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Allspice, cumin, nutmeg, smoked sweet paprika and cinnamon enrich this Italian classic.  We love this hearty dish alongside cheesy polenta.


  • 1 Tbsp each ground allspice, ground toasted cumin, ground nutmeg,  Spanish smoked sweet paprika, garlic powder
  • 1-1/2 tsp good quality ground cinnamon
  • 6 lamb shanks, 1-1/2 pounds each
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 onions, coarsely chopped
  • 1 whole garlic bulb, cut across stem end to expose cloves
  • 1-1/2 cups dry red wine
  • 1/2 cup Italian tomato paste
  • 8 bay leaves
  • 6-inch sprig fresh rosemary
  • 8 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1-1/2 cups orzo pasta
  • Chunk of ricotta salata cheese for serving


In a small bowl, combine all the spices.  Rub the shanks all over with the spice mix.  We recommend covering and refrigerating for up to 24 hours.  Preheat the oven to350° F.  Season the shanks well with salt and pepper.  In a large pot, heat the olive oil over high heat.   Working in small batches, sear the shanks on all sides until well browned, about 5 minutes per shank.  Transfer to a platter.

Reduce the heat to medium, add the onions and garlic, sauté until the onions are translucent, about 3 minutes.  Add the wine and stir to scrape up any browned bits.  Raise the heat to high and cook for 1 to 2 minutes.  Stir in the tomato paste and herbs.  Return the shanks to the pot, meaty end down.  Add water to come halfway up the sides of the shanks.  Bring to a simmer and stir in 2 tsp salt and several grinds of pepper.  Cover tightly and bake until the meat is fork-tender and pulls away from the bone, about 2-1/2 hours.  Let cool in the pot, then refrigerate overnight if desired.  

Skim all surface fat.  If refrigerated, reheat the shanks over medium heat.  Discard the bay leaves and herb sprigs.  Remove the garlic, and when it is cool enough to handle, squeeze the cloves back into the pot.  Set aside and keep the shanks warm.

In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the orzo until al dente, according to package directions.  Drain and return to the same pot.  Add about 1-1/2 cups of broth from the lamb shanks and stir well.  Divide the orzo among 6 shallow bowls.  Top each portion with a lamb shank, then spoon some of the juices over the lamb.  On the large holes of a box grater, grate ricotta salata to taste over the lamb and orzo.  Serve immediately.

Serves 6

Credit:  Chef Erik Cosselmon