Ossobuco is Italian for bone hole: osso = bone, buco = hole. What they are talking about is the hole in the middle of bone where the marrow is, the marrow being important to the dish. The bone they are talking about is the leg bone or shank of, most commonly, a veal or, less frequently, of lamb. The dish comes from Milan, which is the capital of Lombardy. So the full title is ossobuco alla milanese. In America, ossobuco is frequently spelled osso bucco or osso buco, and all three spellings work. But if you go to Italy, order it ossobuco alla milanese.
This dish is braised, which means it is cooked covered in liquid for long a long period of time. This dish is just as much about the sauce as it is the meat that it’s cooking. The osso bucco recipe that I have used for this article is very similar to a traditional ossobuco recipe. The sauce comes out tasting predominately of veal and tomato. The meat is so incredibly tender that it falls apart, making it easier to eat each bite drenched in sauce. So amazing. I hope you enjoy making and eating this as much as I did.
- 4 pounds veal shanks
- ½ cup minced celery
- 1 cup onion, minced
- 1 carrot, sliced
- 9 sprigs thyme
- 2 cups tomato chunks and sauce
- 2 cups chardonnay
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 4 cloves garlic
- Black pepper
- Olive oil
- Lemon zest
Ossobuco alla Milanese Recipe: (Veal Shanks by Milan) Braised in Stock, Wine, Tomato, Vegetables and Herbs
- Purchase some veal shanks. Veal shanks come in two sizes—1 pounders and 2 pounders. I think I would have preferred the smaller one-pound shanks, but they only had a couple available and I needed four of them. So I got two of the two-pound shanks instead. Liberally season the shanks with salt and pepper. Heat up your braising pan or dutch oven on medium-high heat. Cover the bottom of the pan with olive oil and wait for it to start smoking.
- Add the shanks to the pan when the oil is smoking. Watch carefully for that moment when the oil just begins to smoke. It can be hard to spot sometimes. Add the seasoned lamb shanks to the pan at that moment. Let them brown for 6‒7 minutes per side until they get as brown as the ones in the picture to the right. One thing I wish I would have done to the shanks after seasoning them was to tie them with twine so they didn’t fall apart. But it’s not a huge deal. Preheat the oven to 375ºF and continue.
- Take the shanks out of the pan and cook the vegetables. Remove the shanks to a plate and add the mix of carrots, onions, celery, thyme, and garlic to the pan. Use your wooden spoon to sauté the veggies for 3-4 minutes until they begin to soften and the onions become translucent. The thyme should become extremely fragrant as you sauté it. Do you hear little crackling noises? That is the sound of the thyme leaves popping like popcorn, releasing little wafts of aroma.
- Add the liquid to the braising pan. The liquid is a mixture of equal parts canned fire-roasted tomatoes, chardonnay, and chicken stock. Make sure to include the liquid the tomatoes came packed in. That is the good stuff. The reason I went with fire-roasted tomatoes is because the tomatoes’ meat is always so dark and they don’t have skin. Plus they taste really good. The chardonnay I used was a good one since I drank what was left in the bottle.
- Put the veal shanks back into the pan. Turn the heat up on the pan to get it boiling. Once that happens, turn off the heat and put the shanks back into the pan. Put the lid on the pan and put it in the oven for 1½ hours. Then take them out of the oven and flip them over. Put them back in the oven for 1 more hour. Then take them out and turn off the oven. Take the lid off and let the shanks rest in the liquid for 15 minutes. Then take them out and serve them with lots of sauce and some lemon zest.
Tips & Tricks
- To keep the veal shank together, wrap it with butcher’s twine.
- Veal shanks are cut into cross sections since a whole veal shank wouldn’t fit in your braising pan. This cut also lets all that marrow out.
- Use a wine that you would drink yourself since you won’t be using the whole bottle.
- This dish is also about the sauce, so use quality ingredients and cut your veggies small.