Meltingly tender meat? Check. A rich, tomatoey sauce? Check. Mountains of mash, herby gremolata and hardly any work in the kitchen at all? Check, check, check! What is this wonderful dish? Beef Shank Osso Buco of course!
What is osso buco?
Originally hailing from Lombardy osso buco (Italian for ‘bone with a hole’) is one of the most famous and beloved Northern Italian recipes. Traditionally, this slow-cooked casserole is made with cross-cut veal shanks.
I usually cook it with much more widely available (and cheaper) beef shanks, which are equally delicious.
The shanks are browned and then cooked very slowly in a rich white wine and tomato sauce with plenty of herbs, transforming this tough cut of meat into a mouth-wateringly tender masterpiece.
What about the hole in the bone?
That’s the delicacy! The bone is full of tasty and nutritious marrow. Not only is it edible, many people think it’s the best part of the whole dish!
How is osso buco served?
Traditionally in the Lombardy region, osso buco is served with risotto or sometimes polenta. South of the Po river where I live, it is commonly served with plenty of creamy mashed potatoes.
As a counterpoint to the fabulously rich sauce, osso buco is also served with a sprinkling of gremolata: diced parsley flavoured with oil, vinegar, citrus and sometimes garlic.
Is it hard to make osso buco?
No! That’s one of the best things about it. Apart from browning the meat and sautéing some vegetables, osso buco basically makes itself. The long slow cooking time in the oven allows the meat to tenderise and all the flavours to concentrate.
That makes it a terrific dish for entertaining as the oven does all the work while you can concentrate on enjoying yourself.
What sort of dish should I cook osso buco in?
You’ll need a large, heavy-based casserole with a lid, ideally one that can be used on the stovetop as well as in the oven. I use an enamelled cast-iron casserole like the one in the photos which works wonderfully. If your casserole dish doesn’t have a lid you can seal the dish tightly with a double layer of tinfoil.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
I don’t drink alcohol, can beef shank osso buco be made without?
Traditionally this is a wine heavy dish, though the long cooking time cooks all the alcohol out. Try mixing 200ml of orange juice with 300ml of water and using it in place of the wine. It will change the flavour profile slightly, but should still be perfectly tasty.
Can I make beef shank osso buco in advance?
Yes! Like all stews and casseroles, osso buco is in fact even tastier when cooked in advance. After the meal is cooked, separate the meat from the sauce, before storing it in the refrigerator. Reheat gently with a splash of water to loosen the sauce.
The beef shanks curl up when I brown them – is this normal?
Absolutely. This hard-working part of the animal is full of sinew and muscle. Don’t worry, it’s perfectly normal. Place the curled sides down into the sauce for best results.
If the curling is very extreme, simply use a sharp pair of scissors to make a couple of snips into the side of the meat, it should then relax a little.
Looking for more italian comfort food?
Beef Shank Osso Bucco Recipe
- 1 Tbsp neutral oil
- 1 Tbsp butter
- 1 Tbsp plain flour
- 4 cross-cut beef or veal shank pieces, ca. 250g (½ lb.) each
- 2 carrots diced
- 2 onions diced
- 2 ribs celery, sliced
- 2-3 cloves of garlic
- 2 Tbsp tomato paste
- 500ml (2 cups) white wine
- 250ml (1 cup) beef stock or broth
- 3-4 sprigs of fresh thyme
- 1 sprig rosemary
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- sea salt and black pepper
for the blood orange gremolata:
- small bunch of fresh parsley, diced
- 1 small blood orange, peeled and finely diced
- zest of 1 lemon, finely grated
- 1 Tbsp white wine vinegar
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- pinch of salt
- mashed potatoes
- PREPARE: Heat the oven to 180°C / 350°F / Gas 4. Melt the butter and oil together in a large, ovenproof casserole dish (it needs to have a lid).
- BROWN THE MEAT: Pat the beef shanks dry with a paper towel, season well with salt and pepper then dust with flour. Brown the beef in the pan for 3-4 minutes on each side, turning once. Depending on the size of your casserole dish you may need to do this in two batches. When the meat has browned, remove it from the dish and set it aside.
- SAUTÉ THE VEGETABLES: Add a splash more oil to the dish, then add the carrots, onions and celery and sauté for 5 minutes until beginning to soften. Add the garlic and tomato paste to the dish and cook a further 2-3 minutes, stirring often.
- ADD THE LIQUIDS: Pour the wine and beef stock into the dish and use a spatula to scrape up all the browned on flavour on the bottom of the dish, stirring to combine. Add the thyme, rosemary, bay leaves and oregano to the dish and bring to a simmer.
- COOK IN THE OVEN: Remove from the heat, return the beef shanks to the dish then cover tightly and cook in the preheated oven for 2 hours until the meat is meltingly tender.
- MAKE THE GREMOLATA: While the beef is cooking, stir together all ingredients for the blood orange gremolata and chill until needed. In the last half hour of cooking time, cook and mash the potatoes and keep warm.
- SERVE: When the osso buco is cooked, divide mashed potatoes between four plates, top with osso buco, the tomato sauce and a spoonful or two of gremolata.
Blood oranges not in season? Use orange or a mixture of orange and lemon instead.
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1 shank
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 571Total Fat: 28gSaturated Fat: 9gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 15gCholesterol: 142mgSodium: 392mgCarbohydrates: 18gFiber: 4gSugar: 7gProtein: 41g
Nutrition information is calculated automatically and isn’t always accurate.
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