Saturday, March 13, 2010

Osso Buco

March 2010 276

It seems like another lifetime ago when I was only 22 years old and was meeting my mother’s sisters and brothers in Italy for the first time. Each day my aunts and uncles invited me to lunch or dinner and feted me with their finest dishes. This is what my Aunt Ave prepared for me and it’s been one of my favorite recipes since that day decades ago when I first ate it in her home. Aunt Ave never cooks anymore since she’s nearly 95 years old and lives in a nursing home. But every time I make this dish, I think of her and the spunky lady who lovingly prepared this meal for her American niece.

Many recipes for osso buco call for tomatoes, but I prefer a browner-type sauce like the one my aunt made. I do add a bit of tomato paste, but not enough to turn it into a red sauce, just enough to add some richness. Aunt Ave also included porcini mushrooms, which is not typically in an osso buco recipe, but I think they’re a terrific addition. Many people strain the vegetables and serve it with a smooth sauce, but I like the rustic bits of carrots and mushrooms floating on the plate.

The dish is traditionally served over risotto alla Milanese. While it’s great with risotto, it’s also delicious with polenta or mashed potatoes.  I served it with polenta made in a slow cooker, believe it or not.  Just pour everything into the pot, place the lid on top and press the button. Two or three hours later, you come back to creamy, soft polenta. I found the recipe in Michele Scicolone’s new cookbook, “The Italian Slow Cooker,” which I highly recommend. I’m looking forward to trying some of the other recipes in the book too.

Gremolata, (sometimes spelled gremolada) a mixture of parsley, garlic and lemon peel, is the classic accompaniment to osso buco. Some people (including my husband) find it unnecessary to introduce a garlicky-citrus component to a dish that’s already loaded with flavor. If gremolata makes your boat float, great. If not, leave it out. It’s delicious either way.

Start out with veal shanks. In case you weren’t aware, osso means bone in Italian, and buco means hole. It should be obvious why this dish is called osso buco. Normally my recipes are for smaller portions, but the amount in the recipe below is for 12 pieces since I made it for a recent dinner party. You can reduce the amount of ingredients according to your needs. It’s not like baking a cake where you have to be exact. If you add a little more or less of one or another ingredient, you’ll still get a delicious result.

Some people braise the meat in the oven. I usually cook mine on top of the stove, but either method works fine as long as you remember to brown the meat first on the stove top with a little dusting of flour.

March 2010 203 Here’s what it looks like right after it starts braising in the pan:

March 2010 205

And here’s what the gremolata looks like:March 2010 284 And here’s the finished osso buco:

March 2010 280

Osso Buco

printable recipe here

for 12 veal shanks (about 7.5 pounds)

Printable Recipe Here

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/2 cup chopped onions

1/2 cup chopped celery

1 c. chopped carrots

8 cloves garlic

1 cup dried porcini mushrooms (@40 grams)

flour, salt and pepper to dredge meat

more olive oil to saute meat, as required

1 1/2 c. white wine

liquid from the porcini mushrooms

1 cup beef  broth, and more if needed

1 T. tomato paste

4 bay leaves

1 sprig of rosemary

a few sprigs of thyme

rind from one lemon, grated finely

Soak the porcini mushrooms in room temperature water for at least 15 minutes.

Saute the onions, celery and carrots in the olive oil until limp. Add the garlic and saute until softened, then remove the vegetables and set aside. Pour more olive oil into the pan and dredge the meat with flour and season with salt and pepper. Brown the meat in the skillet on both sides, using more olive oil as needed. Then add the wine and the sauteed vegetables that have been set aside. Strain the liquid from the porcini mushrooms to remove any bits of sediment, and add it to the pan, along with the broth, the tomato paste, bay leaves, rosemary, thyme and lemon peel. With the lid on the pan slightly ajar, cook the meat at a simmer for about two hours or until the meat is fork tender and liquid has thickened a bit. If the liquid starts to evaporate too much, add more broth as needed.

Optional, serve with a spoonful of gremolata.


The amounts are all very loose and you can add more garlic or parsley or lemon peel, depending on your taste.

handful of parsley (about 1/2 cup)

3 garlic cloves, smashed with a broad knife

rind from 1 lemon

Place the parsley, garlic and lemon rind on a cutting board. Using a chef’s knife, chop everything together until it becomes a fine mince. Sprinkle a little over the osso buco, if desired.


  1. This looks sooo good Linda! It's a fave of mine. I like your choice of polenta instead of risotto and I'd bet your dinner guests cleared their plates!

  2. Your osso buco looks just amazing. I love the rustic bits of carrots and mushrooms also.

    Great tip to use a slow cooker for the polenta. This would make a great Sunday dinner.

