Osso Buco is one of those kind of fancy things that everyone kinda knows about but no one ever really orders.
How often do you make it past the pasta course at a good Italian restaurant? We usually never do. But if I see osso buco on the menu, I usually make room to order it. How can you not love a slow braised, melt in your mouth beef shank in a beefy, bone marrow-y tomato sauce? Sometimes you even get a little spoon for the bone marrow. It’s usually the best thing on the menu. Osso buco is even often served with pasta, so win-win!
But better yet, you can make it at home in an hour on the instant pot for 1/4 of the cost. It tastes like you slaved in the kitchen for hours. It’s perfect for special occasions but easy enough that you could have it on any given weeknight too.
What is osso buco?
Osso buco is an Italian dish of veal shank braised for a really long time in a white wine bone marrow infused sauce originally from Lombard. The long braise time melts away the connective tissues in the shank and leaves you with melt-in-your-mouth fall apart meat. It tastes amazing because the shank cut is a complex muscle full of connective tissue that just falls apart. Because it’s slow braised on the bone (Osso Buco means bone with a hole), the bone marrow infuses the sauce and gives it an incredible richness and flavor.
Historically, this recipe doesn’t include tomatoes because they’re a new world crop, but these days, pretty much everyone makes it with tomatoes. This version we’re making today takes it up another notch with fresher tasting passata tomato sauce instead of the classic canned tomatoes.
How to make osso buco
- Brown your beef shanks well on both sides. I use the Instant Pot saute setting on high for 2-3 minutes on each side with a splatter shield on top, and honestly it works better than doing it on the stovetop. The high sides of the instant pot mean much less splatter and mess.
- Cook your aromatics. Transfer the beef shank to a plate or something else to catch the juices, then add the aromatics and cook until they are soft and translucent, about 2 minutes.
- Deglaze with wine. Add the wine and scrape all the brown bits off the bottom of the instant pot with a wooden spoon or spatula. Let the wine cook until it is reduced by half, at least 2 minutes.
- Braise. Add the beef shank, passata, and herbs to the instant pot and braise on high for 1 hour. You’ll be rewarded with the most tender, fall-apart meat ever.
Instant pot osso buco
Osso buco is classically a braise-it-all-day affair, but, if there’s one thing the Instant Pot (or any pressure cooker) excels at, it’s crushing braise times for these kinds of dishes. It’s by far the best option, in my opinion. If you don’t have one, you can make this by simmering until soft on the stove – it’ll just take longer, about 4-6 hours. You can also brown the meat and aromatics in an oven proof pan or dutch oven, then transferring to a 250-300ºF oven for 4-6 hours. If you go either stovetop or oven, check back every so often to make sure your liquid isn’t too low.
The dinner and chill special
Traditionally there a lot more ingredients and steps to this dish, but here I’ve pared it down to the bare minimum and let the flavors speak for themselves. Before writing this recipe, Steph and I went to a really well regarded Italian restaurant. We tried their 24 hour osso buco made with veal shank and extra marrow bones. It was amazing, but this one compares favorably – and is way easier.
The biggest step I removed is the flour dredge. Usually people dredge the shank in flour and use that to both brown the meat and thicken the sauce. I don’t think this needs it, the bone marrow thickened sauce is more than enough, and flour is always messy. If you want to do that though, it will add a little extra body to both your meat and sauce.
Veal vs beef shank
The default meat choice for osso buco is veal, but I’ve found it’s pretty hard to find veal shank. It’s worth looking for if you want to stay true to the original. You should be able to find it at your neighborhood butcher shop or major supermarket. Beef tastes as good (if not better) though and is far easier to find. It’s even often cheaper, even though veal should technically be a lower-cost meat.
Osso buco ingredients
- Shank is an inexpensive cut that should be easy to find. If you can’t get it at your local grocery store, whole foods will carry beef (but not veal) shanks.
- Herbs to make a bouquet garni. I just threw in a sprig of oregano because that’s what we had and it was great. If you have bay leaves, fresh thyme, fresh Italian parsley, etc on hand, feel free to throw a little in. If not, just skip – the recipe doesn’t need it.
- Passata is an uncooked strained tomato puree. I chose passata because the fresh tomato flavor really brightens up the dish, but if you have a can of regular old crushed tomatoes around, feel free to use that.
- White wine. Wine adds a complexity and authenticity to the dish that is impossible to replace. If you need to be alcohol-free, you can switch it out for sodium free chicken stock.
How do you serve it?
Osso Buco is typically served with risotto, gnocchi, or pasta, but we like ours with bread or on its own. If you plan on eating this on its own, you might want to double the recipe to get enough meat for 2.
If you wanted to go really over the top (say for an at home Valentines dinner) a tiny bit of caviar makes this one of the most extra surf and turfs you could make at home.
Roughly chop your onion, carrots, and garlic.
Preheat your Instant Pot to saute high and add 1-2 tablespoons oil. Pat dry your shanks and season generously on both sides with salt and pepper.
Brown your shank at least 1 minute per side.
Remove the shank and add your onion, carrots, and garlic. Cook until soft – about 2 minutes.
Add the wine and deglaze, scraping the brown bits with a wooden spoon. Reduce until about half the wine is left – about 2 minutes.
Add passata, herbs if using, and the shank to the pot. Set pressure to high and braise for 1 hour. Quick release when done and serve, garnish with grated Grana Padano or Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, red pepper flakes, and flat leaf parsley as desired.