Roasted Lamb Ribs with Rosemary: A marriage made in oven

by Terry B on June 24, 2009

Caraway seeds give the classic combination of lamb, rosemary and garlic a pungent, anise-like kick. Recipe below.


Honest. I’m not trying to turn Blue Kitchen into “What I Found at the Farmers Market This Week.” But a recent visit had us picking up about a pound and a half of lamb ribs from the Mint Creek Farm booth—the same people who had sold us the flavorful meat for our goat kebabs a couple of weeks earlier—with no earthly idea how we’d cook them. What we did know was that everything we’d bought from Mint Creek so far had been delicious—and that we were pleased to support the way their animals are 100% grass fed, raised in pastures.

Like goat, lamb turns up in a staggering range of cuisines, virtually around the world. You’ll find it across much of Europe and the Middle East. Thoughout the Americas. In Indian curries and the transcendent Szechwan dish, lamb with cumin. And unlike goat, lamb enjoys fairly widespread popularity here in the United States.

As I said, we had no particular plans for these ribs, so we explored lots of recipes. Interestingly, no matter what the cuisine, virtually every recipe began with boiling, simmering or steaming the ribs—at least for an hour and often for as much as two hours. Apparently, this makes them tender and juicy. It also allows you to cook them over two days, boiling them the first and roasting them the second. After flirting with various global influences and marinades, we settled on a simple, straightforward recipe that would let the ribs’ “lambiness” shine through.

Rosemary and garlic are natural matches for lamb’s rich, sweet flavor. Caraway seeds are another ingredient often paired with lamb; their anise-like flavor slightly tempers the richness. Many recipes call for confining the caraway seeds to a bag or crushing them. In this recipe, they’re left whole and sprinkled directly on the ribs before roasting them to deliver their full flavor and add a slightly crunchy bite.

Roasted Lamb Ribs with Rosemary and Caraway
Serves 3 [see Kitchen Notes]

3 large cloves garlic
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and halved
1 carrot, peeled
1-1/2 to 2 pounds lamb ribs
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon salt [I used fine sea salt], plus additional
1 generous tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon dried caraway seeds
freshly ground black papper
olive oil

Peel two of the garlic cloves and bash them lightly with the side of a knife to break them open and release their oils. Place them along with the onion, carrot and ribs in a into a lidded stock pot or pan large enough to hold them easily and add water to cover. Add bay leaf and salt and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a slow simmer and skim off any scum that rises to the surface during the first few minutes of cooking. Cover and simmer for about an hour. Transfer ribs to plate. Discard the remaining solids and cooking liquid. Ribs can be made ahead up to this point and refrigerated for up to 2 days before roasting.

Roast the ribs. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Thinly slice the remaining garlic clove and drizzle with a little olive oil. Season ribs on top with some salt and a generous grinding of pepper. Sprinkle chopped rosemary and caraway seeds over ribs and arrange garlic slices on them. Place ribs on a rack in a lightly oiled roasting pan and place in oven. Roast ribs until nicely browned, about 1 hour. Remove from oven and let them rest for about 5 minutes. Slice into individual ribs and serve.

Kitchen Notes

How many servings did you say? Yep, 1-1/2 pounds of lamb ribs served three. As with other ribs, bones take up a lot of real estate, but lamb is so rich, big-flavored and, let’s face it, fatty, that they really do satisfy pretty quickly. Also, we’re trying to take a page from The Omnivore’s Dilemma author Michael Pollan’s notebook these days—trying to treat meat as more of a flavoring and less of a main event. We served these with a fiberiffic, flavorful side of chickpeas with kale that Marion made, and all diners were quite well fed, thank you.


{ 46 comments… read them below or add one }

altadenahiker June 24, 2009 at 7:07 pm

I like that you flirted with marinades.

Terry B June 24, 2009 at 7:13 pm

What can I say, altadenahiker? We were a little tipsy.

Christina June 24, 2009 at 10:28 pm

Lambity, lambity, lamb. Oh, how I love lamb. When I was much younger, my family raised lamb to eat–we named each lamb (and cow–we had those too) after a cut of meat. If I were to have a lamb now, I might have to name it Roasted Lamb Ribs with Rosemary. Come here, little Roasted Lamb Ribs with Rosemary. Maybe not.

