Agnello alla Cacciatore ~ a Savory Lamb Stew to Welcome 2015

lamb stew in bowl Happy New Year, Dear Readers! I hope you had a relaxing holiday ~ or, if not relaxing (let’s face it, most holidays are anything but), at least an enjoyable one. We hit the road on Christmas Eve, traveling to NJ to spend a few days with my family. Then we continued north to upstate NY and New England for a quickie tour of colleges disguised as a mini-vacation. (Yes, within two years BOTH my kids will be in college.)

Yesterday the decorations came down and the tree was cast out to the curb. I usually wait until after the Feast of the Epiphany to put everything away, but truth be told I am more than ready to dive into 2015. It’s shaping up to be a busy year: Ciao Biscotti comes out in March, and I am in the middle of testing recipes for a new book project about Italian preserving traditions (more on that in the coming months).

I’m looking forward to heading back to Italy, both for research in spring and summer, and also for another Abruzzo Presto/Domenica Cooks culinary tour in September (more soon on that, too).

But I’m getting ahead of myself. It’s only January. Here in the D.C. area we are heading into a week of frigid temps. Frigid by my standards, anyway, with a projected low of 14 degrees F on Wednesday. The upside of this, of course, is that it’s stew weather.

lamb stew white bowl

I made this savory lamb stew with sun-dried tomatoes and porcini mushrooms the other night for a small gathering of friends and family. I want to share the recipe with you because it is good. It’s from Big Night In and it’s one I hadn’t made in a few years. I served the stew with olive oil-roasted potatoes (also from BNI) but it would also be great with polenta or rice. (The rich sauce is delicious tossed with fettuccine.)

I’m looking forward to a new year of sharing favorite Italian recipes and inspiration with you. What’s cooking in your kitchen? Cheers, D

Makes 6 main-course servings

Agnello alla Cacciatore: Savory Lamb Stew

Lamb is a staple in Abruzzo, where sheep graze on the beautiful slopes of the Maiella and Gran Sasso mountain ranges. Here in the U.S. I look for American lamb, which has a rich flavor without being too gamey. In this recipe, boneless leg of lamb is paired with woodsy herbs, porcini mushrooms and sun-dried tomatoes. Serve with roast potatoes or polenta.

A tip for browning the lamb: Brown in batches and be sure not to crowd the the pot; otherwise the meat will steam rather than sear.

Recipe adapted from Big Night In (2008 Chronicle Books).


  • 1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 pounds boneless leg of lamb, cut into 2-inch cubes
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large carrot, finely diced
  • 1 large rib celery, finely diced
  • 1 medium yellow or red onion, finely diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh oregano
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary
  • 8 ounces fresh mixed mushrooms (such as shiitake and cremini), sliced
  • 6 to 8 sun-dried tomatoes in oil, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup chicken broth or water


Place the porcini mushrooms in a small bowl and pour the boiling water over them. Let them soak for 20 to 30 minutes, or until softened. Drain the porcini in a fine-mesh sieve lined with a damp paper towel, reserving the liquid. Chop the mushrooms coarsely and set the mushrooms and liquid apart separately.

In a large Dutch oven or other heavy-bottomed pot, warm the olive oil over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot and shimmering, arrange some of the pieces of lamb in the pot. Sprinkle the pieces with a little salt and pepper and sear, turning as need, until browned on at least 2 sides. (Be careful not to crowd the pot or the lamb will steam rather than brown.) Remove the browned pieces to a bowl or platter. Continue until you have browned all the lamb.

Reduce the heat to medium and add the carrots, celery and onion to the pot (add a drizzle more of oil if necessary). Cook for about 7 minutes, until the vegetables are beginning to soften. Stir in the garlic and herbs and sauté briefly, until fragrant. Add the reserved porcini and the fresh mushrooms and cook, stirring often, until softened, about 10 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and 1 teaspoon salt. Cook for 2 minutes; then raise the heat to medium-high and pour in the wine. Let it boil for a minute or two, until almost evaporated. Pour in the reserved porcini liquid and the broth or water and return the lamb to the pot.

Bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat to low and cover partially. Let the stew cook at a gentle simmer for about 2 hours, or until the meat is fork-tender and the sauce is thickened and has developed a deep, savory flavor. Taste and adjust the seasoning with additional salt or pepper, if you like. Remove from the heat and let sit a few minutes before serving.

