This traditional ossobuco recipe is rich, full of flavour and super easy to make at home. Serve on any occasion for the perfect Italian meal.
Traditionally served with bright yellow saffron risotto, these tender slices of veal shanks are braised in a rich broth and topped with a refreshing green sauce.
This popular recipe from northern Italy is incredibly easy to make at home, and it's sure to wow your guests at the dinner table on any special occasion.
If you’re looking for a fancy but easy holiday dinner recipe for Christmas, Thanksgiving, or New Year’s eve, you better plan to serve this ossobuco recipe.
WHAT IS OSSOBUCO?
The term ossobuco comes from Italian, of course. "Osso" means "bone" and "buco" means "hole" so it translates to a bone with the hole.
The name refers to the main ingredient, veal shanks with the bone marrow attached.
The "Ossobuco alla milanese” means Milan-style ossobuco, and it’s the most popular Italian veal shank recipe.
The veal shanks are cut into thick slices, and briefly sautéed in olive oil or butter. Then they’re braised in wine, broth, and herbs.
When you braise meat you cook it slowly in a covered dish with a small amount of liquid. braising only happens when the food is partially submerged in the cooking liquid, the moment you cover the meat in liquid, you’re stewing.
Ossobuco should be braised and not stewed, this allows the meat to absorb all the seasoning and at the same time add richness to the sauce.
The classic ossobuco alla Milanese is topped with gremolata, a zesty Italian herb sauce, and served with the equally famous risotto alla Milanese ( saffron risotto).
There are plenty of other sides that go well with it, and you can find a few ideas at the end of the post.
It doesn't really take much to make this classic Italian ossobuco, you actually need less than 10 ingredients:
Veal leg shanks – approx. 1 ½” thick (3 cm) each. You can use beef shanks if you like, but veal shanks are more tender.
Onion – yellow or white onion.
Extra-virgin olive oil - you can easily substitute it with butter for a richer flavor.
White wine – use good quality white wine if possible.
Broth – use vegetable broth for a delicate note, chicken or beef broth for a stronger flavour.
Fresh herbs – I use a mix of sage and thyme. Rosemary works well too.
Gremolata – use fresh garlic for a more delicate aroma, flat parsley, and lemon zest, better if it comes from organic lemons.
WHAT IS GREMOLATA?
The gremolata is an Italian green sauce made with a mixture of finely minced fresh flat-leaf parsley, lemon zest, and garlic.
The best way to use gremolata is as a topping on ossobuco. The combination of citrus and herbs gives the braised meat a fresh and aromatic note.
Gremolata also goes very well with other meat or fish dishes. It’s great on grilled chicken or fish.
This recipe has been around since at least the eighteenth century and obviously, like all recipes, it is subject to different variations.
Although the traditional recipe doesn’t call for tomatoes (just like the classic Bolognese sauce), recent versions see a little tomato into the mix.
You can add 1 teaspoon of tomato paste, or 1 tablespoon of passata (pureed tomatoes).
Another version calls for extra veggies.
You can add 1 finely chopped carrot and 1 finely chopped celery stalk together with the onion (basically making a soffritto for your ossobuco).
HOW TO COOK ITALIAN OSSOBUCO
The preparation of ossobuco is actually relatively easy. It takes about 10 minutes of active cooking, then the meat slowly cooks until perfection, without much baby-sitting.
- Step 1 – Prepare the meat
- Make small incisions over the outer lining of the meat. This will prevent the slices from curling during the cooking time.
- Step 2 – Dust with flour
- Lightly flour the meat slices on both sides, shaking the flour in excess.
- Step 3 – Brown the onion
- Cook the onion in a large pan with the olive oil, until translucent.
- Step 4 – Brown the meat
- Add in the veal shanks and brown them on both sides.
- Step 5 – Add wine
- Pour in the white wine, and let it evaporate for about 5 minutes, then add in the aromatic herbs.
