Italy is a country we always associate with wonderful home cooking and fun times: comfort dishes, pasta made from scratch, long simmered sauces, loving Grandmas, loud conversations (also the case back in Brazil, by the way) and happy glasses of wine.  If you are fond of authentic Italian food, “From the Bartolini Kitchens” is a spot you must incorporate into your virtual world. I first got to John’s site indirectly, by reading his comments on blogs we both visited. Each and every comment he wrote made me think “this ChicagoJohn is such a nice guy!”  From comments I jumped to his blog, and became an instant subscriber and avid reader. So, if his site is new to you, stop by and while you are having fun there, make sure to check the story of his family, that could very well be made into a movie. Fascinating to read, just as his recipes and recollections of his cooking with “Zia”.

I have quite a few of his recipes on my list to try, but this one made the jump from “to try soon” to “tried and true” in a couple of weeks. Record time, considering that Sally usually performs her culinary magic in anti-warp speed. 😉


(slightly adapted from this Bartolini family recipe)

3 lamb shanks
2 tbsp olive oil
4 medium carrots, roughly chopped
leaves and stalks from the top of a celery heart, about 1 cup
1 shallot, sliced
2 cloves of garlic, smashed
4 sprigs of rosemary
1 bay leaf
1 cup red wine
2 tbsp tomato paste
1/2 cup sherry vinegar
veal stock (or chicken stock, or water)
salt & pepper to taste
lemon zest for garnish, optional

Heat oven to 250 F.

In a large fry pan, heat the olive oil over med-high heat. Add 2 smashed garlic cloves and sauté until golden. Remove the garlic and discard.

Season the lamb shanks with salt and pepper and place them into the pan, browning them on all sides. This could take anywhere from 10 to 15 minutes. Remove and reserve the lamb shanks.

Place all the vegetables into the pan, season with salt and pepper, and sauté until some color is achieved. Add the tomato paste and cook until fragrant and its color deepens, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the red wine, deglaze the pan well, then add lamb shanks back to the pan.  Pour veal stock so that the level of the liquid comes two-thirds up the meat.  Add the rosemary and bay leaf, season the liquid with more salt and pepper.

Cover the pan and place in the oven for 3 hours or more, moving the pieces around every 45 minutes or so. If the liquid dries too much, add water or stock. When the meat is super tender, remove it and reduce the sauce if necessary by boiling it down on top of the stove.

Serve, garnished with lemon zest and sauce on the side.


 to print the recipe, click here


Comments:  This braise is one of those perfect recipes to cook when you will be spending a nice Sunday at home, no social obligations, just playing it all by ear. I actually made it on Easter Sunday, but we enjoyed it next day. Hard to beat a meal like this after work on a Monday.  It made me wonder why I don’t do this type of elaborate advanced cooking more often, like every weekend. Yeah, right. I am such a jokester! 😉

I love to keep this type of braise in the fridge overnight because not only the flavors intensify, but it makes it easy to remove the congealed fat on top.  Interestingly, when I tried a bit of the sauce at the end of braising, I thought that the flavor of the vinegar was a tad too strong.  Somehow it was perfectly balanced next day. The magic of Bartolini Kitchens, working at full power!

We enjoyed this delicious lamb with a smooth cauliflower puree, if you want the recipe, here is a flash back from the Bewitching Kitchen’s past. Three lamb shanks were too much for the two of us, of course. But I have big plans for the leftover meat: a lamb ragú to be served over pappardelle.  That shall happen soon, the meat is waiting in the freezer. Well labeled. Obviously.  ;-)


 The smell of this dish while braising is intoxicating. In the best possible way….
No individual was immune to it in our home.



John, thanks for a great recipe, I still want to make your Sauce in the style of Bologna which has been calling my name for a long time!  


ONE YEAR AGO: Ridiculously Good Coconut Brigadeiros

TWO YEARS AGO:  A bewitching move ahead… (from OK to KS!)

