Lamb with Black Olives (Agnello con Olive Nere)

Is there any finer meat than lamb? If cooked properly, no other meat can match its exquisite taste and texture. Of course, beef has its virtues, but it lacks that little sparkle of flavour that forces me to freely admit that I am a little in love with lamb. Hold the jokes. There is but one problem with the meat of those little sheep; it’s so damn expensive. For instance, cubed leg of lamb comes in at a whopping £13/kg. As such, the only financially viable option is to opt for the far cheaper fillets of lambs neck – roughly £5/kg. Happily, since the neck contains both bone and cartilage it is extremely tasty and succulent. It is almost impossible to over-rate the impact of bone marrow on a dish such as this.

It is my firm belief that one-pot Italian food is amongst the best in the world; it is right up there with the British and the French. This dish, traditionally made in Tuscany where the climate allows for sheep husbandry, is extremely rich and has an incredible depth of flavour. The olives used when making this dish should be the bitterest available, as they will compliment both the lamb and the taste of the cooked wine. Traditionally, this lamb is supposed to be served with polenta. However, I’m not a huge fan of polenta as of yet and I believe that rice or perhaps even orzo would work just as well.

In other news, Katherine is coming to visit tomorrow and I’m sure we shall be creating all manner of delights while she is here. However, this means that the blogging may be a little slow; life comes first, I suppose! Be sure to check back tomorrow morning for my latest instalment in the ‘Keeping Alive a Tradition’ series.

Agnello con Olive Nere

Serves 3-4


• 600g lamb neck fillet

• 1 large onion, finely chopped

• 2 tbsp of fresh rosemary, finely chopped

• 3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

• 2 tbsp of tomato puree

• 150ml dry white wine

• 15-20 black olives, not pitted

• 500ml water

• Salt and pepper

• Olive oil


1. Begin by sweating the onions in a good slosh of olive oil until they are translucent. Add the garlic and the rosemary and cook for a further few minutes. Brown off the meat in the pot, before adding the tomato puree, white wine, olives, water and seasoning.

2. Reduce the heat a little and leave to simmer for around two hours. By this point the lamb should simply fall away from the bone. Pick all of the lamb off the bones and return to the pot to simmer for a further half an hour, leave the lid off. Once the sauce has reduced by a little over half it is ready to be served with polenta, rice or orzo.

Cost: As one can imagine, this isn’t going to be the cheapest meal I’ve ever made – but it is economical. As such, the entire dish should cost roughly £5.20 to make, if not a little less. Of course, if one wishes to use a more expensive cut of lamb, one may. However, I don’t expect that the results would be anywhere near as flavourful.


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63 comments on “Lamb with Black Olives (Agnello con Olive Nere)

  1. kimberbro
    December 4, 2011 at 4:22 pm

    This looks like something I would love if only I loved lamb. Pictures are amazing!

  2. countrywoodsmoke
    December 4, 2011 at 4:24 pm

    Agree wholeheartedly with you, I think leg of lamb is much over rated, and neck of lamb is beautiful, is great to see such wonderful cuts being championed. A lovely warming meal.

    • frugalfeeding
      December 10, 2011 at 3:16 pm

      It really is. Of course, it’s delicious but not perfect. I prefer shoulder to leg too.

  3. ceciliag
    December 4, 2011 at 4:41 pm

    I have lamb in the freezer and some lovely home made wine in the cellar, sadly my olives are out of a jar but I am sure that will work. So i shall make this .. tomorrow I think.. on the woodstove! Perfect..So for me this is frugal because it will only cost a jar of olives.. woo-hoo! c

    • frugalfeeding
      December 10, 2011 at 3:15 pm

      Let me know how it went. I’m jealous of your wine cellar! 😀

  4. Rufus' Food and Spirits Guide
    December 4, 2011 at 4:42 pm

    Well, I’ve biased toward Italian cuisine, and this is a perfect example of why. It looks just amazing!

    • frugalfeeding
      December 10, 2011 at 3:14 pm

      Thanks! I adore a good Italian dish. It’s good you don’t hate other cuisines and cultures 😀

  5. Rufus' Food and Spirits Guide
    December 4, 2011 at 4:43 pm

    Not that I have anything against other cuisines, mind you. I should say that’s where my relatives came from!

