Tomato Braised Lamb Shanks

Say hello to some easy comfort food. This is a recipe made to be cooked low and slow in a big, heavy casserole dish or dutch oven before being spooned over some creamy mashed potatoes, fluffy brown rice or soft, unctuous polenta, rich sauce clinging to the meat that is practically falling off the bone: say hello to my Tomato Braised Lamb Shanks.

This simple dish of lamb shanks cooked in tinned chopped tomatoes, chicken stock, red wine and lots of herbs on top of a basic Italian-style soffritto aromatic base is something else that has come out of my love of cooking American recipes designed for big families, and both adapting them down to serve the two of us and to suit British, rather than American ingredients (honestly I did not properly understand this until I first moved to Los Angeles, but there really is a difference!)

Really, it is a classic Italian preparation I found on Spoon Fork Bacon: a cacciatore base (Giulia as written a great essay on what makes a true cacciatore) with a nice bit of lamb falling off the bone, adapted to serve just the two of us and to be super simple to put in the oven sometime in the afternoon for a lazy dinner later on.

As I only really have celery in the house if I need it for a specific recipe (and then most of the time if it is part of a very long list of ingredients I leave it out anyway) I’ve naturally omitted it here, and as far as the herbs are concerned I’ve only included sage and rosemary from the original recipe, mainly because I’ve already decimated all of the thyme in the garden. Make this your own: just include a good amount of woody herbs such as sage, thyme and rosemary in the sauce, whatever you have to hand, and serve it with something soft but robust on top like flat leaf parsley, or fresh mint as I have done here which of course works wonderfully with lamb.

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Tomato Braised Lamb Shanks

  • Author: Rachel Phipps
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 2 hours 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 2 hours 30 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 2
  • Category: Dinner
  • Method: Braising
  • Cuisine: Italian
  • Diet: Gluten Free


A simple Italian-style dish of slow braised lamb shanks in a rich, herby tomato sauce – delicious served over mashed potatoes, brown rice or soft polenta.


  • 1 tbsp light oil
  • 2 small medium or lamb shanks
  • freshly ground sea salt and black pepper
  • 1 brown onion
  • 1 large carrot
  • 1 large garlic clove
  • generous sprig fresh sage
  • generous sprig fresh rosemary
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 125ml (1/2 cup) red wine
  • 1 x 400g (14 oz) tin chopped tomatoes
  • 250ml (1 cup) chicken stock
  • fresh mint or flat leaf parsley, for serving
  • mashed potatoes, brown rice or soft polenta, for serving


  1. Pre-heat the oven to 160 degrees (320 farenheit). Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed casserole dish over a medium heat. Season the lamb shanks all over with salt and pepper and brown on all sides in the pan, setting aside afterwards.
  2. Meanwhile, peel and finely chop the onion and the carrot. Turn the heat down to low and add them to the pan with a little more salt. Fry for 8-10 minutes until the onions and carrot are soft and just starting to colour.
  3. Peel and add the garlic, crushed or finely grated, and cook until aromatic. Finely chop the fresh herbs and stir them into the pan along with the bay leaf and lots more seasoning.
  4. Add the wine turn the heat back up to medium, allowing it to bubble away and reduce by half. Now is the time to scrape up any brown bits from browning the lamb shanks stuck to the bottom of the pan with your wooden spoon into the sauce.
  5. Add the tinned tomatoes, then the stock, using the stock to wash out the tomato tin making sure you don’t leave any tomato sauce behind.
  6. Return the lamb shanks to the sauce and bring to the boil. Clap on the lid and transfer to the oven to braise for 2 hours (small lamb shanks) to 2 1/2 hours (medium ones). When the lamb is cooked it should be falling off the bone and fork tender.
  7. Lay a couple of sheets of kitchen paper over the top of the sauce (I remove the shanks while I do this) to absorb the layer of fat sitting on top.
  8. Season the sauce again to taste before serving over mashed potato, brown rice or polenta, sprinkled with roughly chopped soft herbs.