Osso Buco Pasta
I just read that osso buco translates to ‘bone with a hole’ or ‘hollow bone’. I’m chuckling at the thought of posting a recipe called Hollow Bones Pasta—I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t go over all that well. (And the SEO gods would probably have a bone to pick with that.) I think it’s safe to say this is one of those cases where ignorance is bliss. Osso Buco Pasta sounds a lot more appealing.
Osso buco is a classic Italian dish made of braised veal shanks that are browned and gently simmered in a robust sauce of wine, tomatoes and aromatics. Traditionally, the shanks are presented prominently on top of a mound of vivid yellow saffron risotto. It’s an impressive-looking and delicious duo, but it takes a fair amount of work. I transformed this classic into a more casual pasta dish (think Italian ragu) that captures the unctuous and deep flavors of osso buco. I bulk up the sauce with more tomatoes and remove the tender, braised veal from the bone, dice it into bite-sized pieces and toss it back into the sauce. Traditional osso buco is challenging—the meat tends to fall off the bone which can diminish the presentation and stress out the cook. This recipe avoids that problem altogether.
Another trademark of osso buco is a topping of a mixture of parsley, lemon zest and garlic called gremolata. The gremolata invigorates the sauce with brightness and clarity. I wouldn’t think of leaving it out of the equation. It would be like having fish and chips without salt or a Bloody Mary without horseradish. This recipe calls for stirring a bit of the gremolata right into the sauce so the flavors meld, but still reserving a good portion to sprinkle on top just before serving.
Back to the hollow bones. (You didn’t think that was going to be the end of it, did you?). The shank bones are not hollow at all, in fact, they are full of rich and delicious marrow which is considered by some to be the crowning glory of the dish. I have to agree. In fancy restaurants, diners are often provided with a spoon designed just for the purpose of scooping out the marrow. I use the skinny end of a teaspoon or the tip of a pairing knife to remove the marrow and put it right into the sauce. And, what a lovely flavor it adds. Of course, if you decide to skip this step, I’ll never know—but make no bones about it—you’ll be missing out on something incredibly delicious.