  3. Linda this looks so wonderful!
    It would be perfect for this stormy rainy day today...pure comfort...
    Those shanks are gorgeous as well...
    how many people get excited about looking at raw piece of meat before 9:00am on a Saturday morning! LOL

    I am going to try the polenta in the slow fact i think I will order the book.

    Gorgeous post!

  4. That's some party you had!
    Beautiful photographs.
    I love orange zest in mine (Mario Batali's recipe) and no shrooms.
    I love it on polenta too!
    Delicious! The perfect dinner party meal!

  5. It's cloudy and cold outside and this looks like the perfect meal. I haven't cooked polenta in the crock pot before, but that's a great idea.

  6. linda those are some of the best beef shanks I have ever seen - this dish looks so delicious I would love to have a plate of that for my breakfast.

  7. i would have to try making this sometime...

  8. If my husband sees Osso Buco on a restaurant menu, he orders it. I love making it. I'm with you on the tomato paste, completely. I love a rich sauce. Linda, you had me intrigued on the slow cooker polenta. Would you mind sharing the measurements? Or is it just the stovetop measurements but you plug it into a slower cooker? (sorry if I sound dumb). I love polenta and the slow cooker idea intrigues me.
    Terrific recipe, and great photos.
    We are expecting 70 degree heat all week long, but once the rains return... it's braising time again!

  9. This is certainly one of the best recipes for Osso Buco that I have seen in recent memory. I'm with Linda. I too get excited about seeing 12 raw veal shanks early in the morning! Great job Linda!

  10. This is one of my all time favourite dishes. I think if I had a favourite meat dish, this would definitely be at the top position. I love the sound of adding porcini to it.

  11. I've been sick all week, but I'm suddenly getting my appetite back looking at this feast! The sauce looks yummy!

  12. I've just been thinking I need to make Osso Buco before spring truly arrives - and here you are - telepathic timing. Stunning photos - definitely love it rustic - more taste spurts! Now to find my slow cooker and experiement with polenta!

  13. Beautiful, I'm in love with this dish!
    Thanks for sharing!

  14. cugina lucia
    ciao linda ti sei ricordata gli ossi buchi di zia ave veramente deliziosi li cucinava anche con i piselli

  15. Grandmothers' recipes are always so compelling. I love the addition of the porcini mushrooms and I'm impressed because I doubt my grandmother even knew what those were even though she was a great cook. Interesting to think about what was available in Italy as opposed to here in America in that time period. Whole foods wasn't around back then with the huge array of ingredients it has. Wonder what my grandmother would have made with all that! Yours seems to have come up with something fabulous. Thanks for the great post and recipe.

  16. The gremolata looks like an amazing finish to such an amazing dish!

  17. love it Linda! one of my favorite dishes... add porcini and it goes to the next level for me.:)

  18. My favorite meal ever! In fact, my whole family love osso buco. Yours look so silky and delicious Linda!

  19. This is my absolute FAVORITE. Those shanks you used are simply beautiful, but let me tell you in North Carolina they are NOT easy to find, and they certainly are not inexpensive. BUT whenever I do find some that look good, I buy them. Hang the cost. I love the marrow the best, like my grandmother did. Father and husb are not so fond of it, but then I get it alllll!! I love the gremolata, and the way I learned it actually includes ORANGE rind as well. It's lovely, I think. MMMM wish I had some now.

  20. This is my hubby's favourite winter dish! I think I'll have to ditch my own recipe for yours - it looks heaps better! Your Aunt would be proud of you.

  21. I just ordered a slow cooker from Amazon UK. Looks like I have a recipe. You know, assuming it arrives and all. ;)

  22. I just ordered a slow cooker from Amazon UK. Looks like I have a recipe. You know, assuming it arrives and all. ;)

  23. wow...this sounds amazing!!

  24. Lovely osso buco! Your comment is interesting about the gremolata because we were never brought up with it yet nowdays it is said to be essential to osso buco. I agree with you that it is not essential though I do like it. The polenta in the slow cooker? Fantastic idea. Saves stirring at the stove at the last minute (hour)! I must try it.

  25. Linda, no surprise that you would pull Osso Buco off with panache. I will take my serving with Gremolata...balances the richness of the meat for me.

  26. Oh really know how to spread the love through osso buco, your the best!

  27. Mi piace molto questa tua versione e poi le foto fanno venire una fame!

  28. That osso buco looks nice and tender and oh so good!

  29. Osso Buco is my husband's favorite dish! He likes it with risotto but he's also a big fan of polenta. I never thought to cook polenta in a slow cooker! That sounds like a wonderful cook book..putting it on my amazon wish list next! Thanks!