Delicious looking recipe. I wonder if it’s possible to use the grill with low, smoky heat for the second part. Once summer rolls around, I’m so hesitant to start up the oven.

dani June 25, 2009 at 12:50 am

Lamb is just meant to be with garlic and rosemary, don’t you think? Heaven! I never would have thought to add the caraway seeds. Can’t wait to try this.

Terry B June 25, 2009 at 12:58 am

Christina—I love the lamb and cow-naming approach. Good thing they didn’t understand English, though, right? My mom raised a few cows some years ago. They lived good lives before eventually being turned into meat for the family. Once Marion had cooked some of one of these cows for our dinner and daughter Claire, being told that the meat had come from Blackie, a cow whose acquaintance she had made, innocently asked how one got meat from cows. We explained, as gently as possible, that the meat was the cow, bracing for tears of outrage. Instead, she simply declared, “Blackie’s good!”

I think you could totally finish these ribs on a grill, using indirect heat. You just have to be able to keep the fire going for an hour, but not overly hot.

Thanks, dani! I’d love to hear what you think. And having done these ribs, I’d be interested in trying caraway seeds on lamb chops, if you can’t find ribs.

Nick K June 25, 2009 at 12:38 pm

This is fascinating. I, too, picked up some meat from Mint Creek Farm this weekend. I was lured in by their claims of 100% grass feed lamb. I ended up with some lamb shanks, which I transformed into this incredible Moroccan dish from Saveur. The meat was incredibly good. I love taking more affordable cuts and turning them into something truly delicious. Next weekend I might need to pick up some ribs.

Laura June 25, 2009 at 3:55 pm

Now you’ve got me all inspired! I think breast of veal is the closest I’ve ever gotten to a non traditional cut but I’m definitely giving this a try. Love the idea of the caraway seeds…I can see that being delicious. And it would never have occurred to me to steam/boil them first…I wonder how they’d fare in a braise?

Terry B June 25, 2009 at 4:01 pm

Oh man, Nick K, I’m all over lamb shanks. If I see them on a menu, the rest of the menu just kind of goes out of focus. And that Saveur recipe looks like a wonderful thing to do with them.

Laura—Lamb ribs would probably braise nicely, but you’d need to brown them well first. What I like about boiling and then roasting them, though, is they’re juicy inside and crispy outside.

Carol June 25, 2009 at 5:25 pm

I consider it one of my supreme successes that ALL of our children love lamb. I don’t recall ever tasting it before moving to England as an adult but develop a taste for it I did. I’ve never seen lamb ribs..I will have to scour around Loudoun County, Virginia, me thinks. I’m completely at home with garlic and rosemary with lamb. It’s the caraway seeds that intrigues. I always have a fresh-ish jar on hand for Irish soda bread. It’s sort of off the beaten herbal-spice path for me otherwise.

Toni June 26, 2009 at 3:21 pm

I love the idea of boiling it first. I’m thinking that this might reduce some of the fattyness of the meat. I adore lamb, but I’m not a great fan of grease. As a result, I don’t eat it too often.

You might be interested in the article on salting in the July issue of Food and Wine magazine.

Jean June 26, 2009 at 6:38 pm

Lamb ribs? I need to get out more. I’ve only had chops and legs. Rosemary is definitely a must with lamb. For me I also like to add sage and a finishing touch of a horseradish sauce drizzle. Great site. — Jean

Terry B June 26, 2009 at 7:00 pm

Carol—One parent we know won’t eat anything that was ever cute. No lamb, no duck. Her kids are growing up deprived!

Toni—It did take away some of the fat, but less than I expected. Roasting on a rack helped remove some too. Personally, seeing how lambs always seem to be gamboling about non-stop, I am surprised at just how fatty their meat is.

Thanks, Jean! And man—I want some lamb with horseradish sauce now.

Nishta June 27, 2009 at 12:47 am

Terry! I love the way you think/eat/cook. One of my “impress-the-heck-out-of-people-but-it-really-wasn’t-actually-that-hard-but-I’m-not-going-to-tell-them-that” dishes is rack of lamb with garlic, rosemary, & a Port wine reduction sauce. Your recipe looks like a less fussy, equally yummy version of that.

