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Oven Roasted Rack of Lamb is the star of Easter or Passover dinner

A rack of lamb is cut after roasting. Michael Vosburg / Forum News Service1 / 2
Mint Pistachio Pesto is made with fresh mint, garlic and lemon. Michael Vosburg / Forum News Service2 / 2

FARGO -- If you’re looking for a showstopping centerpiece for your upcoming Easter or Passover feast, look no further than our Oven Roasted Rack of Lamb with Mint Pistachio Pesto.

This succulent main course is full of big flavor, stunning to behold and, even better, it's surprisingly easy to prepare.

For this recipe, we use two racks that have been “frenched,” which means that most of the fat, meat and membrane have been trimmed from the bones to enhance the overall presentation of the rack. Locally, you can find good quality rack of lamb, already frenched, regularly at Costco and Sam’s Club for about $15 per rack, or by request at most local butchers.

Despite its natural elegance, there can be a playful quality to eating rack of lamb. Once roasted, the rack is carved into individual chops for serving, like delightful lamb lollipops that can be picked up and eaten by hand without any loss of dignity.

Rack of lamb is quite flavorful on its own and best served with a simple preparation that allows the lamb to shine. For this occasion, we’re serving the lamb with a savory pesto added once the lamb has been roasted, so all we need to do to prepare the lamb is trim away any unwanted fat and brush each rack with a mixture of olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper before it goes into the oven.

While the ideal serving temperature for rack of lamb is medium-rare (130 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit), you can cook the lamb to whatever doneness you prefer. For medium-rare, we roast our lamb at 400 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes until it reaches an internal temperature of 125 degrees, and always use a meat thermometer to ensure accuracy.

Once the lamb reaches 125 degrees, we remove it from the oven and let it rest for about 10 minutes. The lamb will continue to cook as it rests, and this step is a must to ensure that the meat is as juicy as possible.

Mint pairs especially well with lamb and instead of the standard mint jelly condiment, we’re giving our lamb a Sicilian update with a pesto made of fresh mint, parsley, pistachios, garlic, lemon juice and olive oil that is bright, fresh and positively sings of spring.

The pesto can be made several days in advance and, unlike other pestos we’ve featured, there is no cheese added to ensure that it adheres to kosher guidelines, which prohibit meat and dairy products from being cooked or eaten together.

Once the rack is carved, the pesto is generously drizzled over each chop while the lamb is still quite warm, which allows the flavors to melt into the meat.

For a side dish, we’re serving our rack of lamb over a bed of sweet potato hash to bring a splash of spring color to our Easter table, and we’ll be sharing that recipe with you next week.

Dazzling, delightful and delicious, we hope our easy Oven Roasted Rack of Lamb with Mint Pistachio Pesto will be a hit at your holiday table.

Oven Roasted Rack of Lamb

Serves: 4 to 5 (3 to 4 chops per serving)

Ingredients

2 racks of lamb, frenched (about 1.3 pounds each)

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 garlic clove, minced

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. In a small bowl, combine the olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper; set aside.

There may be a thick membrane of fat atop the meaty portion of the rack that you can choose to either remove or leave in place, as most of it will melt off as the lamb cooks.

Place the rack of lamb on a cutting board, fat side up. Starting at one end, slide a thin, sharp knife horizontally under the layer of fat and gently slice back and forth until the strip is removed.

Place the rack on the foil-lined baking sheet, meat side up. Use a pastry brush to coat the meat with the olive oil mixture.

Place the sheet in the center of the oven and roast for 20 to 25 minutes, until desired temperature is achieved. To ensure accuracy, insert a meat thermometer in the thickest end.

Rack of lamb is best served medium rare, and the rack should be ready when it has reached an internal temperature of 125 to 130 degrees on the thermometer. Remove from oven and cover lightly with aluminum foil to preserve the heat.

For the juiciest results, allow the meat to rest for 5 to 10 minutes before carving. To carve, place the rack on a cutting board and use a sharp knife to slice between the bones.

Top with Mint Pistachio Pesto and serve immediately.

Mint Pistachio Pesto

Makes: About 1 ½ cups

Ingredients

1 ½ cups fresh mint leaves, removed from stems

1 cup fresh Italian parsley, stems removed

2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped

½ cup roasted and salted pistachios, shelled

2 to 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

½ cup extra-virgin olive oil, more as needed

¼ teaspoon kosher salt (may need more if using unsalted nuts)

¼ freshly ground black pepper

Directions

In the bowl of your food processor, add the mint, parsley, garlic, pistachios and 2 tablespoons lemon juice and pulse 10 to 15 times until the mixture appears coarsely ground and well combined. Add the salt and pepper and pulse 5 more times.

Turn the processor on and use the feed tube to slowly add the olive oil until fully incorporated. If the pesto appears too thick, add more olive oil 1 tablespoon at a time until desired consistency is achieved. Taste the pesto and add more lemon juice, salt and/or pepper as desired, processing until combined.

May be served immediately, but it's even better when prepared at least 1 or 2 hours in advance to allow the flavors to meld together.

The pesto may be prepared several days in advance and refrigerated until ready to use. For best results, bring to room temperature before serving.

To store: Store the pesto in an airtight container and place a layer of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pesto to prevent discoloration. Refrigerate for up to 1 week or freeze for up to 1 month.

Recipe Time Capsule

This week in...

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“Home with the Lost Italian” is a weekly column written by Sarah Nasello featuring recipes by her husband, Tony Nasello. The couple owned Sarello’s in Moorhead and lives in Fargo with their son, Giovanni. Readers can reach them at sarahnasello@gmail.com.

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