Herb-Crusted Rack of Lamb with Gremolata Pesto


Lamb is Kelly Liken's favorite food in the world, and she thinks Colorado lamb is the best. To show it off, she makes a pesto-like sauce by combining gremolata—a mixture of parsley, lemon zest and garlic—with pine nuts and olive oil. Liken often cooks lamb from start to finish over a wood fire, but this home-cook-friendly version calls for starting the racks on the grill and then transferring them to the oven to finish cooking. Slideshow: Delicious Grilled Lamb Recipes 

Herb-Crusted Rack of Lamb with Gremolata Pesto Recipe
Photo: © Ken Kochey
Active Time:
1 hrs
Total Time:
2 hrs


lamb and sauce

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling

  • Three 8-bone racks of lamb (1 1/2 pounds each), bones frenched and trimmings reserved (see Note)

  • 1 carrot, chopped

  • 1 stalk of celery, chopped

  • 1 small onion, chopped

  • 6 large garlic cloves, chopped (about 3 tablespoons)

  • 1 medium tomato, chopped

  • 1/2 cup dry red wine

  • 1 quart low-sodium beef broth

  • 1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley, stems reserved

  • 2 tablespoons chopped thyme, stems reserved

  • Salt

  • Freshly ground black pepper

gremolata pesto

  • 1/4 cup pine nuts

  • 1 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves

  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed

  • Finely grated zest of 1 lemon

  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

  • Salt

  • Freshly ground black pepper


prepare the lamb and sauce

  1. In a large saucepan, heat the 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add the reserved lamb trimmings along with the chopped carrot, celery and onion and cook over moderately high heat, stirring, until lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon of the chopped garlic and the chopped tomato and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the red wine and bring to a boil. Add the low-sodium beef broth and the reserved parsley and thyme stems and simmer over moderate heat until reduced to 1 1/4 cups, about 1 hour. Strain the lamb sauce into a small saucepan and spoon off the fat. Season the sauce with salt and pepper and keep warm.

  2. Preheat the oven to 400°. Light a grill or preheat a grill pan. In a small bowl, combine the chopped parsley, chopped thyme and the remaining 2 tablespoons of garlic. Season the lamb racks with salt and freshly ground black pepper and coat with the herb mixture. Drizzle the lamb with olive oil and oil the grill or the grill pan. Grill the lamb over moderately high heat, turning once, until browned all over, about 5 minutes. Transfer the racks to a sturdy baking sheet.

  3. Roast the racks of lamb for about 15 minutes, until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center of the meat registers 130° to 135° for medium-rare. Let the racks rest for 15 minutes.

meanwhile, make the gremolata pesto

  1. In a medium skillet, toast the pine nuts over moderate heat, stirring, until they are golden, about 5 minutes. Let the toasted pine nuts cool slightly. Transfer the toasted pine nuts to a blender. Add the parsley leaves, garlic and grated lemon zest and pulse to combine. Add the olive oil and process until smooth. Season the gremolata pesto with salt and pepper.

  2. Reheat the sauce. Carve the racks of lamb into chops and serve the chops with the sauce and pesto.

Make Ahead

The sauce and gremolata pesto can be refrigerated overnight.


Ask your butcher to french the racks of lamb (meaning scrape the fat and gristle from the bones); also be sure to ask the butcher to reserve all trimmings.

Serve With

Sautéed Baby Squash with Scallions .

Suggested Pairing

Dense, concentrated Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignons are fantastic with gamey meats like this rack of lamb.

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