Lamb Neck Stew

There are probably two kinds of people out there, those who will shudder, and those who will salivate at the thought of a lamb neck stew. This is for the butcher at Union Market who told me I couldn’t make a stew from lamb neck: booya! Those guys pretend to be old-school butchers, but the fact that you have to specially request perfectly good pieces of meat (I mean, the neck isn’t even offal), doesn’t reflect well. Especially when I found them, pre-wrapped, in the meat counter for less than $2 a pound at the Key Foods in Windsor Terrace, just a few blocks away, and they were damn good eating, if I do say so.

I first had this dish at one my favorite Italian restaurants in New York, Al di la. They have a limited, but incredible menu, featuring Venetian inspired dishes. They usually have a rabbit stew with polenta, but the lamb neck was on the menu when I went there for my birthday dinner, and it was probably one of the best, most surprising things I’ve had in a restaurant in ages.

Lamb Neck Stew with Polenta

4-6 servings


  • roughly 2 lbs lamb neck (ask a butcher, but some markets do carry them.)
  • 1 tin tomato paste
  • 2 stalks celery
  • 1 small white onione
  • 1 carrot
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • white wine
  • salt and pepper
  • thyme
For the Polenta:
4-6 servings dried polenta from a box
1/2 cup milk
grated parmesan
1-2 tablespoon olive oil or butter

exhibit A: lamb neck, roughly $2 a lb at Key Food


In a food processor blend the carrot, celery, onion and garlic until combined in a pulp. Salt and pepper. Put aside. Salt and flour the meat, and brown in a large dutch oven with a few tablespoons of olive oil. Put aside. Cook the veggie pulp in the lamb grease, until they become translucent and begin to caramelize. Add white wine, herbs, and return the meat to the pot. Add tomato paste, and cover with water. Cook slowly, with the lid on on low heat for about 2 1/2 hours. The longer the better. It will reduce in the pot, until you have a thick reddish/ocre gravy.

the gravy...

For the polenta. Follow the cooking instructions on the box. I’d go with a half box for 4-6 servings. Boil about 3 1/2 cups of generously salted water. Add the polenta when the water’s at a rolling boil, and stir until it begins to congeal. Reduce the heat or turn off, and  add butter or oil, milk and parm, while stirring. Laddle a portion in a bowl and serve with the stew. Serve hot.