And since I know you love lamb shanks, I officially invite you to come to Houston & eat the lamb shank curry in a little hole-in-the-wall restaurant called Himalaya that serves the most authentic Pakistani/N. Indian food outside of my mother’s house. It is life-changingly, primal-gnawing-on-the-bone good.

Call me when you get here. I’d love to have dinner with you.

Ursula June 28, 2009 at 2:24 am

I love lamb, and this looks amazing. great photo!

Terry B June 28, 2009 at 4:30 am

Packing our bags now, Nishta. Will call you from the airport.

Thanks, Ursula!

Terry T June 28, 2009 at 4:28 pm

Hey Carol in Loudoun County — Drive over the state line to the WV Eastern Panhandle, pass Harper’s Ferry up to Shepherdstown on Sunday morning to the Farmers’ Market — Danny Rohrer’s Meats has amazing lamb. It used to be a treat to buy New Zealand lamb in a good restaurant — it doesn’t compare to Danny’s. All cuts, and he will take orders.

MIGUEL June 30, 2009 at 6:14 pm

What in hells name are you throwing away the fluids for! That is good lamb stock you’re throwing away. Here in the UK we’d use that for a lamb broth soup or to add to scouse or lancashire hotpot. Look ’em up, delicious. Keep up the good work.

Terry B June 30, 2009 at 6:49 pm

Thanks, Terry T! I’m sending this advice on to a friend in DC too.

What can I say, Miguel? My only defense is that at the time, our fridge was so stuffed we were practically holding it shut with duct tape. We’ll have to remember this next time.

Barbara July 3, 2009 at 12:48 am

I just ate and this article has made me hungry all over again. And when I think of how self-righteous I could feel from eating something so carefully grown it’s just the cherry on top.

I haven’t cooked (or eaten) a lot of lamb but whenever I have I really enjoyed it’s rich taste. This recipe seems straightforward enough that I’m going to have to hunt down some lamb this weekend. (Not literally – I’ll go to the market).

Judy Wendt August 7, 2009 at 1:10 am

Oh, man, I don’t know where I went wrong. I read this recipe and couldn’t wait to make it. My only concern was whether or not I could find lamb ribs. But, lucky me, the lamb lady at the farmer’s market had some…she just wasn’t advertising them. So, tonight we had a total farmer’s market dinner. Your lamb ribs, oven roasted baby new potatoes and carmelized zucchini…all direct from the Midtown Farmer’s Market in Minneapolis…except for the rosemary which I grow on my condo balcony. I was so excited.
But there was just too much fat and it didn’t melt away at all, and though the meat was done, it was difficult to get at and except for the exterior (was that fell or skin or what? My husband said he felt like he was eating beef jerky) which was very tasty, the rest wasn’t that excititng. Hey, maybe I need to try another source for the lamb. I guess I was kind of hoping for something like baby back ribs where the meat just falls off the bone. Any thoughts??

Terry B August 7, 2009 at 3:42 am

Thanks, Barbara! Hope you hunted down, er, found some lamb to cook.

Judy—I’m so sorry this didn’t work out for you! I have to admit, lamb ribs are pretty fatty. It may vary from batch to batch of ribs, so maybe another try might do it. Or these ribs may just not be a good dish for you. As you said, the fat doesn’t particularly melt on these. When I eat some meats, I trim away lots of the fat as I eat. But sometimes, as with these, I just embrace the fat and gobble it up. And yes, they are very different from baby back ribs.

Candy P. July 18, 2010 at 4:34 am

We just finished a meal of lamb ribs done on the barbecue. I oiled them then put a rub on, let them sit a bit and very slowly barbecued, letting the fat drip into a foil pan. They were quite tasty and tender. Next time though, I will try your recipe to see the difference. We had just picked up a lamb from the butcher and thought we’d try a different cut – usually we sell it at a farmer’s market, but thought we’d get first dibs and see how this fella tasted. Lamb is great, and home-grown even better!

Terry B July 18, 2010 at 2:34 pm

Candy—And they were tender without pre-boiling them? Excellent! Maybe I’ll have to try your method too.

Afifah October 14, 2010 at 7:30 am

Hi Folks. I have just found your site and am already cheered to find Michael Pollan mentioned.

