Osso buco is fall-off-the-bone tender and full of flavor from the wine, vegetables and the fresh herbs. Slow braised, melt-in your mouth veal shanks or beef shanks could not be easier to make and are elegant to serve for special occasions but also the kind of slow food I love to make for Sunday dinner with the family! This is a perfect make-ahead dish because the flavor is even better the next day. That means Osso buco can be cooked ahead and stored up to 3 days in the refrigerator, and reheated taking the stress off of hosting family dinner or a dinner party.
What is Osso Buco?
Osso buco is an Italian dish of veal shank braised until literally fall off the bone tender in a white wine sauce. The phrase osso buco appropriately means “bone with a hole”when translated, referencing the whole at the centre of the shank. The flavoursome fat and connective tissue means that long, slow braise time is needed in order to become tender- but it’s so worth it! Traditionally, this recipe doesn’t include tomatoes but I added them in for a richer sauce - but you really don’t have to to make a ‘white’ osso buco which is flavorful and a little lighter and aromatic still
Osso Buco Recipe Ingredients
- PANCETTA/BACON: Not only does the pancetta or bacon add some tasty texture to the stew but it adds so much flavor to it too. If you prefer to skip it no problem just make sure to add 1-2 tablespoons oil for browning the shanks and the veggies.
- FLOUR: This is for dredging the veal shanks or sprinkling it over them to give them a nice coating before they are seared. This is optional but this thin, even coating of flour prevents the food from sticking to the pan and also promotes browning. It also serves as a buffer between the heat and meat so that it doesn’t dry out
- VEAL SHANKS: Approx 2-3” inch thick pieces cut bone-in. You will need approx 3 lbs or 4-6 pieces. Osso Buco is from a beef shank or veal which is a cross-cut of meat that comes from the lower leg of the cow. Osso Busso also contains a bone with marrow in the center. The bone marrow is edible and delicious after it’s been cooked. To prevent shanks from curling during cooking, peel off the fatty skin and consider tying the beef with twine for stability. This is optional and not needed to cook the shanks - more for presentation. I usually leave it on.
- ONIONS, CARROTS & CELERY: The veggie classic combo for stew base. I use yellow onion but feel free to use shallots or white onion.
- GARLIC: Adds really nice flavour to the stew - feel free to use as many cloves garlic you prefer.
- CRUSHED TOMATO: Adds richness to the stew - technically they are optional. If you prefer a ‘white Osso Buco’ as it is called without tomatoes feel free to omit the crushed tomatoes. If you want a deeper richer tomato based sauce you can add a couple of tablespoons of tomato paste.
- WINE: Feel free to use any wine you enjoy drinking. You can use a dry white wine as typically used in osso buco or drier red wine like Pinot Noir or a Cabernet Sauvignon works too. If you need to be alcohol-free, you can switch it out for sodium free chicken stock.
- CHICKEN BROTH: I use low sodium chicken broth or veal stock or beef broth to control amount of salt in dish. Along with the wine this is what the shanks braise in.
- HERBS & SPICES: I use a blend of fresh thyme, fresh rosemary plus some salt and pepper. Simple but delicious combo. Feel free to make a herb bundle with kitchen twine if you want to keep herbs together then they are easier to discard after or leave them as is and pick out the stems after. If you would like to add a bay leaf or two for extra flavour that is fine too
How to Make Osso Buco
You’ll find the full, step-by-step recipe instructions below — but here’s a brief overview of what you can expect when you make beef short shanks:
- Season the veal shanks and dredge in flour.
- Cook bacon/pancetta and remove with slotted spoon (Or skip the bacon and just heat up 2-3 tablespoons of oil)
- Brown/sear the veal shanks in the bacon fat or oil, then set the shanks aside.
- Cook the mirepoix veggies in the same pot with the aromatics
- Pour in the wine, stock and tomatoes and deglaze
- Return the shanks to the pot.
- Simmer in the oven or stovetop until the shanks are very fork tender, about 1 ½ -2 hours.
- Remove the shanks from braising liquid and simmer liquids stovetop until reduced into a rich sauce
- Serve hot with mashed potatoes, risotto, oven roasted potatoes, parpadelle, or creamy cooked polenta.
Tips For Cooking Osso Buco
Follow these tips, and your braised veal shanks will be perfect. You’ll get moist, flavorful and delicious osso buco every time:
- Remove Meat from fridge for 20-30 minutes before cooking - this will help cook meat more evenly. I usually take the meat out of the fridge while I’m prepping my ingredients. Larger cuts of meat need more time out of the fridge.
- Sear the meat - doing so before braising is so important for building that rich flavor.