NOTE As with many stews, this can be made in advance and reheated, and in fact tastes even better if it has been given the chance to sit for awhile.

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24 Responses to Agnello alla Cacciatore ~ a Savory Lamb Stew to Welcome 2015

  1. Rosa Jeanne Mayland January 5, 2015 at 8:26 am #

    A wonderful way to start the year. This comforting stew must taste extremely good.

    Best wishes for 2015!



    • Domenica Marchetti January 6, 2015 at 8:03 am #

      Happy New Year, Rosa! It’s always nice to read your comments here. Thank you for reading, friend.

  2. paninigirl January 5, 2015 at 10:56 am #

    This is just the kind of dish that I crave in winter!

  3. ciaochowlinda January 5, 2015 at 12:27 pm #

    Domenica – This will be cooking in my kitchen soon. I have a freezer full of lamb meat, since I purchased a half lamb from a friend recently. I will enjoy both cooking and eating this – a perfect antidote for the frigid weather – while dreaming about the warmer months (and Italy) ahead. Can’t wait for your newest cookbook.

    • Domenica Marchetti January 6, 2015 at 8:05 am #

      I’m dreaming of Italy too, Linda. Maybe we’ll be there at the same time?..

  4. Karen January 5, 2015 at 4:21 pm #

    Happy new year Domenica! You have a lot to look forward to with the book and Italian preserving project – love both ideas (and we are the lucky recipients 🙂
    I stayed put over the holiday, but in the coming weeks we’ll also be hitting the road for some final decision tours, with my first college-bound kid (!!) We’ll need a hearty, delicious stew like this one, maybe waiting in the freezer if I can manage to be that organized. All the best…

    • Domenica Marchetti January 6, 2015 at 8:08 am #

      Karen, that’s right ~ we both have first-borns going to college. Crazy. Good luck to you with it all. We will commiserate for sure next fall!

  5. Laney January 5, 2015 at 5:49 pm #

    Perfect winter recipe Domenica! Happy New Year…

  6. Phyllis@Oracibo January 5, 2015 at 9:24 pm #

    It really is stew season! This ones sounds terrific! Glad to see you used leg..,the cost of shoulder here is outrageous! Domenica…you really have a lot on the go this upcoming year! Looking forward to hearing and seeing everything! We are seriously thinking of going to Rome for three weeks in late September but between then and now have a total kitchen reno. to deal with, so for the next little bit it will be final drawings, sourcing and so on…fun but…doing it in June so we can barbecue everything! Thanks for the past year!

    • Domenica Marchetti January 6, 2015 at 8:26 am #

      Oh my! The words ‘kitchen reno’ make me shudder. Best of luck with it all. No matter how inconvenient, I’m sure it will be worth it. Thank you for reading and Happy New Year!

  7. marisa2014 January 6, 2015 at 8:03 am #

    Talk about comfort food! We love lamb and I don’t know why we only serve it at Easter. This sounds like just the right inspiration for getting out of that rut. Thank you for the recipe. I’ll look forward to all your wonderful news coming up.
    Marisa Franca @ Allourway

    • Domenica Marchetti January 6, 2015 at 8:29 am #

      I used to eat lamb a lot less, Marisa. But it’s an integral part of the diet in Abruzzo and other parts of Italy and over these last years I’ve incorporated more it into my cooking. It’s not cheap, though, so it’s still a bit of a luxury food. Still, worth the splurge now and then. Cheers!

  8. Gina Whiteman January 11, 2015 at 4:21 pm #

    Domenica, Just discovered your blog today and am excited to start following you!! I live in Ohio, but my father was from the little mountain town of Collelongo in Abruzzo. I love finding and trying recipes from the region. I also will be travelling back to Collelongo this coming August!! Looking forward to travelling all over Italy this time with my sister and then ending up in my dad’s hometown to visit with family and friends during the time of the Feast of the Assumption, Festa San Rocco and the Feast of the Immigrants.
    The last time I visited, a relative tried to share a recipe for what she called “Pizza Dolce” with me, but between the language barrier, the metric system and the variation of ingredients, I have been unable to replicate the recipe. Do you have a recipe for this plain but sweet cake??

