Ossibuchi al Sugo, or: Stewed Veal Shanks with Meat Sauce

The best known Italian recipe for Ossibuchi, veal shanks, is ossibuchi alla milanese. One can do other things with shanks as well, however. My mother-in-law stews them with ground beef, for example, and her recipe yields both an extraordinarily satiny pasta sauce and a superb main course. Winter comfort food of the highest order. This recipe will serve 4-6, and you will need:

  • 1 pound (500 g) ground beef – not too lean, or the sauce will be dry
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) olive oil
  • A medium-sized onion
  • A carrot
  • A 10-inch stalk of celery
  • A small bunch of parsley
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • An 8-0unce (225 g) can tomato paste
  • 2 1/4 pounds (1 k) beef or veal shanks (4-5 pieces of meat, with bone)
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • A pound of pasta, either flat, e.g. pappardelle, or round, e.g. ziti or penne
  • Grated Parmigiano.
Flouring Ossibuchi

Flouring Ossibuchi

Begin by flouring the ossibuchi and browning them over a medium flame in a skillet with a non-stick surface. Additional fat will not be necessary.

Flip the Ossibuchi To Brown Both Sides

Flip the Ossibuchi To Brown Both Sides

When the ossibuchi have browned on one side, turn them to brown the other. Reduce the flame some and continue cooking them, turning them occasionally, while you prepare the sauce.

Prepare a battuto

Prepare a battuto

The first step to preparing the sauce is making a battuto, the finely chopped mixture of herbs that flavor an Italian dish — in this case carrot, celery, onion, and parsley. Purists use a mezzaluna, a crescent-shaped knife, and a chopping board, but you can also use a blender.  Don’t overchop your battuto; if it’s too finely minced the texture of the sauce will suffer.

Heat the olive oil in a broad deep pot (ideally, one large enough for the shanks to lie flat in a single layer) and sauté the battuto over a medium flame, stirring it about with a wooden spoon, until the onion turns translucent gold. Add the ground beef and continue cooking and stirring until it is browned too.

Add the Wine

When the ground meat has browned, add a splash of wine. Elisabetta has a lighter hand than I do at this point, adding a few tablespoons, whereas I generally add about a half cup. In any case, after adding it continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until it has evaporated.

Add some Tomato Paste

Tomato paste adds flavor, and also acts as a thickener. In Italy it’s sold in tubes, and the tube we added is roughly equivalent to an 8-ounce (220 g) can. After adding the tomato paste, add 2 cups of boiling water and stir gently until the sauce is well mixed.

Add the Ossibuchi to the Pot

By now the ossibuchi will have been cooking for about a half hour, and will be nicely browned, while a fair amount of fat will have rendered out of them. Add them to the sauce pot, discarding the pan drippings.

Partially cover, turn the heat down, and simmer everything for at least 2 hours. The longer you cook the ossibuchi the tenderer they will be, so fee free to increase the cooking time, adding a little more hot water if the pot looks to be drying out.

The Ossibuchi Are Done!

Two hours later: Done!
When the cooking time is about up, set a pot of water to boil; when it does, salt it and cook the pasta. While you are of course free to use any shape you like, I prefer fairly wide flat strips along the lines of pappardelle, which work especially well with this sort of sauce because they have wavy edges that capture the sauce. The other option is tubular forms, such as tortiglioni, ziti, or penne.

Ossi Buchi al Sugo!

While the pasta is cooking, remove the ossibuchi and a little of the sauce to a platter and keep them warm. You will have a couple of cups of meat sauce left in the pot, and this is more than you will need to sauce the pasta. So remove half, and freeze it for later.

Turning the pasta in the meat sauce over the stove makes it absorb flavor

When you have finished your pasta, serve the ossibushi as a second course with spinaci rifatti (spinach boiled, drained, chopped, and sauteed with olive oil and garlic), which, if you want to be really traditional, you can season at table with a little meat sauce. You’ll also want crusty bread both to mop up the drippings in the pasta bowls and to accompany the second course. And a zesty red wine, either a Chianti Classico D’Annata, an unoaked Barbera, or a Valpolicella.

Buon Appetito!
Sugo alla Bolognese, with several variations, including Braciole al Sugo.

While we’re on the subject, Dr. Stu’s Sugo alla Bolognese, which closely resembles the Official Recipe published by the Accademia Italiana della Cucina.

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Categories: Beef and Veal Stews, Meat Sauces For Pasta

Author:Cosa Bolle in Pentola

Italy boasts an astonishing number of varietals, denominations, and wines, and tremendous changes are sweeping the land. New wines are being created, new DOCs are being introduced, and the existing denominations are overhauling their regulations both to reflect the practices adopted by their member wineries and to favor improvements in quality. Even the most staid and stolid region can flower seemingly overnight, emerging with exciting new wines and wineries that require rewriting the enological maps and rethinking one's positions. And, of course, recipes too, because cuisine and wine are closely intertwined and it's difficult to imagine one without the other.

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One Comment on “Ossibuchi al Sugo, or: Stewed Veal Shanks with Meat Sauce”

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