Italian Leg of Lamb Marinated in White Wine

Wednesday, June 2, 2010
Lamb is the traditional meat served in an Italian family for Easter or Christmas Day.

Mom carried on those traditions as well as grandma did every year we actually had lamb on both holidays it was the chosen meat by all.

We continue to use her delicious marinade recipe every holiday and it's the best lamb I to date have ever eaten, fragrant with herbs and melts in your mouth tender.

Agnello or abbacchio (as it is known in Rome where my grandma and grandpa came from) is traditionally cooked all over the country on Easter.

It is a dish made with meaning, as it symbolically recalls the religious symbol of Christ so it's no wonder our family from these Regions made it on both holidays.

In Italy, it is almost mandatory on Easter to have Agnello or lamb as the main course for the Easter meal, and depending on the region, it can be served in various ways.

In Southern Italy, the lamb is usually roasted simply with rosemary, red wine, and garlic.

Down in Puglia, roasted lamb is prepared for Easter and in some Regions like in Campania, they have been known to serve goats instead.

Mom was from Bari, Dad from Rome, and between those two Regions, this was how we served our lamb every Easter, and the whole family loves it.

We will continue to cherish the preparation for this delicious meat and the printable recipe is at the end just scroll down.

leg of lamb

Mom's Recipe

We had Leg of Lamb every Easter or Christmas Day, it is an Italian tradition back in the 1960s with our family and still is.

Mom always said fresh is best when marinating with herbs so dad had a garden in the summer and preserved those herbs in the freezer all year long.

The best part for us kids during the holidays was knowing once a year we had special meat and we all loved mom's delicious roast.

Fresh Herbs

I always have fresh mint growing in a pot on my patio area.

I love to make special drinks, tea, jelly, and mint is especially great on lamb and in salads.

We were lucky enough to grow up with dad having a huge herb and vegetable garden and was pretty spoiled with everything freshly picked to cook with and eat.

Now I have pots in my yard and love freshly picked herbs for roasting, grilling and marinating meats.

Mom taught me early on how different the taste is and so much better.

this is a leg of lamb with fresh whole cloves of garlic and in a herb marinade


I usually go to a meat market and order Lamb for Easter.

It's always the freshest and cut lean and perfect.

I prefer getting lamb with the bone still in it and not a boneless version for leg of lamb.

It really has a much better flavor with bone-in.

this is an Italian marinade for Easter with herb and garlic for a leg of lamb

Ingredients You Will Need

  • leg of lamb 4 to 5 lbs.
  • whole cloves of fresh garlic or more
  • fresh mint, a sprig of rosemary, and fresh parsley
  • fresh basil leaves
  • dried oregano
  • salt, pepper
  • good grade white wine
  • Olive oil
  • Large roasting bag or large pan covered
  • fresh lemons
  • optional: mint jelly

this is an herb crusted leg of lamb in a marinade


  • Use all fresh herbs when possible
  • Marinade no less than 6 hours
  • Mint jelly is a great taste when serving lamb
  • Use only a good-tasting white wine and one that you love to drink
  • Let Roast sit for 10 minutes before slicing
  • Serve this roast in the juice it's cooked in to keep juicy
  • Use a meat thermometer for how you like your meat cooked
  • Do not use disposable aluminum pans (this makes a metallic taste with this marinade)

leg of lamb in a pan marinating with fresh herbs

The Marinade

The marinade is adaptable.

If you prefer to use all lemon juice and no wine, it's not a problem.

Substitute freshly squeezed lemon juice but add 1/4 cup of water to it.

Straight lemon juice tends to cook the meats and still makes it very tender.

The wine acts as a tenderizer as well, that's what mom always used.

If you don't like some of the herbs used, just omit them and add more of whatever you like.

You really can't overpower the flavors except for the rosemary, I would only use a very small amount of rosemary due to the pungent flavor.

this is half a leg of lamb marinating in a white wine herb marinade overnight in a roasting bag

Cooking Lamb

Everyone in our home likes the lamb medium-well except one person!

I check the lamb at 2 1/2 hours and if it's medium rare like my husband likes it, I slice some off and set it aside until dinner in some juice.

Use an instant-read meat thermometer to get it just right for how your family likes their meat cooked.

Temperatures for Cooking Lambs
  1. Rare: 115-120°F 
  2. Medium-Rare: 125°F 
  3. Medium: 130°F. 
  4. Medium-Well: 145°F 
  5. Well Done: 150°F

this is a whole left of lamb in the juices it was cooked in

Serving Suggestions

Mom always served the lamb with mint jelly on the side, rice almondine, and Italian baked potatoes.

