Melting Moments Italian Lamb Shanks

Brooke’s Story

My fondest food memory of home would have to be my mum’s melt-in-your-mouth lamb shanks. From as far back as I can remember we shared many winter meals over steamy lamb shanks after long days at school and work. Being Italian my mum knows how to cook and does it like no other. It is where I got my taste for the kitchen, along with my deep love of food. And boy do I love food!

Sitting back and reminiscing I can feel the warmth of the heat radiating from the shanks as we tucked into them on cold, miserable, rainy days. The meat always dropped off the bone and melted in the mouth effortlessly. What I loved was the shanks were never the same old recipe. My mum would sometimes cook a tomato-wine base or another time a tomato-balsamic base. No matter what the flavours were it was always special and made me feel safe and warm at home. Just one of the many reasons I keep coming back home for more.

Another reason I am fond of this recipe is that after being diagnosed with coeliac disease my mum never had to attempt to adapt the recipe for me to eat. To this day I can still enjoy the same flavours with the family. I may not have my traditional pasta, but I still have my shanks!

One specific memory we all share is the meal ending with me and my mum wearing half the sauce on our clothes and splatter around the plates. We can be messy eaters, which is why you will never see me wearing white. I was always called a ‘grub’, but my parents at least knew that I not only appreciated the food, I freaking loved it. It is this love of food I now share with Charles as we blog our way through the kitchen.

Recipes not only feed us, they give us the opportunity to create unforgettable moments and memories that will sit with us for life. This recipe not only has been a part of my childhood, it has followed me into my adult life as I work out what all this cooking business is about with Charles. We have laughed ourselves silly cooking over a hot oven trying to perfect the shanks to be as good as my mum’s. We are not there yet, but we are getting closer each time.


Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 2.5-3 hours
Serves: 4-6

3 tablespoons olive oil
6 lamb shanks
1 large brown onion, chopped
3 carrots, sliced into rounds
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 x 400g cans chopped tomatoes
1/4 butternut pumpkin, cut into 3x3cm cubes
100 ml balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper
2 bay leaves
2 x 400g cans mixed beans, drained
2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
Polenta or mashed potatoes, to serve


1) Preheat the oven to 150° C fan-forced. Heat the oil on medium heat on the stove in a large casserole dish, season with salt and pepper and brown the lamb shanks all over. This may take two batches, depending on the size of the shanks and the casserole dish. Remove and set aside.
Add the onion, carrots and garlic to the casserole dish. Cook gently until softened on medium heat.

2) Place the lamb shanks back into the casserole dish and add the tomatoes, pumpkin and balsamic vinegar. Give the mixture a good stir until it is combined well. Add the bay leaves.
Bring to a simmer and then place the lid on the dish. Leave on the stove and cook for another 5 minutes.

3) Transfer the casserole dish to the oven and cook for 2 hours, or until the lamb shanks are nearly tender.

4) Now remove the casserole from the oven and add the mixed beans. Stir well. Place the lid back onto the dish and return to the oven for another 30 minutes.

5) Remove the casserole from the oven. Place 1-2 shanks per plate with plenty of sauce and sprinkled with parsley.