    • Domenica Marchetti January 11, 2015 at 8:21 pm #

      Welcome, Gina. I’m so glad you found the blog. Your August trip sounds wonderful. I’ve never been to Collelongo, but I know it’s in a beautiful part of the L’Aquila province, and not far from Pescasseroli, one of my favorite towns in the National Park of Abruzzo. Can you please provide a few more details about the pizza dolce? I’m not familiar with it offhand, but the term is pretty generic so it could refer to any number of cakes. I’d love to find out more if I can. Cheers and thanks for reading.

  9. elisa January 16, 2015 at 8:54 am #

    This is for you Domenica and Gina who aske about the Pizza Dolce recipe, this IS the traditional pizza dolce abruzzese. Is in metric system, but I know, you Domenica, can convert it in our measure.

    • Gina Whiteman January 19, 2015 at 8:12 pm #

      Elisa!! Thank you for posting the link for Pizza Dolce!! I will definitely need Domenica’s help with the conversions and interpretation!! I would love to try it!!

      Domenica~here is the recipe as we have it!! We tried hard to follow her “mile an hour” Italian!! And I even took measuring spoons and cups with me in my suitcase so I could try to figure it out!!

      Pizza Dolce
      Recipe from Paola Mascoli (My father’s first cousin’s daughter)
      3 eggs
      1 1/3 c sugar
      2/3 c milk (divided into 2-1/3 c portions)
      1/2 c extra virgin olive oil
      2 c flour (maybe more) *She used “farina di grano tenero.
      16 grams of yeast
      lemon zest

      Beat eggs & sugar together until fluffy (2-3 min.). Add 1/3 c of milk and the olive oil. Mix well. Slowly add flour and mix well. Put yeast into the other 1/3 c of milk and stir to dissolve. Add to flour mixture. Continue adding a little more flour until mixture resembles a thick cake batter. If desired, at this point, you could add coconut or cioccolato!, almonds or amaretto for flavor. Beat well. Pour into a tube/bundt pan greased with butter and floured. Sprinkle the top with sugar. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-35 minutes.

      We have never had much luck getting the recipe to turn out like she did. Do you think it is because we are using the wrong type of flour??

  10. Adri Barr Crocetti January 16, 2015 at 11:20 am #

    This is homey winter food for certain. For many years I have shied away from lamb, doubtless a result of one too many “broiled lamb chops” back in the fifties. The smell of fat hung in the air, and just did in my timid sensitivities, pretty much putting me off lamb for quite a few years.

    I was a young adult before I really put time and effort into learning about lamb and lamb cookery. Now I love it. Newer breeds such as the hair sheep Dorper, whose meat is far less assertive than what I grew up with, appeal to me now. Slaughtered at about 80-90 pounds, Dorper lambs have less fat than other breeds, and wonderful, but mild, flavor. My grandfather used to chide me about not enjoying lamb. I bet he’d be pleased now.

    Best of luck with your upcoming book and new projects!I

  11. elisa January 20, 2015 at 11:16 am #

    Gina, check this in American measures, is the closest to the Italian version.

    Good luck

    • Domenica Marchetti January 20, 2015 at 11:27 am #

      Elisa, many thanks for following up with Gina. I have been sidetracked with work, and I am afraid that means I’ve been paying less attention to the blog. I’m curious about pizza dolce and I’ll have to ask my mom about it. I am sure she is familiar with it.

  12. Domenica Marchetti January 20, 2015 at 11:37 am #

    Gina, please see Elisa’s second reply, below, which links to a pizza dolce recipe in English. Looking at her two links, I realize I’ve had these types of cakes before. Many restaurants in Abruzzo serve them. They are sponge cake filled with chocolate pastry cream and almond filling and soaked in liqueur. Over the years I’ve had some bad ones and some really good ones. But is that the cake you’re looking for? Yours sounds more like a sweet yeasted cake.

  13. Jamie January 24, 2015 at 11:10 am #

    Oh, gosh, Domenica, I am always looking for great recipes for lamb stew because I love lamb and I love stew – cooking both over and over again all winter. But the lamb usually ends up in tagine when I just want a stew. This looks and sounds delicious; I love the addition of dried tomatoes!

  14. elisa January 28, 2015 at 8:31 am #

    you are very welcome, Gina and Domenica!

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