We also love to serve the lamb with a side of roasted garlic mashed potatoes and corn.

You can actually make one of my family's favorite second meals with leftover lamb called shepherds pie.

Leftover lamb also makes awesome gyro sandwiches, if you have anything left that is!

this is a roasted leg of lamb sliced and in a white wine juice that is was cooked in.

Italian Leg of Lamb Marinated in White Wine Pin

this is half a leg of lamb marinating in a white wine herb marinade overnight in a roasting bag

Other Recipes You May Like

Slow Cooker Osso Bucco

Stove Top Lamb Stew

this is half a leg of lamb marinating in a white wine herb marinade overnight in a roasting bag

Lamb Fans

If you love lamb this is going to be your new favorite recipe to try!

This melt-in-your-mouth tender, the juicy roast is the best-tasting marinade for making lamb perfect in flavor and taste.

Do give this recipe a try and let me know what you think in the comments!

Italian Leg of Lamb Marinade

Yield: 12
prep time: 15 Mcook time: 4 hourtotal time: 4 H & 15 M
This is my go-to recipe for a marinade for most gamey tasting meats. This marinade is made with fresh herbs, spices, and a good grade white wine overnight. The meat is delicious and fork tender.


  • 1 leg of lamb 4 to 5 lbs.
  • 4 to 5 cloves of fresh garlic or more
  • fresh mint, a sprig of rosemary, and fresh parsley around 1/4 cup each
  • 2 or 3 fresh basil leaves or
  •  1 teaspoon or more of dried  oregano
  • Note: the herbs are placed on top you will need enough to cover the size meat you have
  • salt and pepper to taste, and if you like spicy add a dash of cayenne pepper
  • granulated garlic sprinkled on both sides of the meat
  • 2 cups of Pinot Grigio wine or another good drinking white wine
  • Olive oil
  • Large roasting bag or large pan covered
  • Optional: slices of fresh lemons on top and bottom of the lamb


  1. Remove the lamb from the wrapping, it isn't necessary to rinse according to the USDA  but I do drain off the excess blood.
  2. Rub the lamb with olive oil.
  3. Place in a large oven roasting bag or large roasting pan that will be covered to fit the leg.
  4. Make slits in the lamb on the bottom and top and place whole cloves of garlic randomly throughout the meat.
  5. Sprinkle evenly with granulated garlic, and oregano.
  6. Top with all fresh herbs.
  7. Salt, and pepper to taste.
  8. Pour the wine not touching the lamb around the bottom and add the lemons if using on the top, side, and under the lamb.
  9. Close the bag or place a lid on the pan and marinate overnight.
  10. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees then drop it to 325 degrees.
  11. Do not remove the juices.
  12. Roast in the oven on low 325 degrees until you prefer it cooked using a meat thermometer.
  13. Usually, the 4 to 5-pound roast is done in 4 hours.
Fat (grams)
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roasted leg of lamb, lamb marinade, Italian herb-crusted leg of lamb, Easter, Lamb roasted, roasted leg of lamb
Lamb, meat, roasting, lamb recipes
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Italian Leg of Lamb Marinated in White Wine Pin

this is half a leg of lamb marinating in a white wine herb marinade overnight in a roasting bag

Here are some other favorite recipes to try!

Lamb Meatballs
Lamb Shank Cabernet
Lamb Grilled Herb and Garlic Chops

this is a leg of lamb marinating in an oven bag overnight recipe


  1. I have to admit I never have been a fan of the taste of lamb. Maybe it was the way my mom cooked it? I did have some in an Indian restaurant once and wouldn't have known it was lamb if I hadn't been told! Maybe if you served this to me I could be converted?

  2. This looks so beautiful Claudia!!!

  3. Not many folks do lamb. I am glad you shared your recipe with us. It's expensive where I live and that could be one of the reasons it is not as popular as it should be. Also, it has to be marinated like you did. Best to you!

  4. thanks for this - it is what I have been looking for.... it sounds perfect for lamb

  5. I love that you marinated your leg of lamb! We're doing a rack of lamb this year, but I'll keep this on my radar for next Easter. Bill loves lamb!!

  6. Can you use this marinade on a boneless leg of lamb? Mine is only about 3#’s so marinating and cooking time would decrease I would assume

    1. I would use 1 1/2 cups of wine instead of 2 it will evaporate as it cooks for a 3lb. Also just use less garlic and spices not by half just a little less and it will be fine the fat in lamb will mask anything if you over season no worries


Remember to use the search option for a recipe you're looking for and thanks for all your kind words and support. We love our readers all the best Claudia