Osso buco is a northern Italian dish that’s made with veal shanks that are braised in a wine sauce and served with a mixture of parsley, garlic, and lemon, also known as a gremolata. Traditionally served with risotto Milanese, osso buco is also great served with polenta or mashed potatoes.
Osso buco, or ossobuco, is a special occasion dish that’s traditionally made with veal shanks that are braised a wine and beef or chicken stock sauce until tender and served with risotto Milanese and a gremolata.
The term “osso buco” translates to hole in bone and that’s precisely one of the most important aspects of the dish.
The exposed bone marrow in the shank is meant to be eaten as well, and often will be extracted with a tiny spoon.
While the dish is traditionally made with veal, you can certainly make osso buco with pork, beef, or lamb shanks. Even oxtails will work.
Of note, the sauce used in our braised short rib recipe is strikingly similar to the osso buco sauce used here.
How to make it
Each number corresponds to the numbered written steps below.
- Preheat oven to 325f and set the rack to the middle level. Mince 1 large onion, 3 medium carrots, 3 celery ribs, and 5 cloves of garlic. If you’re making the optional gremolata, mince 1/2 cup of flat-leaf parsley, 1 clove of garlic, and zest 1-2 teaspoons worth of lemon or orange zest. Note: You want the veggies to be minced or diced very small. Depending on your knife skills, you might want to use a food processor.
- If the veal shanks did not come tied by the butcher, use some kitchen twine to tie 4 1-pound shanks to ensure they don’t curl up when cooking. Note: To further prevent the curling, a few thin vertical cuts around the perimeter of the shank will lessen the tendency of the meat to curl.
- Heat a large stainless steel pan to medium heat. Dry the shanks with paper towels and season with salt and pepper on all sides.
- Dredge the shanks in a 1/2 cup of all-purpose flour and shake off the excess. Note: You will not need all of the flour, but you must start with extra to adequately dredge them.
- Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the pan and sear the shanks on both sides until well browned, about 3 minutes per side. Work in batches, if required, to not overcrowd the pan. once seared, set the shanks aside.
- Turn the heat down to medium-low and add 2 tablespoons of butter and the onions, carrot, and celery. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and saute until the veggies are very soft.
- After the veggies have softened, about 10-12 minutes, add the garlic and cook for another 1-2 minutes or until fragrant.
- Add 3 ounces of tomato paste and cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. If the paste looks like it will burn, knock down the heat a bit and/or add 1-2 ounces of water.
- Add 1 1/2 cups of dry white wine and turn the heat up to high.
- Scrape the brown bits off the bottom of the pan and bring to a boil for just 1 minute.
- Reduce the heat to a simmer and add 1 large bay leaf, 3 sprigs of thyme, and 1 sprig of rosemary. Taste test the sauce and season with salt and pepper to taste. Note: Don’t use too much salt at this time as the sauce will reduce and concentrate.
- Pour the sauce into a roasting pan or baking dish and place the veal shanks into the same dish. Pour enough low-sodium chicken stock (about 2 1/2 cups worth, but the exact amount will depend on your baking dish size) into the pan to almost submerge the shanks.
- Cover tightly with foil and bake in the oven for 2 hours, turning the shanks over at the halfway point.
- After 2 hours, remove the foil and continue to cook until the meat is fork-tender but not falling apart, roughly 30-60 more minutes. Also, turn the shanks again at the halfway point.
- Once tender, remove the shanks from the oven and place them onto a platter tented with foil. Remove any excess grease from the sauce with a paper towel, fat separator, bulb baster, or spoon. Remove and discard the herbs. If you find the sauce is too thin, transfer the sauce to a pot and turn the heat to high and simmer until the consistency is perfect. Taste-test the sauce and make any final adjustments to salt and pepper. Serve the osso buco with risotto Milanese, polenta, or mashed potatoes, and top with the optional gremolata. Enjoy!
- To make the gremolata, mix together the minced parsley, garlic, lemon zest, 1-2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, and salt. Taste test and adjust salt and zest, if required.
Top tips for osso buco
- Veal. Osso buco is traditionally made with veal shanks from the shin which typically has a larger bone-to-meat ratio than other cuts. If you prefer to not use veal, the closest cut would be a pork shank, but as mentioned above, you could also use beef or lamb shanks. Be sure to tie the shanks with kitchen twine to prevent them from curling up when searing. To further prevent this, a few thin vertical cuts evenly spaced around the perimeter of the shank will lessen the tendency of the meat to curl up.
- Veggies. The veggies are often minced or cut very small though you 100% do not have to do this. The minced veggies will almost melt during the braising process. If your knife skills aren’t quite up to task, simply pulse the carrots, celery, and onion in a food processor.
