Ossobuco requires time.
Ossobuco, a sliced veal shank, is one of the typical cuts of the Italian cucina povera, cheap but highly rewarding and satisfying if treated with care. The most famous ossobuco recipe comes from Milan. They braise the ossobuco in bianco, without tomato sauce, with onions, white wine, and beef stock, and serve it sprinkled with gremolata, a condiment made of finely minced lemon zest, garlic, and parsley, with saffron risotto.
In Tuscany, we braise it in tomato sauce, with a generous base of battuto – minced vegetables such as onion, carrot, and celery. Serve it with a spoonful of soft polenta, some boiled potatoes, or only a loaf of bread, which will serve both to mop the sauce on the plate and to spread the marrow on it.
Scooping the marrow from the bone and smearing it on a toasted slice of bread is my favourite part of the ossobuco eating experience, and this is probably the reason I had to learn how to cook them properly.
How to cook the braised veal shank
I’ve always been intimidated by ossobuco because I thought it wasn’t easy to cook them and have soft, tender meat. But the secret is still the same, be patient, cook the ossobuco over a gentle heat for at least an hour and a half. The other trick is to cut the skin surrounding the meat, or remove it completely, to prevent it from curling during cooking.
Last note, the size of the pan. The veal shanks need space in the pan to cook evenly. You can brown them one after the other initially, but then they need space when it comes to braising, with the tomatoes and the minced vegetables. I usually cook just two veal shanks, on for Tommaso and one for me. But when I had friends over for lunch, I have always preferred to cook them in two different pans simultaneously. I felt like a bit of a juggler, but I managed to cook the ossobuco to perfection.
Ossobuco alla Fiorentina. Braised veal shank
Recipe developed in collaboration with Cecchi
The history of the Cecchi family began in 1893 with Luigi Cecchi, an extremely talented wine taster. The Cecchi soon became famous abroad for their skills. In the 1970s they moved to Castellina in Chianti, in the area historically renowned for the production of Chianti Classico, and there they began their winemaking adventure. In the following years, they expanded their production areas to include San Gimignano, where they produce a renowned local white wine, Vernaccia, and Maremma.
The wine we have chosen for today’s recipe is a historic Cecchi label, the Scudi Chianti, which represents the company’s Tuscan roots. It is a wine with intense and persistent aromas, soft and balanced on the palate. It complements well red meats and cheeses. As this wine is so rooted in this territory, we have paired it with an equally local dish, ossobuco alla Fiorentina, a braised veal shank.
Ossobuco alla Fiorentina. Braised veal shank with tomato sauce
- 2 veal shanks, about 300 g /10 oz each
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1 golden onion
- 1 carrot
- 1 celery stalk
- extra virgin olive oil
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 400 g (3/4 lb) peeled tomatoes
- 2 cups lukewarm water
- Fresh thyme
- Remove the skin around the veal shanks and pound the meat to soften it. Lightly flour the veal shanks. Thinly slice the onion and dice the carrot and the celery.
- Choose a large frying pan where the two veal shanks can comfortably fit. Pour a few tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil into the pan, heat it up, and then fry the veal shanks for 5 minutes on each side, or until golden brown.
- Move the veal shanks to a plate, pour two more tablespoons of olive oil into the pan and add the finely sliced onion and diced celery and carrot.
- Sauté the onion, the celery, and carrot over a low heat.
- When the onion is soft, and the other vegetables are nicely browned, add the veal shanks. Pour the dry white wine and reduce it. It will take about 10 minutes.
- Add the peeled tomatoes, crushed by hand, and the warm water.
- Adjust the salt - do not overdo it because the cooking liquid will reduce, and the veal shanks may then be too salty.
- Cook the veal shanks over a low heat for about an hour and a half. Check from time to time to prevent them from sticking. If the sauce is reducing too quickly, add more hot water.
- Sprinkle the veal shanks with fresh thyme, and serve them with toasted bread, on which you can spread the marrow.
Serve the braised veal shank with…
Let’s pretend we are sitting at a communal table in a Florentine trattoria, one of those long marble tables with yellow paper placemats and a menu written on a typewriter. For the first course, we will go for a trattoria classic, penne strascicate, then we’ll have ossobuco – and make sure we have a basket full of bread – and maybe we will order the sautéed spinach as a side dish. We will close the meal with a slice of torta della nonna, an espresso, and then off to explore the city, as we once used to do, as I hope we will soon do again.
- Penne strascicate. Cook the penne very al dente, drain them, leaving aside some of the cooking water and toss them in a pan with the meat sauce, a few tablespoons of olive oil, a handful of grated Parmigiano Reggiano and some pasta water. This is when you have to strascicare the penne, which means to drag them in the pan, toss them, so that they finish cooking in the sauce, absorbing the flavour.
- Torta della nonna. A typical cake you can find in bakeries and pastry shops, a crisp shell of short pastry with a thick filling of lemony scented custard, everything topped with a generous handful of pine nuts, or almond fillets sometimes.
- On The Spruce Eats, you can find a classic recipe for Braised veal shank, alla Milanese.
- Here more details on how to make gremolata.
- How to cook the perfect ossobuco, according to Felicity Cloake
- Here Anna del Conte’s recipe to make ossobuco alla milanese