Osso Buco is one of my favourite cuts of meat and the dish I tend to make from it is a sure-fire winner every time with my family. This one-pot wonder, is super-easy to prepare even for the beginner and is very rewarding. By cooking slowly in a rich tomato sauce the meat becomes tender while the sauce takes on a rich meaty more-ish-ness, and, it is just as suitable in summer as in winter. It works wonderfully with a fresh green salad.
OSSO – BUCO – RAGÙ sounds like the countdown to a race ‘three – two – one…’, but Osso Buco is simply the Italian for hollow bone (literally ‘bone hole’). When cooked properly the meat is tender and succulent, with the marrow an additional treat. Happy eaters will leave just the licked clean bones on their plate.
The traditional cut of osso buco is a section of veal shin with one or two rings of bone like the ones shown above. You can also find pork osso buco at the meat counter, which is very good too, and a little cheaper, and will still make a truly hearty, if not quintessentially classic, dish. I would recommend you try the veal at least once.
I have tried cooking pork and veal osso buco several ways, but the method I have found easiest and most successful is to cook them in a rich tomato sauce with onions, carrots and celery: essentially a ragù.
Osso buco should be cut thick: at least one inch, but preferably closer to two inches. If you can order it from your butcher ask for the thicker cut.
VERSION 1 – veal osso buco ragù
Prep time: 20 minutes, Cooking time: 2 hours
With osso buco you want each serving to include some bone. Here I cooked enough for two people. This is perfect as a main meal.
TIP: if you want to serve the meat as a whole piece then tie up each joint up with string in a parcel. At the end you can carefully lift it out and serve it on top of the ragù. Personally, I like it to fall apart somewhat, so that the resulting ragù stew has chunks of meat distributed throughout.
- One ring of ossu buco per person (depending on size of ring, and of person!)
- Animal fat, e.g. ghee, lard, dripping, lamb fat, duck fat or goose fat. 1-2 tablespoons
- One medium onion per person (approx)
- One medium carrot per person
- One stick of celery per person
- One jar of tomato passata
- One jar of bone broth (see my recipe) – optional
- 1-2 tablespoons tomato puree – optional
- Salt and pepper
- Chose a pan with a big base, so you have room to place al the meat rounds for the searing stage but if you don’t have a large enough pan, do the meat in batches,
- Melt plenty of fat (ghee, lard or dripping etc) in this large pan on medium heat.
- Add the chopped onions. The more, the better, stirring for 5 mins, until translucent.
- Sprinkle salt and pepper on both sides of each piece of meat then add to the pan, laying them flat over the base and brown on both sides, shoving the onion out of the way.
- Add 2-4 sticks of celery, chopped quite small.
- Add 2-4 medium carrots, either whole, if small, or cut into rounds, or batons. (You chose).
- Shift everything around every few minutes so as to prevent burning and to ensure even cooking of the vegetables.
- After about 15 minutes, add a jar of organic tomato passata, or a jar of home made bone broth, (or half and half, depending on the number of meat portions and diners. I sometimes add a couple of spoonfuls of tomato puree too).
- Simmer, with a lid on, for half an hour. Check seasoning, add a little more salt/pepper if needed. Replace the lid and cook for a further hour or so, at a low simmer on the hob, or if your pan is suitable, pop it in the oven (lid on) at about 140 C, for an hour or so, just checking that nothing is burning every so often. I am pretty lax about timing, (sometimes too lax, and have burnt things), but it all depends on quantity, temperature and whether you like your meat to melt in the mouth. So check and when it is ready call everyone to the table.
Osso buco can be served as a meal in itself, or with accompanying vegetables. Just make sure each person gets a pice of bone, with its marrow, and pieces of meat which may well have become separated from the bone, unless you have employed the clever ruse of tying cooks’ string round each piece of ossu buco, to keep it together, which can be removed just before serving. Posh Italian restaurants do it this way so the meat is presented as a single piece sitting atop the ragù. Impressive, no doubt, but too much faff for me!
I served this rich meaty dish with simple steamed cauliflower and rings of grilled sweet pepper. A side of buttered grain-free almond bread helped mop up the juices, which is more seemly than just using one’s tongue.
TIP — Put a couple of chopsticks on the table for poking out the delicious marrow from the narrow bones (unless you are fortunate enough to have some Victorian marrow spoons which were designed specifically for the job). Getting the marrow out is one of the treats of the meal, so, like a good boy scout – be prepared!
VERSION 2 – pork osso buco ragù (serves 4)
Prep time: 15 minutes, Cooking time: 1-2 hours
The recipe is the same as for the veal recipe above.
It went down a treat! Smiles all round.