- Sauce. We used white wine for our osso buco sauce, and a touch of tomato paste. You could decrease the amount of tomato if you prefer the sauce to be more brown than red.
- Braising. The veal should be braised until very tender but not falling apart. Since all cuts of meat vary in fat composition and size, you may need more or less braising time.
- Bone. The Italian words osso (bone) and buco (hole) describe the defining aspect of this dish. The hole in the bone provides easy access to the marrow and those enjoying osso buco are encouraged to eat the delicious marrow. Remove the marrow with a small spoon and spread it on bread, mix it into the risotto or polenta, or just eat it as is.
- Gremolata. A gremolata is an optional but traditional topping for osso buco. If you don’t want to make the gremolata, you could instead simply grate some orange or lemon zest on top at the end, or not use it at all. It’s up to you, though a sprinkle of lemon zest really takes the dish up to a whole other level!
- Serving. Since osso buco hails from the Lombardia region of Italy of which Milan is the capital, it’s traditionally served with risotto Milanese. You can also serve osso buco with mashed potatoes or creamy polenta.
More hearty recipes with braised meat
In addition to the braised short ribs we mentioned above, we think you’ll love these other braised dishes.
- Peposo – Tuscan beef stew made with red wine and black pepper.
- Braised lamb shanks – with red wine, carrots, celery, onion, and herbs.
- Italian beef stew – also known as spezzatino di manzo.
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- 4 1-pound tied veal shanks about 1 to 1 1/2-inches thick
- 1/2 cup flour for dredging only
- salt and pepper to taste
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 large onion minced
- 3 medium carrots minced
- 3 celery ribs minced
- 5 cloves garlic minced
- 3 ounces tomato paste
- 1 1/2 cups dry white wine
- 1 large bay leaf
- 1 sprig rosemary
- 3 sprigs thyme
- 2 1/2 cups low sodium chicken stock or enough to almost cover the shanks
- 1/2 cup Italian flat-leaf parsley minced
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 1-2 teaspoons lemon zest
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- Preheat oven to 325f and set the rack to the middle level.
- Heat a large stainless steel pan to medium heat. Dry the veal shanks with paper towels and season with salt and pepper on all sides. Dredge in the flour and shake off the excess. Add the olive oil to the pan and sear the shanks on both sides until well browned (about 3 minutes per side). Work in batches, if required, to not overcrowd the pan. Set all of the seared shanks aside.
- Turn the heat down to medium-low and add the butter along with the onions, carrots, and celery. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and saute for about 10-12 minutes or until very soft. Once soft, add the garlic and cook until fragrant (about 2 minutes).
- Next, add the tomato paste and cook for 5 minutes stirring frequently.
- Add the wine and turn the heat to high. Scrape the brown bits off the bottom of the pan and bring to a boil for 1 minute.
- Lower the heat to a simmer and add the bay leaves, thyme, and rosemary. Taste test the sauce and season with a bit of salt and plenty of pepper. Don't use too much salt at this time since the sauce will reduce and concentrate.
- Pour the sauce into a roasting pan or baking dish, then place the veal shanks into the dish as well. Pour enough chicken stock to almost submerge the shanks. Cover very tightly with foil and bake for 2 hours, turning the shanks over at the halfway point. After 2 hours remove the foil. Continue to cook until the meat is fork-tender but not falling apart (around 30-60 more minutes) making sure to again flip the shanks halfway through.
- Once tender, remove the shanks from the oven and place them onto a platter tented with foil. Degrease the sauce with a fat separator, paper towels, bulb baster, or just skim with a spoon. Remove and discard the herbs. To thicken the sauce, transfer to a pot and turn the heat to high, or if satisfied with the sauce's consistency just serve as is. Taste test the sauce and make final adjustments to salt and pepper.
- Serve the osso buco with risotto Milanese, polenta, or mashed potatoes. Top with the gremolata if desired. Enjoy!
For the gremolata (optional)
- Mix together the minced parsley, garlic, orange zest, olive oil, and salt. Taste test and adjust salt and/or orange zest if required.
- Veal shanks for osso buco are typically sold in portion sizes for 1 person and will often weigh around 1 pound. You can ask your butcher to cut the shanks to whatever size you would like, but around 1 pound is a good size.
- Cooking time is a rough estimate. Cook until the veal is very tender. Depending on the fat composition and size of the shank more or less than 3 hours of braising time might be required.
- Serving osso buco the next day is even better if you have the time! The flavors will concentrate and you can remove most of the fat from the sauce. Separate and refrigerate both the shanks and the sauce. The next day, all of the fat will have risen to the top and can be easily spooned off and removed. Reheat both together over medium-low heat or in the oven covered at 350f until hot.
- Leftovers can be refrigerated for up to 3 days and can be frozen for up to 3 months.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.