Abbacchio is the term used in Roman dialect to indicate the young suckling lamb, butchered to be sold, which plays a fundamental role in the history of the cuisine of Rome and Lazio. From the Roman dictionary by Chiappini, we find that “abbacchio describes the offspring of the ewe, either still suckling, or recently weaned; lamb, on the other hand, is the offspring of the ewe at nearly one year of age and already sheared twice.” This denomination is exclusive to Lazio, to such a point that Chiappini writes, “In Florence no distinction is made. Both are called lamb.” Campo Vaccino, the site of the livestock market, is where the market for abbacchi, lambs, castrated mutton, and sheep, has been held since the 1300s. The consumption was considerable over the course of the so-called "agnellatura" (butchering of lambs of one to six months of age) which was held in the period between Easter and June. In the countryside around Rome, during the butchering of suckling lambs, or abbacchiatura, and the shearing, the shepherds use to banquet on the "pagliatella," the fattiest meat of the intestine of the abbacchio grilled over a wood fire, and the pezzata or sponsata, in other words, mutton cut into pieces. The Popes, after the fall of the Roman Empire, prohibited the grazing of sheep throughout the Roman countryside before Sant'Angelo on the 29th of September, and decreed that they leave the entire territory on Sant'Angelo on the 3rd of May. This way the livestock would be on the way toward fresh pastures in the Appennines and would avoid the heat of summer. The market for lamb and mutton, having become big business, was governed by extremely severe regulations, such as customs duties, “la grascia” for the meat trade, the year’s supply, edicts and taxes. On the 17th of October, 1768, Cardinal Carlo Rezzonico signed an edict to govern the sales of abbacchi. There are numerous festivals and feast days in the Lazio Region, and since 1952, in the municipality of Roiate (Rome), there has been the festival “Sagra dell’abbacchio Romano.” Also, since 1978 the “Mostra Rassegna Ovina” or Ovine Exhibition has taken place in the municipality of Fiamignano (Rieti).
Put an iron casserole or pot on the heat and sear the bones of the abbacchio. Wine may be added to the preparation, as well as vinegar, salt and pepper to taste. When the abbacchio is soft, it should be removed from the heat and served with a sprig of rosemary. The classic coupling is with “ramoracce,” herbs which grow in the Roman countryside, exceptionally tasty. These are boiled and then sautéed in the pan. It is also excellent with potatoes and a good red wine.
The lamb which becomes Abbacchio Romano Igp, can be recognized by the ear tag or button in the left ear, used to identify the sheep farm, but for the consumer, it is primarily the label and its logo that guarantees the origin and identification. Furthermore, it is mandatory that the product’s packaging display on the label in letters that are clear, legible and larger than any other writing, the words, "Abbacchio Romano" followed by the Protected Geographical Indication or Igp. The logo is multicoloured and easily identifiable: a square composed of three coloured lines - green, white and red - broken by a wavy line which is connected to an oval, inside of which is the stylized head of a lamb. The name "Abbacchio" is displayed in yellow and the word “Romano” in red. The true Abbacchio Romano must be labelled in Italian even on menus in other parts of Europe.