I just wanted to add a comment about mutton. Although I love lamb (and came to this site seeking a recipe for the lamb ribs I have just bought) mutton is EVEN BETTER, can you believe it! It has all the sweet, warm, gentle qualities of younger sheep meat but with greater richness, depth and character. I cannot recommend it highly enough. I recently left a shoulder of mutton in a closed cassarole dish in the oven at 100 degrees C (a cool oven, not sure what it is in F, I am in the UK) along side some home grown carrots, and onions and some stock and rosemary, for 3-4 hours, and I have to say, it was THE best food I have ever eaten. The sheep in question was 7 years old, had produced lambs, wool and even milk, every year until the year she was deemed ‘past it’, and had lived on the green Sussex hills all her life under the care of David, the farmer. I tell you, mutton is IT! Slow, moist cooking cannot fail.

Terry B October 14, 2010 at 12:57 pm

Thanks, Affifa! Mint Creek Farm, our regular source for lamb at our farmers market, frequently has mutton. You’re right, it is quite good. And your treatment sounds perfect. BTW, 100ºC is 212ºF—that is one cool oven!

Ms. Huis Herself November 22, 2010 at 12:48 am

My husband made these tonight and OH MY GOODNESS were they delicious! WOW! He and I _loved_ them, and (somewhat surprisingly), so did our 6yo & 3yo! Totally going on our make-again list! Thank you!

Constance Godsen January 27, 2011 at 5:52 pm

3 cheers for the Brits! That broth and those bones are the basis for some great stock. I chop extra veggies for stock while I’m preparing the dish. Cook it down and freeze it, if you have no room in the ‘fridge. I use sttaight-sided Ball jars which are freezer safe. You’ll have a great base for soup or for extra gravy. Pearl barley is also a much over-looked & delicious addition to lamb stews and soups.

Terry B January 27, 2011 at 6:09 pm

Ms. Huis—Sorry for the belated response; with most posts, I don’t reply after a while. But this recipe continues to remain popular for whatever reason. Very glad the ribs were a family pleaser!

Thanks for the great tip, Constance! Next time I make these, I’ll definitely make use of the broth. And “3 cheers for the Brits” indeed!

alon April 16, 2011 at 9:39 pm

making it right now….will see :-)

Alon May 5, 2011 at 5:39 pm

Soooooo good….and easy….thanks

Organic Bread February 18, 2012 at 3:19 am

It’s ok to create meals around the farmer’s market! I got a lamb farmshare this year for the first time. Now I’m making my way through quite a lot of different cuts packed away in my freezer. This will be next!

Maridyth March 2, 2012 at 4:47 am

I was so excited about this recipe… especially since I already had lamb ribs in the freezer from my local farmer’s market (and wasn’t sure what to do with them). I’ve got to agree with Judy Wendt’s husband (above)… they were very beef-jerky-ish. I followed the recipe exactly, except I took the ribs out of the oven after only 30 minutes because they were looking a little dry. Sorry to say I was pretty disappointed, but since you and others had great success with the recipe, I can only assume it was the poor little lamb itself, not enough fat, perhaps?

nicole April 2, 2012 at 4:04 pm

Thanks for these tips. I picked up lamb ribs in an effort to make a departure from the usual leg of lamb for my family. We are looking forward to implementing your suggestions. I also appreciate your note on bringing in meat to contribute to the meal instead of as a main course. This is important when trying to get enough fresh fruits, veggies, and whole grains into the family diet!

Brian May 13, 2012 at 7:08 pm

I had to laugh as soon as I read your intro, for I too purchased my lamb ribs at the market and was wondering what to do.
Glad I happened upon your blog…several years later.
Thanks for the tips

Bonnie October 28, 2012 at 5:29 pm

First, let me say how much I love your title for this post.

Second, thanks for posting a simple lamb recipe. I’ve never made ribs before and I got the lamb from a farmer friend. It doesn’t need a lot of ingredients to be good, but I did need to know how to cook it. Plus, anything with rosemary is a recipe I want to try. :-)

They are boiling now and it smells wonderful. I can’t wait to eat these!

