This Easy Easter Dinner Is Mostly Make-Ahead

Spend more time hunting for Easter eggs and less time in the kitchen on the day of with this fresh and modern Easter dinner menu.

Martha's Butterflied, Rolled, and Roasted Leg of Lamb
Photo: Bryan Gardner

Major make-ahead elements mean this Easter dinner menu is one you can pull off with ease. It's designed for a smaller gathering of four to six guests and is packed with fresh flavors. April is the prime season for cooking with fresh herbs, tender greens, and spring-dug root vegetables, and with everything from a crispy grain salad that is filled to the brim with fresh peas, baby greens, and fragrant herbs to stalks of rhubarb baked into a simple olive oil cake, this menu features Spring's bounty in abundance. A menu with so much fresh produce to prep would be daunting for anyone to tackle all at once, which is why we're delighted to tell you that so much of this meal can be prepped ahead of time. Our make-ahead timeline will get you on track, and you'll be amazed at how much you can do a couple of days before and still have dinner tasting super fresh.

Lamb, a traditional choice to anchor this modern-ish menu, is seasoned the night before with a potent paste made from salty preserved lemons and rosemary; this ensures every slice will be seasoned to perfection and not just the outside. The accompanying platter of roasted carrots with oat dukkah brings a fresh, savory surprise to the table; the cooking method concentrates the natural sweetness of the carrots, while the spiced oat mixture keeps the dish interesting. A gorgeous grain salad shares the spotlight with the lamb, meaning it's a suitable main for a vegetarian. A lemon-rhubarb Bundt cake baked the day before provides a sweet, seasonal finish to a celebratory meal.

Martha's Butterflied, Rolled, and Roasted Leg of Lamb

Lamb on Easter may not be the most original choice, but we're not ones to mess with an especially good tradition. Besides, if you've never tried Martha's Butterflied, Rolled, and Roasted Leg of Lamb, pictured above, it's a delicious experience worth having. A fragrant paste made from salt, rosemary, mint, garlic, and preserved lemons is rubbed on the lamb and set in the fridge overnight to marinate. The next day, the lamb is rolled up and roasted at a high temperature for a little over an hour until rosy pink in the center.


Herbal Sodas

For an easy welcome drink that you can serve during the egg hunt, try these Herbal Sodas. Make the syrup a couple of days ahead with some of the herbs you've already bought for the rest of the menu like rosemary and mint. You can make it an aperitif by adding a small pour of gin to the glasses.

oat dukkah roasted carrots
Sidney Bensimon

Roasted Carrots with Oat Dukkah

The most impressive part of this side dish of Roasted Carrots with Oat Dukkah is the crumbly dukkah topping, which can be made up to a week in advance. If made ahead, then all you need to tackle on the day of is the carrots, which can share the oven with the lamb as they both roast at a high temperature.

crispy grain salad peas mint
Louise Hagger

Crispy Grain Salad with Peas and Mint

It's ideal to make one side like this Crispy Grain Salad with Peas and Mint that can be served cold or at room temperature, so you don't have to worry about juggling a slew of hot dishes in and out of your oven right before dinnertime. This grain salad not only holds well at room temp, but it's also so green and seasonal that it can practically serve as your centerpiece, too.

garlic rosemary flatbread on plate
Dana Gallagher

Garlic-Rosemary Flatbread

It's always nice to have a little bread at the table to scoop up that last bite of salad, or to clean your plate of that last bit of yogurt sauce. This easy Garlic-Rosemary Flatbread takes a shortcut by calling for store-bought dough (with punchy aromatics like minced garlic and rosemary brushed on top, no one will know the difference!).

bowl of minty yogurt sauce
Louise Hagger

Minty Yogurt Sauce

This Minty Yogurt Sauce brings the meal together: you can dab a little on your slice of lamb, shmear it over a bite of flatbread, or drizzle it over your roasted carrots…there isn't a single thing on the plate that won't be enhanced by this creamy herb sauce.

Lemon Rhubarb OliveOil Bundt Cake
Marcus Nilsson

Lemon-Rhubarb Olive-Oil Bundt Cake

Bundt cakes are great for the less pastry-inclined among us because they're already beautiful right out of the pan—no need to layer or even frost, for that matter. This Lemon-Rhubarb Olive-Oil Bundt Cake is moist throughout, lemon zest brightens the easy one-bowl batter, while whipped egg whites and olive oil deliver a velvety texture reminiscent of a really good cake donut.

The Make-Ahead Schedule

What we love most about this meal is that so much of it can be prepared in advance, and it all starts one month before Easter. We suggest you start your prep by make the preserved lemons. If you're not able to make them, know that you can also buy preserved lemons ($11.95, online. Another task to check off your list a month in advance? Place the order for lamb at your local butcher or grocery store. A week out, take a little time to make syrup for the Herbal Sodas. You can also use this time to mix the oat dukkah for the roasted carrot recipe. Last but not least, roll the pizza dough into flatbreads and freeze between sheets of parchment paper. This way, they're ready to go on Easter Sunday.

Two days before Easter, go ahead and cook the quinoa and millet, then make the vinaigrette for the salad recipe. Shell and blanch fresh peas (if you're using them) for the salad, too. You can also make the preserved lemon-rosemary paste for the lamb. The day before Easter, coat your lamb with the preserved lemon-rosemary paste and refrigerate it overnight. You can also make the Minty Yogurt Sauce, but keep the mint separate and add just before serving. To get even further ahead, gently wash the greens and herbs for the grain salad. You should also bake the Bundt cake, which will fill your home with the delicious lemon-rhubarb aroma.

On Easter Sunday, start your morning by frying the cooked millet and quinoa for the grain salad. Next, chop the fresh herbs for the yogurt sauce and grain salad. Then, bake the flatbreads (add on an extra minute or two of cooking time if baking from frozen). Before family arrives, be sure to remove the lamb from the fridge. It should be at room temperature for one hour before cooking.

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