May 1, 2012 Osso Buco

The finished dish, topped with gremolata and accompanied by risotto Milanese.

The last time I made osso buco was before the freak snowstorm we had last October. Osso buco, a hearty slow-cooked dish, is translated from the Italian, “bone with a hole”. The bone in this case is a cross cut veal shank. Veal shank is cut from the leg and benefits from slow cooking and gives the meat it’s melt in your mouth texture. Veal shanks are pricey. In October the shanks were 10.99 a pound at Wegmans. This time they told me they would have to order them and I wouldn’t be able to get them until next week.  Next stop, Costco where Plume de Veau veal shanks were 7.99 a pound, expensive still, but a relative bargain after Wegmans. With the veal shank you are paying for bone as well as the meat but the bone holds part of the treat, the marrow from the bone that melts into the sauce.

The first time I made osso buco was for a catering job. A gourmet club, a group of doctors wives hired me for their Christmas party.  They were so pleased with my dish that the hostess sent me a note months later saying she had the same dish in a fine restaurant with her son, and she thought mine was better. I chose the recipe because most of the work can be completed ahead of time, leaving more time to complete any side dishes, or as on this day, do a little plant thinning in the garden.

My experience in October 2011 was a bit different. We were without power for twelve hours, Saturday afternoon to very late that evening. The only part of the recipe I had completed were the aromatics, chopped onion, celery and carrots. I just resumed cooking Sunday morning, fearing more blackouts. There were a few, none lasting more than ten minutes, just enough time to reset all the clocks. My version of the recipe is different because of the last step, I take all the diced vegetables and in my case, home roasted tomatoes and peeled Juliet tomatoes and make a smooth sauce to cover the shanks. I also browned my shanks in bacon fat to add another interesting element of flavor. I like to accompany this dish with the customary topping of gremolata and serve it with risotto Milanese.

And “what is gremolata?” you ask. It is a mixture of chopped parsley, garlic and lemon peel, and in Milan, anchovies.

The first step is to brown the veal shanks. Those bones hold a lot of marrow.

The onion, celery and carrots are sauteed in the same pan the shanks were browned in.

The next addition, tomatoes, white wine and a bay leaf.

After 1.5 hours, the shanks are ready to come out.

Osso Buco – my own interpretation


  • 8 pieces of veal shank, 2 inches thick
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • All purpose flour to dust the veal shanks
  • 3-4T bacon fat or olive oil
  • 4c finely diced yellow onion
  • 1 1/2c finely diced celery
  • 1 1/2c finely diced carrot
  • 1t each of dried thyme, oregano and marjoram
  • 1c dry white wine
  • 3T tomato paste
  • 2 28-oz cans Italian plum tomatoes, drain and chopped or I used 2 quart bags of frozen peeled Juliet tomatoes and 1 quart bag of roasted tomatoes
  • 2 fresh bay leaves


  1. Preheat oven to 350F or 325F convection. Season shanks generously with salt and pepper. Place flour in a small bowl.  Dredge the shanks in flour and shake off excess.
  2. Heat fat or oil in a large skillet over medium high heat, add shanks to the pan, do not overcrowd and brown shanks on all surfaces, about six minutes per side. Set aside and repeat with remaining shanks.
  3. Add the onion, celery and carrot to the empty pan, cook this mixture until the onion is translucent, about 8-10 minutes or so. Add the dried herbs, wine, tomato paste,  tomatoes, a teaspoon of salt and a few grinds of pepper. Bring to a boil and simmer for five minutes.
  4. Place shanks in a dutch oven, pour the chunky sauce over shanks-it should come up halfway up the sides, if not, add a little chicken broth and cover with lid. Cook the meat until tender, about 1 1/2 hours. Remove as much of the tomato-vegetable mixture from the pan as possible, it is okay if some clings to the shanks, keep the shanks  in a warm oven. Put the mixture through the medium disk of a food mill to make a rich tomato sauce. Warm sauce over low heat. Spoon the sauce over the shanks.
  5. Garnish the shanks with gremolata and serve with risotto Milanese.

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I love to cook, garden, entertain and celebrate holidays with family and friends in Bucks County Pa. I was an off-premise caterer for over 20 years with events ranging from ten to four hundred guests.

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