Italian Lamb Shanks with Parmesan Polenta

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For this Valentines Day, we’re pulling inspiration from our recent vacation to Italy, specifically Florence to make a braised Italian lamb shank recipe.  In Italy, all of their food is extremely romantic and sensual, and nothing is more romantic than cooking (and drinking) with wine while roasting a beautiful piece of meat low and slow.  For our slow cooked lamb shank, we used Italian red wine (of course!), tomatoes, and the seasonings of Italy.  Additionally, to kick it up about 10 notches, when the lamb shanks were about done we made a super buttery and cheesy parmesan polenta for the base.  Polenta may sound and look fancy, but it’s extremely easy to make and is just an Italian version of the cornmeal grits we make down south.  

All together this easy lamb recipe is comfort food (perfect for a cold winter day), yet refined enough for a romantic evening at home.  It’s pretty much a warm hug on a plate, which of course is perfect for Valentines Day!  

What’s also awesome about cooking with a lamb shank is that you can make a bone broth or lamb soup with the leftovers.  Karen was feeling a bit sick this week, so Gav made a quick soup using the bones, chicken broth, garlic, 4 cups of water, two potatoes, and some of the leftover veggies, and braising liquid sauce.  Once it had reduced a fair amount, and the potatoes were cooked through we added some of the cooked, leftover lamb meat and topped it with fresh cold-pressed olive oil.  

We’ve always been fans of lamb, but since partnering with the American Lamb Board we’ve learned how versatile the meat is for any occasion.  Lamb is a terrific option for a date night at home as it is much more flavorful than traditional chicken, it’s AMAZING in Chinese dumplings (as we found out on our trip to Maine), or can be spiced up for a taco party with friends as we did with this lamb steak fajitas recipe.  

Italian Lamb Shank Recipe

Serves 4


  • 4 lamb shanks

  • Drizzle of olive oil

  • 2 sweet onions, sliced

  • 1 red pepper, sliced

  • 1 small head of garlic, minced

  • 6oz can of tomato paste

  • 8oz can of tomato purée

  • 1 cup chicken stock

  • 1 cup Italian red wine

  • 1 teaspoon of dried rosemary

  • 1 teaspoon of dried basil

  • 1 teaspoon of dried oregano

  • 1 teaspoon of dried thyme

  • Fresh basil for garnish

  • Fresh lemon juice

  • Salt and pepper, to taste

325 degrees, 2 hours

Making this dish is surprisingly easy, yet looks very elegant. Start by preheating your oven to 325 degrees and prepping your lamb shanks by seasoning them generously with salt and pepper. In a dutch oven, add 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil and sear the lamb for 2-3 minutes per side until the meat starts to turn light brown with a nice sear. Remove the lamb from the dutch oven. Add onions and peppers and cook for 2-3 minutes until they start to soften. Now add your garlic and saute for about a minute. Add the chicken stock, red wine, tomato puree and tomato paste to the pan, scraping off any brown bits from the lamb as you mix in the liquids. Now add the dried rosemary, basil, oregano, and thyme and stir until well combined. Pop your lamb shanks back into the dutch oven and replace the cover. Cook at 325 degrees for 2 hours, turning the lamb every 30 minute or so. Garnish your slow cooked lamb shanks with fresh lemon juice, fresh basil, and additional salt and pepper.

Creamy Parmesan Polenta Recipe

Serves 4


  • 1 cup polenta (grits or cornmeal)

  • 3 tablespoons butter

  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced

  • 1 quart of chicken broth

  • ⅓ cup shredded parmesan cheese

  • Salt and pepper, to taste

To make the polenta for under your Italian red wine lamb shanks, start by melting the butter in a saucepan. Then add the minced garlic and cook for about one minute. Next, add the quart of chicken broth and bring the liquid to a boil. Once boiling, start to add the polenta, about ⅓ cup at a time. Stir to combine. Reduce heat to medium and cook for 15-25 minutes (stirring every few minutes) until the polenta has thickened to your desired consistency. Stir in the cheese and finish the dish with salt and pepper. Serve immediately or the polenta will start to firm up into a polenta cake.

This lamb dish will be fall-off-the-bone, yet not overcooked. Spoon the reserved sauce in the dutch oven on top of your lamb shank and cheesy polenta prior to serving. We love to make it with our parmesan polenta, but it would also be terrific with some mashed potatoes!

Ciao, Bella!

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