Slow-cooked lamb pasta with basil pesto

It took me some time to be introduced to the pleasures of eating lamb. Growing up in a Taiwanese household, lamb is not a regular ingredient in traditional Taiwanese cuisine; pork and chicken are more common. My first taste of lamb wasn’t particularly pleasant either – a tough and rather pungent-tasting roast at my Year 11 high school camp dinner buffet.

I think my first taste of lamb was lamb ribs as part of a small tapas dish, and I found that I surprisingly didn’t mind it. The flavour was a little gamier and took a little getting used to, but then I’m a huge fan of game birds like duck and quail, so I found it quite nice. I then sampled slow-cooked lamb shoulder shredded into salads, lamb and rosemary pies, and a pair of lamb chops at my friend Blondie‘s place when she had a few of us girlfriends over for dinner.

This was my first experience cooking lamb though, and in hindsight it probably wasn’t the best idea to experiment with a meat I’ve never cooked when it was going to be for a guest coming over for dinner. I was stumped for ideas all the week before, as I really actually eat quite simple mains for dinner, and my guest has a much better appetite than I do. I was tossing up a big steak with chimichurri and a whole lot of potatoes, but then it wasn’t a particularly complex dish and I’ve always had a streak of wanting to show off more than a little 😉 When catching up over sushi train earlier in the week, my housemate listened to my qualms and suggested that I make a pasta dish. But fancy pasta, not like a spag bol. With this in mind, I had a look through some recipes and found this on Donna Hay’s website.

As it was going to be a Friday night dinner, I made the sauce the night before as the lamb needed to be slow-cooked. I tweaked the sauce a little, as it wasn’t quite punchy enough for me, and as it used lamb shanks for the slow-cooking, I found it a little oily and wanted to cut through that with a bit of acidity.


Overall, I thought it was a pretty damn fine tasting dish 😉 I was very pleased with how it turned out. Quite little fuss, but with so many bangin’ robust flavours. And the mozzarella is always so damn fine with its stringy-elastic-creamy-cheesiness.

The amount in this recipe will comfortably serve three as a substantial meal, or four people with smaller appetites.

You will need:

  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil;
  • About 600g lamb shanks (two);
  • 1/2 brown onion, chopped;
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed;
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine;
  • 1 x 400g can cherry tomatoes;
  • 3 sprigs of thyme;
  • 1/2 cup (125ml) water;
  • 1 sprig of rosemary, leaves removed and chopped finely;
  • 1 bay leaf;
  • 2 teaspoons of dried chilli flakes;
  • 3 tablespoons of tomato paste;
  • 200g dried lasagne sheets;
  • 60g mozzarella, chopped roughly.

For the pesto:

  • 3 cups basil leaves;
  • One small clove of garlic, chopped;
  • 1/2 cup (125ml) extra virgin olive oil;
  • 1/3 cup (25g) finely grated parmesan;
  • sea salt and cracked black pepper.

To make the pesto, place the basil, garlic, oil, parmesan, salt and pepper in the bowl of a food processor and process until well combined. Set aside.

Heat the oil in a large, heavy-based saucepan or casserole dish with a lid. Add the lamb and cook for 1-2 minutes each side or until browned. Remove from the pan and set aside.


Add the onion and garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes or until softened. Add the wine, cherry tomatoes, tomato paste, chilli flakes, thyme, rosemary, bay leaf, water and stir to combine. Add the lamb back to the pan and bring to the boil.



Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for two hours or until the lamb is tender and falling off the bone. Go and chill while you wait. Just remember to put a timer on!


Remove the lamb from the pan and shred the meat from the bones with a fork, discarding the bones. Return the meat to the pan.


Break the lasagne sheets into rough pieces and cook in a large saucepan of salted boiling water for 8-10 minutes or until al dente. Drain and return to the pasta pan. Added the shredded lamb sauce and mozzarella, toss to combine and divide among the plates. Spoon over the pesto to serve. Hipster micro-herb topping optional.


4 Comments Add yours

  1. MMM! Half of my family is Middle Eastern so Lamb is definitely in my vocabulary, I love lamb! I’m surprised that here in the USA everyone loves beef but many have never tried lamb. Living in New York I have gotten to know and love so many kinds of foods, including Taiwanese food. I would love to see a recipe that is a fusion of Taiwanese spice and lamb- what a lovely marriage!

  2. Looks delish. It makes sense to cook something familiar for guests, but I often find it’s the pressure of company that finally gives me the push to try something new!

  3. Like you, I didn’t grow up with lamb in my diet either. I love doing lamb roasts now though!

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