Braised Veal Shanks, Milanese Style

Ossobuchi alla Milanese

As is the case with many classic recipes, apart from certain undisputed essential elements, there are often several interpretations. For example, tomatoes were not introduced in this recipe until the end of the eighteenth century. Some people still make it without tomatoes, but I like the richer, rounder flavor tomatoes give, particularly when accompanied in the classic style with saffron risotto. This recipe is similar to the one my mother makes. Traditionally, a mixture of garlic, lemon, and parsley, called gremolada, is added at the end. It adds a distinctive flavor and is optional.

Preparation time: 25 minutes
Total time from start to finish: hours


  • ½ small yellow onion
  • 1 medium carrot
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 veal shank slices, about 1 pound each
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 small clove garlic, plus ½ for the optional gremolada
  • 1 to 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • ¼ cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup canned whole peeled tomatoes with their juice
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 sprigs flat-leaf Italian parsley, plus 3 to 4 sprigs for the optional gremolada
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest for the optional gremolada


  1. Peel and finely chop the onion. Peel the carrot and cut into ¼-inch dice.
  2. Put the butter and vegetable oil in a braising pan large enough to accommodate the veal shanks in a single layer. Place the pan over medium-high heat.
  3. Put the flour on a small plate. Pat the veal shanks dry with a paper towel, then coat them on both sides with the flour, shaking off the excess. When the oil in the pan is hot, put in the veal shanks and brown them on both sides. Remove them from the pan and season with salt and pepper.
  4. Pour off any oil remaining in the pan. Lower the heat to medium-low and add the onion and carrot. Sauté, stirring, until they begin to brown, about 5 minutes.
  5. While the vegetables are sautéing, peel and finely chop the small clove of garlic and remove enough thyme leaves from the stem to measure ½ teaspoon. When the onion and carrot are ready, add the garlic and thyme. Sauté for 30 seconds, then add the wine. Let the wine boil for about 30 seconds to let the alcohol evaporate. Add the tomatoes, season with salt and pepper, and break up the tomatoes with a wooden spoon. Once the tomatoes begin bubbling, lower the heat so that they simmer gently. Add the bay leaves and 2 parsley sprigs and return the veal to the pan. Cover with the lid slightly askew and cook, turning the veal about every 20 minutes, until the meat is very tender, about 2 hours. If all the liquid evaporates before the meat is done, add a little water. If the meat is tender and the sauce is still rather liquidy, uncover the pan, raise the heat, and cook until the sauce reduces and coats the meat. Serve at once.
  6. For the optional gremolada, finely chop enough of the parsley leaves to measure 1 tablespoon. Finely chop the ½ clove of garlic. Mix the parsley, garlic, and lemon zest together in a small bowl, then add to the pot with the shanks. Cook for another 2 minutes, turning the shanks to distribute the gremolada, and serve.


Like most braised meat dishes, the veal shanks will keep well for 2 to 3 days in the refrigerator. To reheat, add a couple tablespoons water, cover, and place over medium-low heat.