Roasted Leg of Lamb with Pesto

Roasting works well on meat that’s attached to the bone because the exterior will caramelize to a crispy crust while the bone will keep the meat moist and red on the inside. To keep the meat as juicy as possible, let it rest for several minutes after taking it out of the oven. How you carve it is also important—always make sure to slice across the grain.

Roasted Leg of Lamb with Pesto Ingredients

FOR THE LAMB:

  • 2 cups kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 10 coffee beans
  • 5 black peppercorns
  • 5 garlic cloves
  • 2 star anise pods
  • 1 leg of spring lamb, bone in, 4 to 5 pounds
  • 8 rosemary sprigs
  • 1 cup olive oil

FOR THE PESTO:

  • Kosher salt
  • 1 cup (packed) fresh basil leaves1 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 1 cup rice bran oil or canola oil
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Serves 6 to 8

How to make Roasted Leg of Lamb with Pesto ?

Fill a large pot with 5 quarts water and bring it to a boil over high heat. Turn off the heat and add the salt, sugar, bay leaves, cinnamon stick, coffee beans, peppercorns, garlic, and star anise. Stir until the salt and sugar dissolve. Set the brine aside to cool completely. Once the brine has cooled, put the lamb leg in it, placing a heavy plate on top of the meat to keep it submerged. Cover the pot with plastic wrap and let it sit overnight (12 to 15 hours) in the refrigerator.

The next day, pull the lamb leg out of the brine, rinse it under cold running water, and pat it dry with paper towels. Discard the brine.

Adjust the oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 375oF.

Trim the excess fat off the lamb, leaving a little to help flavor and moisten the meat. Using a knife, score the surface with long slashes in a diamond-shaped pattern to allow the fat to expand while the meat is cooking. Place 4 rosemary sprigs in a deep roasting pan, and lay the lamb right on top. Remove the leaves from another 4 rosemary sprigs. Rub the meat with the olive oil, and sprinkle the rosemary leaves on top. Roast the lamb until the top is browned, about 40 minutes. Carefully turn the leg over and continue roasting until a meat thermometer inserted near the bone reads 128oF, about 30 minutes.

roasted leg of lamb

roasted leg of lamb

While the lamb is roasting, prepare the pesto: Fill a medium bowl halfway with water, and put about a dozen ice cubes in it. Set it aside. Bring 2 quarts water to a boil in a large pot. Add 1 tablespoon salt, and blanch the basil and parsley in the boiling water for 10 to 20 seconds, until they’re bright green. Immediately strain the herbs through a colander and place the colander in the ice water to cool for 2 minutes (the ice water will stop them from overcooking and will help them retain their color). Drain, and squeeze the herbs dry with a kitchen towel. Combine the herbs and the oil in a blender or food processor, and pulse for a few seconds, until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Remove the lamb from the oven and let it sit for 15 minutes before carving.

Slice the lamb and serve it on a platter, accompanied by the pesto.