European Healthy Eating Italian Recipes

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.


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

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

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,

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!

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.

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

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 😀

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

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!

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!)

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.” 🙂

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