THREE YEARS AGO: Double-hydration focaccia

FOUR YEARS AGO: Pierre Nury’s Rustic Light Rye: Bougnat


    • Hello, there…. You did not include a link to your recipe….. also, your email for some reason was showing in your comment, i will delete that out, ok?

      Feel free to post your link to the puree…


    • The link is under the title of the recipe…. you scared me! I would never omit the link, but thought that maybe in one of the revisions the hot link got messed up…. glad to see it is there

      the use of vinegar seem to be quite flexible in recipes around, and I suspect that it has to do with family preferences. I’ve seen recipes that omit it, and recipes that use different types of vinegar, with different ranges of acidity. I opted to reduce a little, and to our taste it turned out perfect. I like some acidity with lamb, I think it goes well with it, but I guess it will be a matter of experimenting what works for your taste


      • My apologies for overlooking that link! Didn’t mean to cause you anxiety.

        I would like to try this some time but I tend to associate this type of cooking (braising and stewing) with fall and winter.


  1. Oh my!! I love his website and instantly have three recipes to try. Thanks for the introduction. This lamb dish is going to be a must try!!!


  2. That’s so funny, I have the same reaction every time I come across a comment from ChicagoJohn — I think ‘wow, this guy has got to be the most thoughtful, decent soul on earth…” such a gentleman. And I’m cruising along looking at this juicy, delightful meal and that’s all well and good until I scroll down to your four-legged mister and he steals my heart!! (Is it Oscar — did I get that right? Love the sniff🙂 but Chief is your number 1 sniffer, yes?).


    • isn’t that the truth? He is a class-act by definition! I cannot imagine him saying anything even remotely rude, or harsh. And he answers every single comment people leave on his blog!

      Back to shanks – yes that is Oscar, and you are correct again, Chief is the number 1 sniffer – bless his poor heart, is the only sense he still has intact. His eyes are bad, his hearing pretty much gone, but the sniffer? No problem.. well, the only problem is that he takes a looooong time to decide in which bush to finally release his bladder during walks – he sniffs, and sniffs, and sniffs some more, circles, sniffs, sniffs some more… All that while Sally waits, and waits, and waits some more… (poor subject for a food blog, I admit)


  3. Oh wow…does this look fabulous! I so agree with you Sally…John is such a nice guy. He always wonderful and kind comments.. and his stories and recipes are so wonderful to read! What amazes me is how he always answers every single person who comments on his blog…. I struggle to keep up with blog life, life life, and work life to keep up with all of my lovely friends…but he always finds the time.
    Wonderful post… wonderful recipe..❤


    • You know what is funny? Oscar doesn’t eat that much – Chief and Buck are always ready to beg, but Oscar sometimes leaves the kitchen while we are having dinner, and goes hide in the TV room. He is a very unique dog… cute.. cute.. cute…


  4. We have made a number of John’s dishes now and all to great success. This one is a dish Mike and Mr. N would definitely enjoy. I love that you had this on a Monday night. How wonderful to have an elaborate dish to come home to.


  5. Love, love, love lamb shanks and have made John’s recipe with great success! Must compare your two recipes – am certain both taste more than ‘yum’🙂 ! Chicago John must be almost the ultimate gentleman [NO disrespect to any of the opposite sex whose blogs I so enjoy visiting] . . . and I have learned so much to use in my own home and kitchen!! Am now hoping he will have the most wonderful and memorable time in the foreseeable time in the country of his heritage!!


  6. Gee, Sally. This was so very nice of you. You mentioned you were going to blog about the shanks but I’d no idea you’d be so gracious when doing so. You really have made my night. Thank you so much.
    Oh! I’m glad to read that you all — pupsters included — enjoyed the shanks. Isn’t that aroma in the kitchen something? It’s the best kind of appetizer. 🙂


    • I had not cooked lamb shanks in years and years, my last experience was less than stellar, but this meal received the highest possible praise from hubby… he always orders the lamb shanks in the best restaurant in town, and he said these were as good OR BETTER!. So there!


  7. Hi Amy; love all your recipes!! Just wondering if on the lamb shanks, could I sub the sherry vinegar for good dry sherry? Thanks and have a nice day!!


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