Home Features Must-Try Lamb Recipes for Easter

Must-Try Lamb Recipes for Easter

There are baskets overflowing with candy! Chocolate bunny figurines! Frantic hunts for brightly colored eggs! With all that going on, it’s easy to forget that lamb actually is the most widely recognizable symbol of Easter. The association of lamb — and lamb dinners — with Judeo-Christian religion is about as old as, well, Judeo-Christian religion (nearly 4,000 years). With so much history, it’s high time to try out some new lamb recipes for Easter dinner.

Here are three new recipes to add to your holiday repertoire, each paired with a great Garden State wine. But be sure to leave room for dessert!

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Roast Top Round of Lamb with Almond Parsley Pesto

If anyone can liven up the same old lamb roast, it is chef and Essex County resident Jeff Butler. A lead instructor at New York City’s International Culinary Center, butchery is one of Butler’s specialties. The recipe may be made with a top round or leg of lamb (you may need make double the amount of pesto if making leg of lamb). Butler recommends making the pesto ahead of time. “The flavor [of the pesto] comes out better if it is left to rest [in the refrigerator] for a day and used at room temperature,” he says.

Pairing: 2011 Cabernet Franc Reserve from Amalthea Cellars.
Jeff butler
Serves 3 


For the Pesto  
2 bunches fresh parsley, coarsely chopped
1 bunch fresh oregano, coarsely chopped
½ cup sliced almonds, toasted and chopped
½ cup Sicilian olives, chopped
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

For the Lamb
3-4 lbs. top round of lamb OR leg of lamb
3-4 Tbsp. almond parsley pesto (use 6-8 Tbsp. if making leg of lamb)
Salt and pepper to taste
3-4 cloves fresh garlic, sliced


For the Pesto

  1. Combine the parsley, oregano, almonds, and olives in a food processor. Pulse until the ingredients are fully mixed.
  2. With the machine running on the lowest speed, slowly drizzle in the olive oil until the pesto reaches a paste-like consistency. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and lemon juice.

Close up detail on pre cooked icelandic lamb leg meat wit spices and herbs on black baking roasting dish in front of silk drap

For the Lamb

  1. One or two nights prior to cooking, rub the lamb with the pesto and sliced garlic. Wrap well and refrigerate. (The lamb may be marinated for up to 3 days).
  2. On the day of the meal, begin by preheating an oven to 425°F.
  3. Remove the lamb from the refrigerator, and then remove the sliced garlic and any extra marinade. Generously season the meat with salt and fresh ground pepper, and then place it into a roasting pan on a wire rack. The smooth side of the top round should be facing upward.
  4. Put the lamb into the oven and roast for 15 minutes, or until the meat begins to brown.
  5. Turn the heat down to 325°F and continue cooking until the lamb has reached an internal temperature of 122°F (which will prevent overcooking the meat, as it will continue to cook once it’s removed from the oven).
  6. Let the lamb rest for 10-15 minutes before slicing thinly across the grain. Serve with any leftover pesto.

French-Style Lamb Stew with Fresh Spring Vegetables

There is a reason some dishes, like this richly flavored French lamb stew, are classics. Loaded with vegetables, this stew is hearty enough for a chilly spring supper but light enough to leave room for dessert. Traditionally, the carrots and turnips are shaped into cocotte, small football-like shapes, but dicing them is so much easier (and faster, too). The classic French recipe also uses string beans, but this version keeps things a little simpler with fresh spring peas.

Pairing: 2013 Outer Coastal Plain Merlot from Bellview Winery.
Serves 4


For the Stew
French Style Lamb Stew1 ½ lbs. lamb shoulder, cubed
Salt and pepper to taste
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
2-3 medium carrots, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves fresh garlic, crushed
1 Tbsp. tomato paste
2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
Water, as needed
3 sprigs, fresh thyme (optional)
1 bay leaf (optional)

For the Vegetables
4 small or new potatoes, diced
3 Tbsp. butter
2 tsp. sugar
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 medium carrots, diced
4 medium turnips, diced
1 ¼ cup water
1/3 cup fresh spring peas (or frozen)
2 Tbsp. red wine
12 pearl onions, peeled
Finely chopped flat-leaf parsley, for garnish


For the Stew

  1. Preheat an oven to 350°F. Season lamb with salt and pepper.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large, oven-safe saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat. When hot enough to shimmer, add cubed lamb and sauté, working in batches if necessary, until brown on all sides. Remove lamb and set it aside.
  3. Add a bit more oil to the pan and reduce heat slightly, then add chopped carrots and garlic. Cook the vegetables, stirring occasionally, until soft and just starting to brown. Add garlic and cook for about 1 more minute.
  4. Add tomato paste and flour to the pan. Using a wooden spoon, stir to combine and cook until tomato paste begins to brown.
  5. Return lamb to saucepan, add thyme and bay leaf (if using), then add water to cover. Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat and cover the pan. Place the stew into the preheated oven and cook until lamb is tender, 45-50 minutes. Be sure to check the stew every 15-20 minutes, adding more water if necessary. The stew should cook at a simmer, but not boil.

