Traditional Italian Ossobuco recipe – the hole truth

Ossobucco - a great hearty Tuscan stew recipe (photo by Dirk Ingo Franke)

Ossobuco translates to something akin to ‘hole of the bone’. Asides from being further proof that almost anything sounds better if you say it in Italian, it is a great traditional Italian recipe that is easy to make and delicious to eat.

In following the great Italian tradition of having friends over for dinner, this is one of our favourite dinner-party recipes as it can be cooked in advance, and when guests arrive the house is filled with the great aroma that entices people immediately to the kitchen.

Then there is the fact that such a strong flavoured stew just cries out to be served alongside a great Tuscan wine like a Brunello di Montalcino or Nobile di Montepulciano, and any dish that accompanies great wine is certainly a winner!

As with all our favourite dishes, this traditional Italian recipe also makes great left-overs for the next day – or you can freeze it in serving portions for one of those Monday nights when you just don’t feel like cooking!

The name of this dish stems from the veal shin, cut in such a way to leave a circle of marrow in the centre which takes on all the flavours during the cooking process.

No one really knows when the dish originated, however it was a common feature on plates around Italy already by the 1700s. At this time, it was considered a dish for the wealthy class. At this time there was a big distinction between the rich and the peasant cuisines, when meats and exotic spices were available only to the wealthier folk, whilst the peasants were left to create amazingly flavoursome dishes with the ingredients at hand from the amazingly fruitful land.

Whilst this great traditional recipe does have its origins in Milan, it has since spread to other regions of Italy and is a common feature on menus around Italy generally, greatly enjoyed during the cooler months.

As with most recipes that have travelled around Italy, each region has adapted them slightly to suit tastes, and above all, the local ingredients available.

It does take some time to cook this dish to perfection, however the actual steps are quite easy and the results are worth the effort!

So hearty is this delicious Italian stew recipe that it is often served as a meal in itself, as opposed to following on from a pasta or rice entrée. Ossobuco is thus is best served with crunchy Tuscan bread, along side a serving of risotto (such as ‘risotto al zafferano’ – safron risotto), polenta or with a side of boiled potatoes to compliment the delicious sauce you’ll have on your plate.

Not only do you end up with a tasty beef stew recipe, it also creates a delicious sauce.

This remaining sauce at the bottom of the pan can then be served the next day over al dente fettuccini or other pasta to truly savour the great taste! (See our recipe below.)

To learn about food and have fun learning discovering tasty ways to use seasonal Italian ingredients to make delicious, typical dishes before indulging in a delicious meal made by you, we have hands-on cooking classes in Florence.

Join our small-group walking tour of Florence, Original Florence Walk, to hear more about Italian traditions and the fascinating history  of Florence with an excellent English-speaking tour guide. To explore Rome’s amazing historical city centre packed with great historical must-see sites such as The Coliseum, the Vatican, the Spanish Steps, we have small-group Rome guided tours with a great tour guide, and guided small-group, skip-the-line tour of the Vatican where you can see more classic artworks in the Vatican Museum with a great tour guide. To see the sites of Venice with a great tour guide, we have 4 great Venice tours added into one unique Venice tours discount package. In one glorious afternoon, have a ride in a gondola on our small-group Original Gondola Tour.

Getting to the surrounding Tuscan countryside from Florence is but a short and delightful drive. If you would like to have a private guide accompanying you, we have private tours that cater to your every desire. From Florence (and Tuscany) to RomeVenice to the Cinque Terre and beyond, we are at your beck and call.

Visit a Tuscan villa on the Taste of Tuscany at the Villa wine tour. Explore historic wine estates before undertaking a wine tasting. Tread through the terrain, enjoying spectacular views of the Tuscan countryside up-close and personal.

Stroll through the Tuscan countryside, join us for a Perfect Morning in Tuscany small-group walking tour. Leaving from Florence’s city centre and heading to the surrounding countryside, this small-group walking tour includes, well, walking in Tuscany, as well as lunch with wine at a stunning Renaissance Villa Estate, accompanied by an expert tour guide.

To explore other areas of Italy, can check out our Artviva Walking Tours website to read more about the tours we have to offer in Florence, RomeVeniceCinque Terre, Umbria, Naples, Pompeii and more.

Visit our site for more wonderful things to see and do in Italy (besides, of course, just meeting the Artviva staff!), and email us on for more information.

Ossobucco – Traditional Italian Stew Recipe



1 clove of garic

½ litre beef stock

50 g butter

4 ‘ossobucco’ beef shanks

1 small onion, finely chopped

50 g flour

Zest of ½ lemon

2-3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

1 bunch of Italian flat-leaf parsley

1 cup white wine

300 g tomato puree (optional)


In a large pan, melt the butter and oil, and cook the onion until clear, over a slow flame.

In the meantime, prepare the beef by cutting little indents into the beef so that it doesn’t curl up during cooking. Pass each side through some plain flour.

Once the onion is nice and clear (around 10-15 minutes), move it aside and place the beef in the pan. Let it cook on both sides to seal in the juices, then pour in a glass of white wine and let it evaporate. If you were wanting to add in some tomato as well, now is the time. Either way, you’ll now need to ladel in some broth.

Partially cover with a lid and let simmer for around 1.5 hours, stirring occasionally so the meat does not stick to the bottom of the pan. If it seems to be drying up, ladel in more broth.

Just towards the end of the cooking time, mash up some chopped parsley, lemon rind and a glove of garlic. This is called ‘gremolada’. Add it into the pot around 5 minutes before serving.


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  1. Two words stand out the most “delicious” and “easy”. Thanks for the recipe it seems like the perfect combination.

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