  6. Conor Bofin
    December 4, 2011 at 4:43 pm

    Neck, shoulder and shank are probably the tastiest parts of the lamb. Thankfully, they are the cheapest too. As long as one is prepared to slow cook, one can extract wonderful flavour.
    Great post,

    • frugalfeeding
      December 10, 2011 at 3:32 pm

      They are, for sure. Shoulder is deeeeelish but becoming more popular and therefore more expensive.

  7. Meg (A Dash of Meg)
    December 4, 2011 at 4:49 pm

    I loooooove lamb, but haven’t had it in ages

    • frugalfeeding
      December 10, 2011 at 3:14 pm

      I hate the times when I don’t each much lamb…

  8. thekalechronicles
    December 4, 2011 at 4:59 pm

    Lamb is my favorite meat. This looks delicious. Reminds me of a stew my mother used to make of veal and black olives. I’ve never cooked with lamb neck, but there is a good butcher just down the road…

    • frugalfeeding
      December 10, 2011 at 3:13 pm

      Mine too, as you can tell. Go get some, it is the best cut… at least for my style of cooking.

  9. vineyardsatdonnafugata
    December 4, 2011 at 5:17 pm

    Superb! I am italian so I shall suggest another similar veal dish..
    Ossibuchi ! not frugal but worth to give it at go! serve with saffron rice .and rich tomato, celery and carrot sauce.

    • frugalfeeding
      December 10, 2011 at 3:32 pm

      Perhaps if I can find some economical veal I shall give it a go. thanks for the recommendation.

  10. thewholebagofchips
    December 4, 2011 at 7:06 pm

    I only just had lamb for the first time, at a wedding in November, it was delicious!! This recipe looks good!!

    • frugalfeeding
      December 10, 2011 at 3:31 pm

      Really?! where have you been living all your life? It is the best meat.

  11. Arturo Féliz-Camilo
    December 4, 2011 at 7:09 pm

    Oh yes! some white rice with it too!

  12. Juls
    December 4, 2011 at 8:22 pm

    I love the neck cut of lamb and am always looking for new ways to love it! And its by far one of the tastiest lamb cuts – I always feel like I’m part of a secret appreciation club when I buy it!

    This recipe looks delicious and I hope to try it sometime!

    • frugalfeeding
      December 10, 2011 at 3:13 pm

      It is my favourite cut. Haha, yes, I know what you mean! If you try it, let me know how it went.

  13. Gaby
    December 4, 2011 at 10:04 pm

    Even when it’s officially summer here in Sydney it’s been cold and rainy the past few days. This recipe looks perfect for dinner!

    • frugalfeeding
      December 10, 2011 at 3:31 pm

      It is perfect. I’d happily eat it during the summer 😀

  14. Chef Scar
    December 4, 2011 at 11:32 pm

    This looks absolutely delicious. I too enjoy one pot meals and lamb, so this is a double for me. Thanks!

    • frugalfeeding
      December 10, 2011 at 3:12 pm

      Thanks! Give it a go, you won’t regret it.

  15. Emma MT
    December 4, 2011 at 11:58 pm

    I have to admit I’m not a fan of lamb but love,love, love olives. I’ll be giving this a go with beef and definitely rice. My mouth is watering just thinking about it!

    • frugalfeeding
      December 10, 2011 at 3:12 pm

      I don’t understand how people can’t adore lamb, but I accept it. Let me know how it goes! Beef works well with olives too.

  16. thebigfatnoodle
    December 5, 2011 at 12:12 am

    Damn it, I wish I could get my husband to east more lamb!!! This looks like a perfect winter warmer.

    • frugalfeeding
      December 10, 2011 at 3:11 pm

      Make him do it. I’m always itching to eat lamb.

  17. k.m.
    December 5, 2011 at 2:26 am

    Even for five pounds that’s still a reasonable cost for such an elegant, filling dinner. I bet you could stretch it out even more with the addition of some mashed swede or potatoes or other starch to soak up what looks to be a very delicious sauce.

    • frugalfeeding
      December 10, 2011 at 3:11 pm

      Oh yes, it is very reasonable. You could, but I don’t think it would be quite in the spirit of the dish.

  18. jamieott
    December 5, 2011 at 3:34 am

    This looks delicious. Thanks for the idea.

