Romanian Roast Leg of Lamb – An Easter Classic Recipe

A large grey plate on a yellow tea towel. On the plate there is mash potatoes, slices of roast leg of lamb covered with the onion and garlic sauce, as well as two slices of pickles.

In Romania, we traditionally eat lamb for Easter. And the star of the Easter dinner is the Romanian roast leg of lamb, slowly cooked in garlic, rosemary and white wine sauce. Growing up, I always loved Easter because it was the only time I could enjoy lamb. Even when I left Romania, over 10 years ago, it was very hard to find lamb at any other time of the year. As Easter is approaching, the local shepherds start selling lambs, and you can only buy either half or one entire lamb, depending on how big your family is. You can’t usually just buy a leg, or just steaks, which may be unusual to hear if you live abroad.

The Romanian Easter roast leg of lamb is a delight. The meat is so tender that it melts in your mouth. In my family, it was always served with mashed potatoes, which would absorb that delicious sauce the lamb is cooked in. In other families though roast potatoes and salads are popular.

In this post, I want to teach you how to make my family recipe of roast leg of lamb, which I always cook for Easter. It only requires a few ingredients and plenty of time (and love) to cook.

Ingredients for the Romanian Roast Leg of Lamb 

Some of the ingredients for this dish: a leg of lamb, a jar of paprika, a jar of fresh ground pepper, a lemon, and a bulb of garlic.

For this delicious roast, you’ll need a leg of lamb (preferably back leg), onion, garlic, fresh rosemary and thyme, white wine, and a few pantry staples for the marinade, including salt, paprika, black pepper, minced garlic, lemon juice, and oil.

How to Make the Romanian Easter Roast Leg of Lamb 

The leg of lamb covered in a red marinade, sitting inside a black tray, on a baking paper.

To make the perfect Easter road leg of lamb you will need patience and a lot of love. The care you put into preparing this recipe will show in the final taste of the roast.

In a small bowl, combine the salt, paprika, black pepper, minced garlic, freshly squeezed lemon juice, and oil. Stir well until all the ingredients are thoroughly incorporated to form the marinade.

Place the leg of lamb in a shallow dish or resealable plastic bag. Rub the marinade all over the lamb, ensuring it is evenly coated on all sides. Cover the dish or seal the bag, then refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or preferably overnight. This allows the lamb to soak up the flavours of the marinade and tenderise the meat.

The marinated leg of lamb inside a pyrex tray, sitting on top of chopped onions, rosemary springs, and garlic cloves.

About an hour before you plan to cook the lamb, remove it from the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature. This helps ensure more even cooking and juicier meat. Never put in the oven a piece of meat which you have just taken out of the fridge.  

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius (350 degrees Fahrenheit) to get it nice and toasty for roasting. In a roasting tray large enough to accommodate the leg of lamb, arrange the chopped onion, halved bulb of garlic, and sprigs of fresh rosemary and thyme.

Carefully place the marinated leg of lamb on top of the bed of aromatics in the roasting tray. Pour the white wine mixed with hot water into the tray. Cover the tray with kitchen foil to trap in the steam and moisture.

The leg of lamb out of the oven, browned, in a brown sauce with onions, garlic, rosemary and thyme.

Transfer the roasting tray to the preheated oven. After 30 minutes, reduce the oven temperature to 160 degrees Celsius (325 degrees Fahrenheit) to ensure gentle, even cooking. Check the lamb occasionally and add more water if needed to prevent the pan from drying out.

After 2 hours of roasting, remove the kitchen foil covering the tray and continue roasting the lamb uncovered for an additional 30 minutes. This allows the exterior of the lamb to crisp up and develop a beautifully golden-brown crust.

Once the lamb is cooked and has developed a lovely golden crust, remove it from the oven. Cover the lamb loosely with kitchen foil and let it rest for 15-20 minutes before carving. This resting period allows the juices to redistribute throughout the meat, resulting in a more tender and succulent roast. Serve the Romanian roast leg of lamb with your favourite sides, such as mashed potatoes, roast vegetables, salad, or pickles, for a truly festive Easter feast.

Notes and Tips: 

  • For a maximum flavour infusion, you can marinate the lamb overnight.
  • Once the lamb is done, don’t carve it straight away. Let it rest for a good 15 to 20 minutes so that it retains its juices and tenderness.
A large grey plate on a yellow tea towel. On the plate there is mash potatoes, slices of roast leg of lamb covered with the onion and garlic sauce, as well as two slices of pickles.

Romanian Easter Roast Leg of Lamb Recipe

This Romanian roast leg of lamb recipe is a classic that is always served during Easter. It is extremely tender and so delicious.
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 3 hours
Course Main Course
Cuisine Romanian
Servings 6 people

Ingredients
  

  • 1 leg of lamb 1.5-2 kg
  • 1 onion
  • 1 bulb garlic cut lengthwise
  • 2-3 springs rosemary
  • 2-3 springs thyme
  • 250 ml white wine
  • 100 ml hot water

For the marinade

  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 4 garlic cloves minced
  • juice from half a lemon
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil

Instructions
 

  • Make a marinade by mixing the paprika, black pepper, salt, minced garlic, lemon juice and oil.
  • Rub the marinade over the leg of lamb.
  • Leave the leg of lamb to marinate in the fridge for at least 4 hours.
  • Take the lamb out of the fridge one hour before cooking, to reach room temperature.
  • Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
  • In a thermoresistant tray add the chopped onion, a bulb of garlic cut in half, fresh rosemary and thyme.
  • Put the leg of lamb on top.
  • Add the white wine mixed with 100 ml of water to the tray.
  • Cover the tray with aluminium foil and put it in the oven.
  • After 30 minutes, reduce the heat to 160 degrees.
  • Roast for two hours, checking from time to time to make sure there is still liquid.
  • If necessary, add more water.
  • After 2 hours, take the aluminium foil away and bake uncovered for another 30 minutes.
  • Take the lamb out of the oven, cover it again, and let it rest for 15-20 minutes before serving.
  • Serve with mashed potatoes/ roast potatoes, salad and pickles.

FAQ:

A close-up of a grey plate with the sliced lamb on it. The lamb is covered in the onion and garlic sauce. It sits on the side of golden mash potatoes. Behind, there are 2 slices of pickle.

Can I use a different cut of lamb for this recipe?

While a leg of lamb is traditional and works beautifully for roasting, you can also use other cuts such as a lamb shoulder or rack of lamb. However, to be true to the recipe, do use a leg of lamb. We usually use the other cuts of lamb to make stew.

Can I substitute the wine with another liquid?

Yes, if you prefer not to use wine, you can substitute it with hot water. The liquid is needed to keep the meat from burning. The alcohol in the wine does evaporate in the cooking process but if you don’t want to use it at all, you can just replace it with more hot water.

How do I know when the lamb is done cooking?

The best way to determine if the lamb is cooked to your liking is by using a meat thermometer. For medium-rare, the internal temperature should register around 55-60 degrees Celsius (130-140 degrees Fahrenheit), while medium is around 60-65 degrees Celsius (140-150 degrees Fahrenheit). Keep in mind that the temperature will continue to rise slightly as the lamb rests.

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