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Italian ossobucco is a delicious winter dish consisting of veal shank, which is allowed to simmer slowly in a rich wine sauce. The most famous version, ossobucco alla milanese, comes from Milan in northern Italy and is served with saffron risotto and gremolata.

What is ossobucco?

Italian ossobucco (pronounce: “OS-soh BOO-koh”) is a delicious winter meat dish. It is made from veal shank, which is allowed to simmer slowly in a rich wine sauce. The bone marrow in the shank gives the dish its characteristic, full flavour.

The most famous version is ossobucco alla Milanese, from Milan in the north of Italy. The Milanese ossobucco is served in an authentic way with saffron risotto (risotto alla Milanese), in which bone marrow is also a key ingredient, meat and rice working together perfectly. Ossobucco is garnished with gremolata – chopped parsley, garlic and lemon zest.

Ossobucco literally means “hollow bones”, an earthy name which makes sense because you are left with hollow bones after eating the bone marrow. Don’t skip this part of the dish or you will miss the tastiest part.

Did you know...

Italians are so fond of the bone marrow in this dish that they do everything they can to ensure that they do not miss a single ounce. They like to sprinkle gremolata in the cavities of the bone – a mixture of lemon zest, parsley and garlic. The combination of marrow and gremolata is delicious and people love to dig a long spoon in the cavity to get all the marrow out; an activity that is called ‘riscuotere le tasse’ (collecting taxes).

How to make ossobucco

A tasty plate of ossobucco starts with the main ingredient, veal. Pieces of veal shank of about five centimetres thick are rolled in flour with salt and pepper and baked until brown in olive oil.

A mixture of small sliced onion, carrot and celery is softly fried. The Italians call this base ‘soffrito’ and use it for all kinds of dishes, from soups to bolognese sauce. For ossobucco, some extras can be added to the soffrito; perhaps a bulb of garlic cut in half, some lemon zest or fresh herbs. Tomatoes are also optional; they are not found in the oldest, eighteenth century recipes, but are often added to the contemporary dish.

The pan is quenched with white wine and the meat can stew for a while, simmering in the broth for a few hours until the meat is meltingly tender.

How to eat ossobucco

As it is not easy to eat the meat from the bone with a knife and fork, you can use your fingers. Make sure you have plenty of napkins because things will get messy.

Please consider

Serve ossobucco in the traditional way: on a bed of golden yellow saffron risotto with a spoon of gremolata (lemon zest, parsley and garlic) over it. Polenta is another good choice as a side dish.

Also try

Another dish in which bone plays an important part is the Vietnamese noodle soup hu tieu. Are you fond of veal? If so, Italians are also justly proud of their vitello tonnato.

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