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A Mostly Make-Ahead Easter Dinner

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Whole leg of lamb gets a Tuscan twist in this Easter dinner that lets you do much of the work the day before or early in the morning.

Lamb encrusted with cherries may seem like a surprising twist, but it’s actually a classic Tuscan pairing. The roast also makes the perfect centerpiece for a special-occasion dinner, rounded out by crisp mashed-potato cakes and tarragon-scented green beans.

For hundreds more recipes and menus perfect for Easter, visit our Guide to Easter Dinner, or create your own Easter menu using the easy Easter Menu Maker app. Choose a main dish like ham, lamb, or fish, then choose your starters, sides, and desserts to round it out. The Menu Maker generates a custom shopping list and cooking schedule based on your picks.

Menu Timeline

1 day in advance:

  • Make the tart crust; bake, cool and wrap well in plastic.
  • Cook and mash the potatoes; shape into patties, cover with plastic and refrigerate.

Morning of the dinner:

  • Make the tart filling, bake tart and cool.
  • Trim the green beans; make their vinaigrette.
  • Segment oranges and make the dressing for the salad.

Two hours ahead:

  • Season and sear the lamb; make the crust mixture.
  • Pat the crust onto the lamb and roast.

Twenty minutes before dinner:

  • Remove the lamb from the oven; tent with foil and make the sauce.
  • Cook potato cakes.
  • Boil green beans and toss with vinaigrette.

Just before dinner:

  • Carve the lamb and arrange on a platter or individual plates.
  • Toss the salad with its dressing and arrange on plates.

Shopping List

This shopping list includes doubled quantities for the potato cakes

Fresh Produce

  • 2 lb. Yukon Gold potatoes
  • 7 to 8 oz. (7 to 8 lightly packed cups) mixed salad greens
  • 1-1/4 lb. fresh green beans
  • 2 medium carrots
  • 2 ribs celery
  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 1 medium-small shallot
  • 1 bulb garlic
  • 1 bunch fresh chives
  • 1 bunch fresh rosemary
  • 1 bunch sage
  • 1 small bunch fresh tarragon
  • 3 large navel oranges (or 2 navel oranges and 1 blood orange)

Meat, Eggs & Dairy

  • 6- to 7-lb. bone-in leg of lamb, trimmed of most visible fat
  • 3 eggs
  • 15-oz. containter whole-milk ricotta (about 1-1/2 cups)
  • 1/4 lb. creamy goat cheese
  • 3 oz. cream cheese
  • 1 oz. Asiago cheese (to yield 1/4 cup finely grated)
  • 3 Tbs. sour cream
  • 3 Tbs. unsalted butter

Other Groceries

  • 1 box vanilla wafers (preferably Nilla brand)
  • 2 cups (10 to 11 oz.) dried sweet cherries
  • 1-1/2 cups sweet red vermouth, such as Martini & Rossi
  • 1-1/2 cups homemade or low-salt beef or chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup (1 oz.) fresh white breadcrumbs
  • 2 Tbs. tarragon vinegar
  • 1 Tbs. orange-flavored liqueur (such as Grand Marnier or Cointreau) or orange juice

Pantry Staples

  • 1-1/3 cups extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 Tbs. Dijon mustard
  • 2 Tbs. unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tbs. white-wine vinegar
  • 1-1/2 tsp. fennel seeds
  • table salt
  • kosher salt (at least 1/2 cup)
  • black peppercorns

The Menu


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