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Roast Leg of Lamb Stuffed with Basil Pesto

Maren Caruso

Servings: 4 to 6

The soy sauce in the marinade may sound like an unusual pairing with the pesto, but it intensifies the flavor of the meat without unduly standing out. Searing the meat first gives it a caramelized crust and roasting the lamb means easy, hands-off meal preparation.

This recipe is excerpted from Big Buy Cooking.


  • 5 lbs. boneless leg of lamb, trimmed of fat
  • 1/4 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 7 Tbs. olive oil
  • 2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped (about 2 tsp.)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 packed cup basil leaves
  • 1/3 cup walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 1/4 cup plain dry breadcrumbs


  • Set the lamb in the middle of a large cutting board. Make deep horizontal slices into the thicker parts of the meat so you can open the lamb up like a book and even out the meat’s overall thickness to about 1/2 inch; discard any additional fatty patches. Using a meat mallet or the bottom of a heavy skillet, gently pound the lamb to flatten it slightly and make its thickness even more uniform.
  • Put the lamb into a large non-reactive dish. In a small bowl, mix the soy sauce, 2 Tbs. oil, the thyme, and garlic with 1 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. pepper. Sprinkle all over the lamb, cover, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours and up to 2 days.
  • In a food processor, combine the basil, walnuts, Parmigiano-Reggiano, 3 Tbs. oil, and 1/4 tsp. each salt and pepper; process until the mixture turns into a paste. Transfer to a medium bowl. Sprinkle the lamb with 1/2 tsp, salt, turn it over, and evenly distribute the pesto and breadcrumbs. Roll up the lamb (pesto side in), secure in 5 or 6 places with kitchen twine, and sprinkle with 1/2 tsp. each salt and pepper.
  • Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 325°F. Heat the remaining oil in a 12-inch (or larger) skillet over medium-high heat. Set the lamb in the skillet and brown the meat on all sides, about 2 minutes per side for a total of 8 minutes.
  • Transfer the lamb to a roasting pan and roast in the oven until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the meat registers 135°F for medium-rare, about 40 to 45 minutes. Transfer the lamb to a cutting board, tent with foil, and let rest for 10 minutes. Thinly slice and serve.


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Reviews (2 reviews)

  • user-6919842 | 11/06/2019

    This is a worthwhile roast, but I agree with CSolar. The cooking time is off. I would also note that a well balanced boneless leg is nearly impossible to pound down to 1 1/2 inches thickness. I pounded the roast down to 2 inches, which was a struggle.

    For cooking times, I cooked the roast at 500 degrees for 20 minutes to give the lamb a good sear. I did not pan sear the roast. I just prefer the high-heat oven method. I then lowered the oven temp to 325 degrees and roasted the 6 lb leg for about 50 minutes. I cook by meat temperature, not time. So, I pulled the roast when the center of the leg was 126 degrees, which is a nice medium rare.

  • CSolar | 01/07/2017

    The roast was delicious but there's something really off with the cooking instructions. A solid 5-lb roast is not going to cook in just 40 minutes in a low oven! In the end it was more like 2 hours of baking, and I raised the temperature to 375 half way through. There must be a mistake in the recipe!

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