots, and celery to the pot. Sauté until the vegetables are softened, about 5 minutes.

Return the lamb to the pot. Add the diced tomatoes and their juices along with the beef or lamb stock. Bring to a simmer. Create a sachet with the prunes and apricots which will later be used to blend with braising liquid to add texture to the dish. 

Once simmering, reduce the heat to low, cover the pot, and let it simmer gently for about 2 to 2.5 hours, or until the lamb is very tender.

Once the lamb is tender, adjust the seasoning with additional salt and pepper if needed.

Set aside some of the braising liquid, pour into a blender, and add the prunes and apricots to create a sauce, then pour back into the lamb. 

For the Semolina Pasta

Infuse water with saffron overnight and strain.  Place the semolina flour and salt in a large mixing bowl and stir to combine. 

Turn the dough out onto a surface dusted with semolina flour. Knead the dough vigorously for 8-10 minutes or until it is smooth and elastic. The dough should be firm and not too sticky.

Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let it rest at room temperature for at least 30 minutes. This resting period helps to relax the gluten, making the dough easier to roll out.

After the resting period, divide the dough into four equal portions. Keep the dough you are not working with covered to prevent it from drying out.

Flatten one portion of the dough slightly with your hands. Using a pasta machine, mold the pasta into any shape you would like. This recipe is using cavatelli. 

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Gently drop the pasta into the boiling water and cook for 2-4 minutes, depending on thickness, until al dente.

To Serve: 

Serve the braised lamb folded with the pasta. Top with Ricotta Salata and salad on the side. 

Additional Tips:

For best results, use high-quality semolina flour, which is milled from durum wheat and gives the pasta its traditional chewy texture and golden color. Homemade pasta can be dried on a rack or frozen for later use. To freeze, place the pasta nests on a baking sheet until solid, then transfer to a freezer bag.

USDA recommends the following time and temperature parameters

Ground Lamb

Internal temperature of 160°F

All Other Cuts

Internal temperature of 145°F, with a 3 minute rest

thermometer timer illustration
Visit our Lamb Cooking Time & Temperature page for recipe inspiration and tips on preparing the perfect lamb.


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