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“Osso Buco” – The Hole in the Bone

Life can be more than surprising. This is the story of a hole. A hole in a bone, to be specific. A hole that offers the most heavenly delight once you understand that the best is sometimes to be found in the most unexpected places.

It was late Spring of 2005, and I found myself on a beautiful trip across the Swiss Alps to the Lago di Como, a picturesque mountain lake that borders both Switzerland and Italy. At that time I was at the very beginning of my quest for the Simple Things in Life, a Kraut-by-Birth, but merely a Redneck-in-Training.

Throughout my successful years in the European music industry, I developed many deep and meaningful relationships. One of my amazing friends Stephan lived in an ancient monastery with a personal vineyard close to Como, Lombardy.

souphouns-ossobuco-wine-charcuterieA dedicated lover of fine cigars, oenophile and Souphound par excellence, he easily qualifies as one of my biggest mentors for the Simple Things in Life! His extensive wine cellar, his incredible knowledge of terroir and techniques, and his dedication to music and fine art made every visit unforgettable. We shared endless hours of great conversations, cooked delightfully simple meals and enjoyed some of the best wines that I have had so far.

Northern Italian Cuisine is closely related to Austrian and Central European meat-based specialties and has little to nothing to do with olive oil and tomatoes. Earthy dishes feature what mountains, forest and pastures have to offer. Risotto alla Milanese is a famous and succulent staple of the Lombardy region, as are Cotoletta, Cassoeula and – of course – Ossobuco.


souphound-ossobuco-pan-squareAfter a day of discussing the parallels of wine-making and the art of luthiery (building fine stringed instruments), I was up for yet another treat: a romantic, medieval, candle-lit monestary kitchen, filled with the fragrances of red wine, rosemary, thyme and orange zest, a casserole of slow braised meaty goodness on the rustic wooden table, a bottle of a 2007 Xavier Monnot Meursault to complement the rich braise and a veal shank on my plate that turned itself into an ode to “falling apart by the gentle touch of a fork”!

On that night home-made Käse-Kräuter Spätzle (home-made gruyere-herb pasta) played the perfect supporting role in its comforting glory. The Persillade added complexity to the earthy flavors on the plate. I was in food heaven! It could not have been anymore perfect. But wait – the Crescendo of this Culinary Operetta was yet to come.

Osso Buco


At the end of this beautiful rustic meal… and after several bottles of exquisite red wine… I was introduced to the “hole in the bone”. A small fork was the tool of choice to get the prized bone-marrow out of the hole. Essence of goodness. Best bite of the night. Bone-marrow is the very tender, flavorful, and very nutritious tissue inside of bones, a delicacy by itself and highly praised!

What an ending to a fabulous meal. In medieval tradition, we cleaned the hole and our palates with a shot of Kräuterlikör (a digestif distilled from hand-picked Alpine Herbs) running straight through the hole in the bone into our mouths.

Osso Buco

Prep Time: 40 Minutes
Cooking Time: 25 Minutes
Total time: 1 Hour 5 Minutes
Servings: 6 People


Ingredients Osso Buco
  • 6 1 1/2" thick cross-cut veal shanks
  • 1 cup of all-purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp Grapeseed Oil
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter or ghee
  • 2 lg onions, diced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 2 ribs of celery, diced
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste double-concentrated
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 bottle of dry white wine
  • 1 cup of veal stock (optional: beef stock)
  • Maldon Salt
  • Freshly cracked Black Malabar Pepper
Ingredients Persillade
  • 1 large bunch of Italian Parsley (flat-leaved)
  • 8 cloves of garlic, very finely minced
  • zest of 3 lemons (and extra juice)
Ingredients Spätzle
  • 1lbs all purpose flour
  • 6 Eggs
  • 200ml milk (at room temperature)
  • 20g butter melted and cooled
  • 1 pinch of nutmeg (freshly grated)
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup of Gruyere grated
  • Italian Parsley, finely chopped for decoration


1. Heat oven to 325 degrees
2. Dust veal shanks with flour, heat oil in dutch oven (6qt) and brown veal shanks two at a time on both sides
3. Transfer shanks to a plate and cover
4. Add butter to dutch oven and sautee chopped onions, carrots and celery
5. Add salt and a splash of white wine
6. Reduce white wine
7. Add tomato paste, stir and caramelize tomato paste
8. Put 2 sprigs of parsley, 2 sprigs of thyme and bay leaves into a herb soup bag and add to pot
9. Add veal shanks, wine and stock and bring to a light simmer.
10. Season with Maldon Salt und some freshly cracked Malabar Black Pepper
11. Cover with lid and transfer to oven
12. Cook until meat falls of the bone about 90 minutes
13. Remove veal shanks carefully, set aside, remove herb bundle and bay leaves
14. Reduce liquid in pot to about half with medium heat
15. Transfer veal shanks carefully back into pot, cover with sauce and keep warm
16. For the persillade chop parsley finely, add lemon zest and chopped garlic
17. Add extra lemon juice if desired and a pinch of salt
18. In the meantime for the Spätzle melt butter, let cool
19. Mix flour, eggs, salt and butter by hand with a wooden spoon or with a mixer with dough hook
20. The dough has to have a sticky consistency slightly thinner than brownie batter
21. Bring a pot of slightly salty water to a boil
22. With help of a Spätzle Board "drip" the dough in small batches into boiling water
23. As soon as Spätzle start to float remove from water, set aside and continue with the next batch
24. When finished, dry the Spätze with paper towel, melt butter in a sauce pan and brown Spätzle with some grated Gruyere
25. Serve Spätzle with the veal shank and sauce
26. Use Persillade on top of meat as decoration
Take your time browning the veal shanks. Don't overcrowd the pan/pot. You want to brown them, not boil them. I personally prefer Grapeseed Oil over Canola Oil. Grapeseed Oil has a higher burning point and is more neutral in flavor. Of course Canola will do as well.
The sauce of the Osso Buco is an essential part of the dish. I always have home-made stock or demi-glace in the freezer. The better the components, the better the sauce will be. Rule of thumb is, always use the wine for cooking that you would drink. I like to use a decent Sauvignon Blanc or a nice and crisp Gruener Veltliner.

The way that my Grandmother used to make Spätzle (Little Sparrows) is, she scraped the Spätzle dough with a Chef's knife from a cutting board into the boiling water. This way each Spätzle had a slightly different shape and size. As you can imagine, this takes a little practice. The Spätzle Board produces more ``button``-like results. In Germany they call it accordingly ``Knöpfle``.

The Persillade is a wonderful condiment to the rich braise of the meat. Highly recommended!

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