  19. thecompletecookbook
    December 5, 2011 at 7:08 am

    Agreed, lamb is the best, but as you say so expensive! We have just bought a whole lamb and gone halvies with my folks – got it at a great price! I can even see this served with mashed potatoes. :-)
    Don’t shout but I would skip the olives – as much as I love olives, I find they overpower the flavour of whatever they are being cooked with. My family might win the argument though so will report back on whether I make it with or without the olives.
    :-) Mandy

    • frugalfeeding
      December 10, 2011 at 3:10 pm

      So glad you agree :D. Whole lambs can be bought for a great price but we don’t have the space at the moment. These really don’t overpower the flavour. If they did I’d sack them too. Please use them 😀

  20. pursuitofhappieness
    December 5, 2011 at 4:23 pm

    Wow this looks wonderful! The picture is making my mouth water… yes I now want lamb at 9:30 in the morning :)

    • frugalfeeding
      December 10, 2011 at 3:09 pm

      I always want lamb at 9am… it’s THAT good.

  21. CorkAndSpoon
    December 6, 2011 at 2:45 am

    Oh goodness, my first experience cooking lamb was with some lamb neck. Came out horribly! So sad, since lamb so darn delicious! Maybe one day I’ll muster the courage to try it again, lol! ~Ruth

    • frugalfeeding
      December 10, 2011 at 3:08 pm

      Oh, you should try again. Follow the steps and it’ll turn out perfectly.

  22. Kimby
    December 6, 2011 at 12:42 pm

    One-pot meals are wonderful, as you’ve illustrated. I also agree with you on using “bone in” cuts for added flavor. The trend seems to be “bone-less” cuts for convenience, but folks don’t know what they’re missing. (Plus they’re more expensive.) And there’s nothing like that aroma wafting through the house!

    • frugalfeeding
      December 10, 2011 at 3:07 pm

      They really are. Bone works far better and is usually cheaper. People just assume the more expensive cuts are better, but each cut is better for something.

  23. cookinginsens
    December 6, 2011 at 3:44 pm

    The lamb neck is perfect for your dish, I can taste it!

  24. Kay aka Babygirl
    December 6, 2011 at 9:00 pm

    I don’t know, but I don’t think I would have paired Lamb with Black Olives.. but this looks amazing. Great job

    • frugalfeeding
      December 10, 2011 at 3:06 pm

      Oh you should, they work incredibly well together.

  25. Susan
    December 8, 2011 at 9:53 am

    I love lamb stews, and I agree the Italians cook it like few others. (Moroccan lamb stews are a pretty fierce competitor.) The combination of lamb, rosemary, and white (not red) wine is very intriguing! Beautiful colour, beautiful dish (although I do think you should give polenta another chance!)

    • frugalfeeding
      December 10, 2011 at 3:06 pm

      They are the best type! Moroccan is also very good! The white wine works very well, who am I to argue with Italian tradition? I may give polenta another chance, if it behaves.

  26. Aimee@clevermuffin
    December 8, 2011 at 9:42 pm

    Oh good, another one-pot meal to add to my collection for when I have no energy to get our any other cooking tools. I haven’t used lamb necks before either… rather happily lamb is a bit cheaper in Oz.

    • frugalfeeding
      December 10, 2011 at 3:05 pm

      Oh, give it a go! This one-pot meal is a real winner.

  27. alternative eating
    December 9, 2011 at 3:11 am

    Love the fact that there is black olives in this:) :) Sounds scrumptious:) :)

  28. Amanda Oliver
    December 13, 2011 at 7:59 pm

    Thank you for visiting The Waking and for your comment! I really like the concept of your blog. This recipe in particular sounds great!

    Also, I couldn’t agree more with this statement: “It is my firm belief that one-pot Italian food is amongst the best in the world.” :)

    • frugalfeeding
      December 15, 2011 at 11:50 pm

      No problem. I’m glad you like it, it was amazing.

  29. Rhubarb Whine
    December 18, 2011 at 6:21 am

    Yum :)

  30. Debbie @ Easy Natural Food
    January 5, 2012 at 5:51 am

    This sounds delicious! I plan to try it :)

    • frugalfeeding
      January 8, 2012 at 10:03 pm

      It was AMAZING. I do hope it goes down well.

  31. Kathy
    January 12, 2012 at 8:00 am

    looks so satisfying. I love lamb

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