Osso Buco

When the autumn days get shorter and cooler, there’s really nothing I like as much as settling into my kitchen and cranking up the oven for a little braising.  There are so many semi-obscure cuts of meat, many of them inexpensive, that are transformed into fall-apart-on-your-tongue deliciousness with slow cooking in a yummy liquid up to their proverbial armpits, if you see what I mean. Among my favorites are lamb shanks, pot roast, short ribs, brisket…well, the list goes on and on.  Today, however, I’m tackling Osso Buco, an Italian favorite that means, literally, “pierced bone” and refers to the cross-cut bone-in veal shanks that are the meat of choice for this dish.  Because the bone marrow is so collagen rich, it provides a gelatin-like thickening agent during the slow cooking that results in a flavorful, velvety smooth sauce.

There are lots of fiddly, complex recipes for this about, but I’ve created an easy one that captures the essence of the original with minimal effort. Don’t forget to make the spritely gremolata to sprinkle over it before serving and the traditional accompaniment of gorgeous, golden saffron enriched risotto Milanese, recipes for both of which are included below.  

To serve, put risotto on each plate and next to it put a heaping serving of osso buco generously sprinkled with gremolata. 

Mangia! Mangia!

Osso Buco
Serves 8

8 cross-cut veal shanks
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 cup all purpose flour
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 ½ cups dry white wine
1 bay leaf
4 sprigs fresh thyme
I medium onion, finely chopped
2 medium carrots, finely chopped
2 celery ribs, finely chopped
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 28-ounce can San Marzano tomatoes, diced
1 cup chicken broth

Put a rack in the middle of an oven and preheat to 325 degrees

Pat veal shanks dry and dredge them in the flour mixed with the salt and pepper. 

Heat the butter and 2 tablespoons oil in a 7 – 9 quart heavy ovenproof pot large enough to hold the shanks in one layer. Add the shanks, four at a time, and cook turning once until well browned about 12 minutes.  Transfer to a plate and cook the remaining shanks in the same manner.

Add 2 tablespoons more olive oil and add onion, carrots, celery and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally until softened, about 8 minutes.  Stir in wine to deglaze pan and stirring constantly, reduce to about ½ cup, about 10 minutes.  Add tomatoes, bay leaf, fresh thyme, remaining salt and pepper.  Add shanks along with any juices accumulated on plate and enough stock to reach three quarters of the way up the sides of the shanks and bring to a simmer.

Cover pot and transfer to the oven and braise shanks until very tender about 2 ½ hours.

With a slotted spoon, transfer shanks to a plate and cover loosely with foil.  Pour braising liquid through a large fine-mesh sieve.  Discard solids and return sauce to the pan with the veal shanks.  Add salt and pepper to taste and put back in the oven, uncovered for 20 minutes. Serve.


Combine the following in a small bowl and refrigerate until time to serve the osso buco:

¼ cup fresh flat leaf parsley, minced
1 tablespoon lemon zest, finely grated
2 glovesgarlic, minced  

Risotto Milanese.:

1 lb mushrooms
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 ½ cups Arborio rice
¼ cup Marsala wine
4 cups chicken stock, heated in saucepan
Pinch of saffron
¼ cup Parmesan cheese, shredded 

Sauté the mushrooms in 2 tablespoons butter and set aside.

In the same pan, melt 2 tablespoons of butter; add the onion and sauté until golden.  Add the rice and stir over medium heat until the rice becomes opaque, about three minutes.  Add the Marsala and simmer until the wine has evaporated.

Add the chicken stock in half cup dollops stirring constantly.  When the rice has absorbed it, continue to add the stock in the same fashion until all of the stock is used and the rice is al dente.  This should take about 25 minutes. Toward the end of the cooking time, add the saffron dissolved in a little additional stock or water, and stir well to combine.

When the rice is done (it should be creamy and not dry), stir in the reserved mushrooms and parmesan cheese. Serve.