Anne December 2, 2012 at 6:36 pm

I came across this recipe as I was looking to see what to do with Lamb ribs! Usually, they’re not that popular in restaurants as a cut, but I grew up with them. 2 months before Christmas, my Dad will salt them and put them up to dry. And then, a day before we plan to eat them they will be rehydrated in water (and to allow the strong saltiness to be removed!) before steaming them tender…and then crisping them under the grill or in a frying pan. This is of course a very traditional Norwegian way to have them, but I might be tempted to sneak a bit of rosmary in the pot to help with the taste (because rosmary and salt goes with anything! Especially lamb. Or potatos. Roast potatoes…).

This has really inspired me to try this myself! Just need to get my Dad to break tradition a little bit for the sake of exploring new flavours in a well-loved cut of meat!

Meg December 5, 2012 at 1:28 am

Hi all! We tried these tonight and I’m sorry to say that my experience was exactly like that of “Terry B”‘. The ribs were very tasty (great seasoning) but the fat didn’t melt away like I expected and I could barely get at the meat. After a few attempts gnawing through it, my jaw muscles were so tired I gave up. It was a great source of meat so I have to conclude that the recipe just doesn’t work out sometimes. We decided to put the ribs in a crock pot and let it braise overnight to try to melt the fat and separate the goodness out. Crossing my fingers that we’ll be satisfied tomorrow.

Stacy January 7, 2013 at 4:29 pm

Amazing recipe! A couple tweeks I thought workd REALLY well:
Cut into individual ribs before roasting… that way the yummy rub and roasty flavor got all around the meat. And I also toasted the caraway seed before. Can’t wait to make it again. Thanks for sharing!

Bec Dell February 21, 2013 at 7:31 am

These were AMAZING! I’m a sucker for a roast potato so threw some new potatoes into the pan (just washed…left skin on) for the roasting stage of this recipe and it pretty much made a one pan meal…potatoes picked up the caraway and rosemary and got lovely and caramelised from those divine lamb juices. Lamb was just so tender and full of flavour and was such a simple recipe. Loved it loved it loved it (and my man feels very spoiled too!)

Rebecca Poole May 20, 2014 at 7:22 pm

My husband and I are going to try this recipe now. Thanks!!

I really enjoyed reading this thread, there was a real warmth in all the posts, some threads just plain lack that quality.

So let’s see how the lamb tastes in Australia.

Jaco Vorster July 6, 2014 at 4:09 am

You don’t need to boil,steam or simmer lamb to make succulent fall-of-the-bone meat, we usually just hang the rib for a couple of hours to dry out the meat a bit, don’t know exactly why, then slow roast on indirect low heat for atleast 2 hours.

Jeni November 18, 2014 at 6:47 pm

I am half way through the process of this recipe. I had to boil the ribs yesterday so that it wouldn’t take so long to prepare after coming home from work. I’ve never had lamb, so I hope these turn out great.
I have noticed that there are some mixed feelings about people’s outcomes and I have to suggest that anyone who buys the rack of lamb make sure that it is French cut and prepared for cooking or find a video on YouTube to French the rack if you need to do so. Trimming off the excess fat and connective tissue is going to allow for the more edible meat to be exposed and ready to eat! I will update on my experience after tonight’s dinner.

Terry B November 21, 2014 at 10:37 pm

How did it go, Jeni?

Dede January 19, 2015 at 3:52 pm

Hi Terry! Thanks for the recipe, I LOVE lamb ribs and I will make your recipe tonight with the rack I bought over the weekend at the farmer’s market. I, too like Candy make them without pre-boiling, I slowly roast in the oven with a rub of Vadouvan curry, sugar and salt, it’s a Food and Wine Magazine recipe, I did have to adjust time as my rack is about a pound and the F&W called for 3 #, I believe. They turn out succulent every time with this method.

gale ann October 14, 2015 at 7:48 pm

This recipe was great. The little riblets were perfection on a plate. I actually didn’t have caraway seeds so I used anise seeds with tons of rosemary & a couple cloves of garlic. The preboiling/simmer part rendered the fat down wonderfully. So delicious!

ane January 7, 2016 at 3:35 am

Marvelous recipe! I’ve come back to this page to bookmark it: I bought what turned out to be a rather lean looking rack of ribs for what is today – where I’m living now – a holiday, but – despite concerns of dryness based on some of the comments above – prepared them according to this recipe, with a day in between boiling and roasting, and they are just as the previous commenter said “perfection on a plate”. Delicious, indeed.

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