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How to Prepare a Great Butterflied Grilled Leg of Lamb

Hunka – Hunka Burnin Love!

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Buon giorno!

Today we’re dishin Butterflied Grilled Leg of Lamb and you don’t want to miss a thing! I must share with you my recent experience opening my refrigerator door and what I found waiting for me. There he was, the “hunk” of my dreams. Such rapture! I had been musing about just this moment, and the anticipation was almost more than I could stand. Overjoyed and ever so slightly blushing, I uttered, “Well, hello, Lover!”  Looking back at me was the most handsome, tanned specimen of musculature with a come hither stare. Heart fluttering, I thought perhaps it could be one of those Steven Tyler moments. Ahhh – Sweet Emotion. Would I have my way with him, or would I fold like a cheap suit? I was in trouble now. Whatever, shall I do, Scarlett? Suddenly I knew. No Love in an Elevator necessary. I threw this “Hunka Hunka Burnin’ Love” down on a cutting board and went after him with a blade!

Whoa! Before you think you hit the wrong key or received a “naughty” email – Relax!  Now you know I am passionate about food, but you probably weren’t expecting my fervor to reach this level. Think again. This is more than just another pretty piece of meat. I am crazy about this dish.

OK – down girl! Take a breath. Get it together, and let’s talk about this amazing lamb preparation. Walk This Way

Tradition: Traditionally found at the Italian Easter table, Leg of Lamb has been the “go-to guy” for many Italian families throughout the years. We always had Roasted  Leg of Lamb at the Calabrisi Easter feast — unless, of course, we were having goat. However, that is a story for another day. The lamb was always very young, milk fed, the most tender. It was thought that once the little critters started eating grass, it affected the flavor of the meat – negatively. The classic preparation is “al forno”  or roasted, with garlic, olive oil, and rosemary. Lamb is so tender and tasty – much more so than beef or pork loin. The lamb leg used to be difficult to get and had to be specially ordered in advance. However, now with the introduction of the delicious Australian and New Zealand lamb, it is usually found in good supply. It is not to be confused with mutton or older meat which has a stronger and not altogether pleasant flavor in my estimation.

To Butterfly or not to Butterfly: Of course, there is the traditional preparation of the Leg of Lamb with bone-in, found either whole or in halves, and roasted in the oven. However, my favorite way to make it is butterflied, marinated, and grilled. Butterflies involved??? No, not the fluttering type. The term “butterflied” refers to the way the meat is cut. The bone is removed and the meat is “opened up” almost like a steak. Haven’t seen one of these at your grocer recently? Uh – you probably won’t. No worries! All you have to do is find a nice leg of lamb, boneless or bone-in, at your grocer. Then present it to your butcher or “guy behind the counter” and ask HIM to take the bone out and butterfly it for you. While you’re at it, ask him to trim the fat a little for you as well. You’ll want some fat left on it, but a little trim is nice. Easy enough!

Serving: The great thing about this beautiful way of serving Leg of Lamb is that it is not just for Easter anymore. It makes a great “anytime” grilled meat entrée served, of course, On the Patio. It is easy to make and serve – and it is always the center of attention. It is flavorful and melts in your mouth. I have to say, that it is soooo much tastier than a grilled steak. You’ll find that it feeds a crowd, and you can build so many side dishes around it. Wait – so maybe you won’t want to feed the crowd once you taste it and find that it is so delicious. For those of you who do not share well, this dish is GREAT leftover and cold. It makes delectable sandwiches the next day or days.

How easy is it: When I said easy – I meant it. I bone and butterfly my own, as my dad, Attilio, taught me how to do it years ago. You can leave your “butterflying” to your butcher. First, you’ll cut little slits in the meat and insert fresh garlic slices. No technique or surgery required – just slit and insert. Next, you make a scrumptious marinade in one bowl. Pour it on your meat, and let it sit overnight. Grill and you are DONE! You will then be crowned King or Queen of the day as everyone will be thanking you.

