Finger-Burning Goodness

Agnello a Scottadito with grilled asparagus

Agnello a Scottadito with grilled asparagus

Last night, I prepared agnello a scottadito for dinner, a simple Roman dish of grilled rib lamb chops marinated with garlic, rosemary and olive oil.  These tender and tasty chops, which should be enjoyed hot off the grill, have been known to burn the fingers of diners in their impatience to devour them, hence the name, “scottadito.”  Although there were no burnt fingers at the table last night, I confess that I took less than a perfect photo in my own haste to get them on the table!

In springtime in Rome, the dish is prepared with Abbacchio Romano, the meat of a baby lamb 28 to 40 days old that has just started to graze on the fertile pastures of Lazio but is still dependent on its mother’s milk. (Locals proudly boast that their sheep have a natural, stress-free existence that enhances their flavor and quality of milk fed to their young thus imparting a delicate flavor on the meat.)  The meat has such a strong connection to the region, and is so unique in its flavor, that the European Union awarded IGP (Indicazione Geografica Protetta – Protected Geographical Indication) status to “Abbacchio Romano” in 2009, specifying that the designation applies only to lambs born, bred and butchered in Lazio.  In addition to the scottadito preparation, roasted abbacchio al forno is practically synonymous with Easter in Rome, and a similar young lamb dish is traditional in my father’s native Abruzzo, which borders Lazio.   Although my husband and I have accepted the torch from my parents and now host Easter, the lamb is still very much my Dad’s job – roasted to perfection with garlic, rosemary and potatoes.  I look forward to sharing that recipe as Pasqua approaches, but in the meantime, pick up some rib chops at your butcher — a few minor burns on your fingers will be more than worth it!

Agnello a Scottadito

Recipe by Majella Home Cooking ©

  • 3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1/3 cup of extra virgin olive oil
  • freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 10 rib lamb chops
  • Sea salt to taste
  • Lemon wedges (for serving)

In a small bowl, stir together the garlic, rosemary, olive oil and pepper.  Place the lamp chops in a shallow dish and brush the marinade over them.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Marinating lamb rib chops with garlic, rosemary and olive oil

Marinating lamb rib chops with garlic, rosemary and olive oil

Prepare a fire in a charcoal grill or preheat a gas grill (or an indoor grill pan) over medium heat.  Meanwhile, scrape off some of the garlic and rosemary from the lamb to prevent burnt specks of marinade on the meat.  Sprinkle the chops with sea salt and place them on the grill rack or pan and cook, turning as needed, until browned and crisp on the outside and still pink and juicy on the inside, about 6 minutes total for medium rare.  Remove from the heat and serve immediately with lemon slices.  Buon appetito!

Serving Suggestion:  I threw some dry asparagus (I find the flavor to be sweeter when I don’t oil them first) on the grill for about 3-5 minutes (depending on the thickness) and rolled them around a few times, until they got a good char, but were still crunchy.  To serve, I sprinkled some salt, drizzled my best olive oil and gave them a good spritz of lemon.

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3 thoughts on “Finger-Burning Goodness

  1. ciaochowlinda March 4, 2013 at 4:04 pm Reply

    Oh those lamb chops look like perfection. I remember eating wonderful abbacchio in Rome but it’s hard to find equally young and tender meat here.

  2. Diana Cianciusi March 4, 2013 at 8:08 pm Reply

    My grandmother’s secret ingredient was to splash the lamb chops with some red wine before grilling (in addition to the oil, salt, garlic and rosemary you mention). We still do it this way.

    • Majella Home Cooking March 4, 2013 at 8:29 pm Reply

      Thanks for your grandmother’s trick, Diana! Can’t wait to try it her way! Ciao, Michelle

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