Roast Leg of Lamb with Almond-Mint Pesto

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Photo: Iain Bagwell; Styling: Jesse Silver
Recipe from Sunset

Mint jelly is traditional with lamb, but not everyone loves its cloying sweetness or garish color. This fresh mint pesto takes a more savory direction, and is rolled up in the lamb to flavor it as it roasts. Served with tiny peas, new potatoes, and a big butter lettuce salad, this roast is Easter worthy.


  • 1 boned leg of American lamb (5 to 6 lbs.)
  • Kosher salt and pepper
  • About 1 3/4 cups extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 7 cups loosely packed fresh mint leaves (from about 3 large bunches)
  • 1 1/2 cups toasted sliced almonds
  • 1/3 cup lemon zest (from 4 to 5 lemons)
  • About 2 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons red chile flakes


Total: 3 Hours

  1. 1. Remove twine from lamb and trim off all but a thin layer of fat. Pat dry, season generously with salt and pepper, and rub with 1 tbsp. oil. Unfold roast and season inside the same way. Chill 1 to 2 days.
  2. 2. Blanch mint 3 to 4 seconds in a pot of boiling water (this will help keep leaves bright). Drain immediately, rinse with cold water, and gently roll in paper towels to dry.
  3. 3. Put mint, almonds, 1/3 cup oil, the lemon zest and 2 tbsp. juice, the chile flakes, 1 tbsp. salt, and 1 1/2 tsp. pepper in a food processor and pulse into a coarse paste.
  4. 4. Take lamb out of refrigerator about 1 hour before cooking. Spread about a third of paste over inside of lamb, leaving a 1/2-in. border. To remaining paste, add 1 cup oil; season with salt, pepper, and more lemon juice. Set aside.
  5. 5. Roll up lamb and tie it at 1-in. intervals with kitchen twine.
  6. 6. Preheat oven to 450°. Heat a large cast-iron frying pan over medium-high heat. Swirl in 1 tbsp. oil and brown lamb all over, 5 to 8 minutes. Slide pan of lamb into oven and turn heat down to 250°.
  7. 7. Roast lamb, basting every half-hour with pan drippings and turning over halfway through, until it registers 135° at thickest part for medium-rare, 1 to 1 3/4 hours.
  8. 8. Let roast rest 20 minutes. Remove twine. Slice across the grain and serve with sauce.
Margo True,
March 2013

Nutritional Information

  • Calories: 529
  • Calories from fat: 67%
  • Protein: 38g
  • Fat: 41g
  • Saturated fat: 7.6g
  • Carbohydrate: 5.1g
  • Fiber: 2.7g
  • Sodium: 394mg
  • Cholesterol: 111mg