Now where is my olive oil…


Prep: 10 minutes

Cook: 30-35 minutes

Serves: up to about 8


5-6 lb Leg of Lamb – boned and butterflied – fat trimmed

4 fresh cloves garlic – slice thinly


3/4 c. olive oil

3 additional fresh garlic cloves – chopped finely

1/2 c. Country Dijon Mustard

1/2 c. red wine (Cabernet is good here)

Juice of 1/2 of a Fresh Lemon

2 Tbsp. Fresh Rosemary – chopped

1 Tbsp Fresh Thyme leaves – chopped

1 Tbsp. Fresh Parsley – chopped (Italian Flat Leaf always preferable)

2 Tsp. Fresh Mint Leaves – chopped

1 Tsp Kosher Salt (or to taste)

Freshly ground black pepper – to taste


Cut small slits in both sides of the lamb and slip a slice of garlic in each slit. Set meat aside.


Make the marinade by putting all remaining ingredients in a bowl and whisk well so all are incorporated. The result will be a beautiful deep raspberry colored marinade.


Put 1/2 the marinade in a large baking dish.


Place the lamb into the dish.


Pour the remaining marinade over the top of the lamb.


Cover and refrigerate overnight.

The next day take the meat out of the refrigerator and let sit out on the counter about an hour before grilling to bring down to room temperature.

Fire up the grill to very hot and place the lamb on the grill.


Sear both sides on high heat 3-4 minutes. You might even want to close the cover to do this. Then lower your heat and let each side cook about 15 minutes. If using a charcoal grill, just move the meat to a part of the grill that is getting less intense heat. Now, this cook time will vary depending upon how hot your grill is – how thick your meat is – how done you prefer it. So, be vigilant, and keep an eye on this little fella. When ready, it should be pink in the middle. Lamb is best served medium rare to rare. To overcook it or dry it out is a waste of great lamb in my book. Hockey pucks are best kept on the ice and not served to your guests. Some thinner parts of the lamb will cook faster and be more done. You’ll see from the photos that I like my lamb on the rare side. My best advice here is to watch the meat, and be the judge according to how you like it. If you use a meat thermometer – 140 is a good gauge.

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The next step is VERY IMPORTANT! After removing the meat from the grill, let it rest for 15 minutes. It will continue to cook a little during this time and should be just perfect after resting. After this little nap, you can then slice it. This process will keep the meat moist as it retains the juices.

Slice the meat against the grain, and garnish with Fresh Basil or Fresh Mint if you like. Drizzle with some Extra Virgin Olive Oil. I especially like Olio Carli Extra Virgin Olive Oil. The flavor is sweet and memorable.

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Vino: As for wine pairing: I like a good Cabernet Sauvignon with the lamb. You might also like a Barbaresco. I like the fuller bodied reds with my lamb. I know that some recommend something lighter with milk-fed lamb or spring lamb like Zinfandel or Pinot Noir, but they are a little light for my taste here. It is always a preference and personal. But…No Surprise – You really can’t go wrong with a nice Cab!

So, share my excitement. Fire up that grill, uncork a good one, and you won’t be Cryin! Grilled Butterflied Leg of Lambwhat a great presentation!


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Food Photos By Tommy Hanks Photography

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  1. YUM! I can’t wait to try it.

  2. Jane Fairbairn says:

    Your pictures and instructions are wonderful, Linda. I am nursing bronchitis and sinusitis and have turned to my italian cure-all tonic—pastina cooked in chicken broth, with a drop of tomato sauce and some parigiana reggiano—-it always makes me feel better.

    • Jane – Thank you. AHHHH Pastina! The cold medicine of my youth. So delicious and soothing. Hope you are feeling better in time for Easter!

  3. Made your grilled butterflied lamb and the potato gratin with blue cheese and apples for Easter today. We had 6 people sharing this meal with us and everyone said it was the best Easter dinner they ever had. One guest had never tried lamb before and she too LOVED it!! The recipes were easy to follow and I used American lamb for it is sweeter and less tangy than Australian. Your potato recipe did not show oven temp but I did fine adjusting. Your recipes are all so yummy and I so look forward to trying all of them and serving to my Alpharetta friends!!!!

    • Joyce – What a terrific story about your dinner! I was thrilled to hear it and so happy to have you share your experience. Putting the lamb together with the Potato Gratin was just perfect! I especially liked hearing about your guests reaction to having lamb for the first time and enjoying it. I think that how lamb is prepared is critical. Sounds like your meal was a resounding success. BRAVA!