- Step 6 – Add stock and slow cook
- Pour in enough stock so that the meat is just half-submerged in the liquid. Lower the heat, cover, and cook for about 1½ hours, adding a bit of broth when necessary, to keep the meat moist.
As soon as the meat can easily fall from the bone, the ossobuco is ready.
Just before the meat is ready, prepare the gremolata and pour over the veal shanks when serving.
In Milan, the ossobuco usually comes with a small spoon on the side called “esattore”, for easily extracting the bone marrow.
COOK IT IN THE OVEN
Alternatively, you can cook the ossobuco in the oven. Use an oven-friendly cast iron pot to first brown the meat, then add the broth, wine, and herbs, then transfer the pot to the hot oven.
Cook at 180C (360F) for about an hour, turning the meat halfway through cooking time.
WHAT TO SERVE WITH OSSOBUCO
In Milan, ossobuco is served with risotto alla Milanese of course. It’s the perfect pairing! Creamy saffron-infused risotto goes hand in hand with rich and tender ossobuco.
If you’re not in the mood for risotto, here are a few fantastic alternatives:
- Polenta: A creamy polenta (corn grits) is also ideal. With its smooth consistency and mild taste, it's a great side for braised veal.
- Potatoes: Roasted potatoes or mashed potatoes are a fantastic side.
- Rice: Less laborious than risotto, cooked rice is also a good side dish. I like to add a bit of butter and Parmesan to give it a risotto feeling without all the fuss.
- Bread: Grilled sourdough bread or ciabatta is the most simple side dish. And it allows you to make “scarpetta”, basically you dip the bread in the brothy sauce and wipe the remaining sauce off the plate.
CAN YOU COOK OSSOBUCO THE DAY BEFORE?
You may cook Ossobucco the day before. After you cook it, store it in the fridge, then the next day, bring it to room temperature before very gently re-heating.
To serve, reheat, covered, in preheated oven to 150 C /300 F, for about 30 minutes, adding a little extra broth (or water) to prevent the meat from drying out.
CAN YOU FREEZE COOKED OSSOBUCO?
Yes! Transfer the cooked meat and its juices to an airtight container, and store in the freezer for up to 1 month.
Thaw the meat overnight in the refrigerator, which maintains a food-safe temperature, then reheat as suggested above.
MORE TRADITIONAL ITALIAN RECIPES TO TRY
- Traditional Italian Pasta e Fagioli
- Italian Apple Cake - Torta di Mele
- Classic Italian Pizza Dough
- Italian Tomato Sauce
- Traditional Bolognese Sauce- Beef Ragu'
Ossobuco alla Milanese
- 4 veal shanks 1 ½ inches thick, 9-12 oz each
- 3 tbsp all purpose flour
- 3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil or butter
- ½ white onion finely chopped
- ½ cup white wine (120 ml)
- 2 cups vegetable or beef broth (480 ml)
- sea salt and freshly-cracked black pepper
- 1 garlic clove
- zest of 1 organic lemon
- handful fresh flat-leaf parsley
- Make small incisions over the outer lining of the veal shunks. This will prevent the slices from curling during the cooking time.
- Place the flour in a large bowl or shallow dish, and lightly flour the meat slices on both sides, shaking off the flour in excess.
- Heat the extra-virgin olive oil in a large pot over medium-low heat, add the onion and cook until translucent, stirring often to prevent it from burning.
- Add in the veal shanks and brown them on both sides.
- Turn the heat to medium, pour in the white wine, and let it evaporate, about 3-5 minutes.
- Pour in enough stock so that the meat is just half-submerged in the liquid. Season with sea salt and black pepper to taste. Lower the heat to a minimum, cover, and cook for about 1½ hours, adding a bit of broth when necessary, to keep the meat moist.
- Right before you take the meat off the heat, prepare the gremolata. Finely chop together the garlic with the lemon zest and parsley, and mix all the ingredients together.
- Remove the pot from the heat, top each slice of veal with the prepared gremolata, and serve with risotto alla milanese or your favorite side dish.
The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.