For the Vegetables

  1. Bring a saucepan filled with salted water to a boil, and then reduce heat to medium.
  2. Add potatoes to the simmering water and cook until just tender, about 15 minutes. Strain potatoes and set aside until ready to use.
  3. Heat butter in a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat. Add carrots, sugar, salt and 1 cup of water. Cover carrots with parchment paper and cook for about 10 minutes.
  4. Add turnips and pearl onions, then return parchment paper cover to the skillet and continue cooking until vegetables are fork-tender, about 10 minutes.
  5. Remove parchment paper lid and continue cooking, stirring with a wooden spoon, until vegetables are golden brown, about 3 minutes. Stir in fresh peas.
  6. Add wine and stir until vegetables are just glazed. Remove vegetables from the heat and set aside.
  7. To serve, combine lamb and vegetables and cook until hot, then plate in stew bowls. Garnish with parsley.

Sautéed Lamb with Merguez and Spicy Chickpeas

This recipe is a fun way conjures a taste of the Mediterranean and North Africa to your holiday dinner without adding a ton of time.

Pairing: 2014 Red Native Hybrid Blends Old Indian Mills Blend from Valenzano Family Winery.

Serves 4


For the Lamb and Merguez
Extra virgin olive oil, as needed
1½ lbs. lamb shoulder, cubed
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup beef or veal stock
1½ lbs. merguez, sliced into rounds
Chopped mint leaves, for garnish

For the Spicy Chickpeas
¼ lb. tomatoes
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2-in piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced
½ tsp. red chili paste, or more to taste
1 tsp. fresh cumin seeds, toasted and ground
2 tsp. fresh coriander seeds, toasted and ground
2 tsp. chili powder
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 ¾ cups cooked chickpeas
Salt and pepper to taste

Meat stew with vegetables and herbs on old wooden table


For the Lamb and Merguez

  1. Season the lamb with salt and pepper.
  2. Heat the oil in a large skillet or heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. When the oil is hot enough to shimmer, add the cubed lamb meat, and cook until brown on all sides.
  3. Add the stock and the sliced merguez. Stir to combine and cook the mixture until the lamb is fully cooked, and the stock has reduced to a light jus. Remove from the heat and set aside.
  4. For service, place the sautéed lamb and merguez in the center of a plate, then top with some of the spicy chickpeas. Garnish with the chopped mint.

For the Spicy Chickpeas

  1. Peel, seed, and coarsely chop the tomatoes, then set aside. (To save even more time, buy good quality canned, diced tomatoes.)
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-low heat. Add the onion and sauté until tender.
  3. Next, add the ginger, chili paste, garlic, cumin, coriander and chili powder to the pan and stir until fully combined.
  4. Stir in the tomatoes, and allow the mixture cook until slightly reduced. Add the chickpeas, season, and heat through. Hold warm until ready to serve.

Carrot Cake with White Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting

What did the Easter bunny have for dessert? Carrot cake! There’s no doubt he would love this version, from award-winning pastry chef and Garden State native Michael Zebrowski. The former executive pastry chef of the Westin Hotel in Morristown, Zebrowski is currently a lead chef instructor at the International Culinary Center.” The lemon juice and vanilla extract can be added to taste,” Zebrowski said. “This [frosting] is especially great for carrot and red velvet cake respectively. If the frosting is too soft, refrigerate for a little while to firm, then mix with the paddle attachment until smooth.”

Pairing: 2013 Cool Foxy Lady Vidal dessert wine from Unionville Vineyards.


michael-zebrowskiFor the Cake
4 whole eggs
2 cups granulated sugar
¾ cup vegetable oil
1 ¾ cup bread flour
1 Tbsp. ground cinnamon
½ salt
¾ tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. baking powder
½ cup walnuts, toasted and chopped
3 cups raw carrots, grated
2/3 cup fresh pineapple, finely chopped

For the Frosting
3 cups cream cheese, softened
1 ½ cup butter, softened
¾ Tbsp. vanilla extract
1 ½ lbs. white chocolate, melted and cooled
1 ⅓ Tbsp. lemon juice


Carrot Cake (book)For the Cake

  1. Preheat an oven to 350°F. In a mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whisk the whole eggs and sugar together until light and thick.
  2. Slowly add the oil into the egg mixture.
  3. Sift the dry ingredients together, then add several tablespoons of the mixture to the carrot, pineapple, and walnut mixture; stir to combine.
  4. Add the dry ingredients to the whipped egg foam. Continue to whisk until almost combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.
  5. Fold in the carrot, pineapple, and walnut mixture to the dry ingredients until homogenous.
  6. Pour the cake batter into a 10-in cake pan and bake in the preheated oven until the cake springs back to the touch and a skewer inserted comes out clean, about 40-50 minutes.

For the Frosting

  1. In a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix the cream cheese and butter together until light, fluffy, and smooth. Be sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl.
  2. Add the melted white chocolate, and mix until smooth.
  3. Add the lemon juice and vanilla extract, and then mix until smooth and fully incorporated.
  4. Frost as desired!

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Hero (Top) Image Courtesy: © Dar1930 / Adobe Stock
Additional Body Images (In Order) Courtesy:
Jeff Butler / International Culinary Center
marioav / Dollar Photo Club
Matthew Septimus / International Culinary Center
msk.nina / Dollar Photo Club
Michael Zebrowski