- Always deglaze the pot - to release all those brown bits at the bottom of pot that also adds much flavour
- Don’t add too much liquid - you want the meat to braise not boil
- Let the liquid simmer before putting it in the oven - so it can maintain a low simmer in the oven - its like getting a jump start
- Reduce the cooking liquids to create a richer thicker sauce or gravy after the beef shanks are finished cooking and are out of the pan. Feel free to strain the braising liquid and then reduce it over medium-high heat till it gets all glossy and syrupy. Straining is optional.
- Thicken the Sauce: For a thicker sauce, whisk in a cornstarch slurry made from a teaspoon of cornstarch and a couple of teaspoons of cold water.
- Remove the Skin: To prevent shanks from curling during cooking, peel off the fatty skin and consider tying the beef with twine for stability. This is optional and not needed to cook the shanks - more for presentation.
- Do not overcook veal shanks: Veal should reach an internal temperature of 145°F.
Osso Buco Storage, Make Ahead & Freezing
- MAKE AHEAD: The good news is that osso buco can be a make-ahead meal. The shanks are braised until fully cooked, and then cooled in the pan and refrigerated overnight, still in their liquid. The next day, all the solidified fat is scraped off from the top, and the pot is gently reheated over a low simmer. (Feel free to remove shanks from liquids once warm, then simmer liquids until reduced to your liking)
- STORAGE: Refrigerate leftover osso buco in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
- REHEATING: Rewarm veal shanks in a Dutch oven on the stovetop over medium-low heat or in the microwave.
- FREEZING: Freeze shanks and sauce in an airtight, freezer-safe container for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.
More Low And Slow Stews & Recipes Like This One That You Will Love:
- 4 ounces pancetta, or bacon rough chopped (or 2-3 tablespoons olive oil)
- 2½ to 3 pounds veal shanks (4 to 6 pieces 2 to 3 inches thick)
- ¼ cup All Purpose Flour for dusting the meat before browning
- 2 carrots, peeled and diced
- 2 ribs of celery, diced
- 1 medium onion, peeled and diced
- 4 cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed or rough chopped
- 3 to 4 sprigs fresh thyme (or 1 teaspoon dried)
- 1-2 sprigs Rosemary (or ¼-½ teaspoon dried)
- 1 cup dry white wine or red wine
- 1 to 2 cups chicken or veal stock or beef stock
- 1 (14 oz) can of finely diced tomatoes/or crushed tomatoes
- Salt and Black pepper
- Preheat the oven to 325°F.
- Season veal shanks with salt and black pepper generously and dredge or sprinkle with flour to lightly coat, shake off any excess and set aside.
- Heat a heavy bottom pot or Dutch oven on the stove top over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Add pancetta to pan, cook, stirring occasionally until golden and crisp and fat has rendered. Remove from pan with slotted spoon onto plate lined with paper towel. If necessary, drain off all but 2-3 tablespoons of the fat from the pan.
- Increase the heat to medium high and sear and brown the shanks on each side until well browned (about 5 minutes per side). Remove the shanks to a plate, set aside.
- Add the onions, carrots, celery, garlic, thyme and rosemary to Dutch oven. Cook the onion mixture, stirring frequently, until veggies are tender and starting to brown, 5-7 min
- Add the shanks and the pancetta/bacon back to the pan.
- Pour in the wine and the crushed tomatoes if using and then add enough stock to come a little more than halfway up the sides of the shanks.
- Bring to a simmer. Stir everything well scraping and releasing any brown bits from the bottom of pan.
- Cover the pan and put it in the preheated oven to cook until the meat is tender, about 1 to 1½ hours. Test for doneness by poking the meat with a fork. The meat should be falling apart and tender. Veal should reach an internal temperature of 145°F. Do not overcook.
- Return the pan back to the stovetop and set it over medium-high heat. Remove the beef shanks and set aside on a plate. Cook the sauce for 5-10 minutes, or until reduced and thickened to your liking.
- Pour the sauce over the beef shanks.
- Garnish with fresh chopped parsley and serve.
- Can I make osso buco in the slow cooker? Yes, simply follow steps up til you have to transfer pot to oven - instead transfer everything to the slow cooker and cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours or until meat is fall off the bone tender.
- When it comes to stews and braised meats like this there are a lot of factors that could affect cooking time so please allow yourself an extra hour or so of variance when braising meat. The thickness and diameter of meat varies, how much connective tissue and fat there is in each piece could vary, the freshness of the meat could also affect cooking time too. I have bought fresh veal shanks from the butcher and they cooked beautifully in 1½ hours but I have made osso buco with organic veal shanks that were frozen and sealed well that took almost 3 hours to cook. So expect some variation when braising cuts of meat like this. It is very normal.