Fall off the bone slow cooker osso buco or ossobuco, a classic Italian dish adapted for the slow cooker. Served with gremolata and saffron risotto Milanese.
With tender meat and a rich tomato sauce, this delicious slow cooker osso buco recipe is fantastic! Slowly braised chunks of meat, cooked for hours in that flavorful sauce and its own melting marrow, I can hardly think of a more decadent, more luxurious meat dish.
Finally, check out a faster way of cooking this delicious meal: Instant Pot Osso Buco or more Italian traditional veal recipes: Veal Marsala Recipe or Veal Escalopes (in Lemon Sauce). This Italian Meat Sauce is another classic dish that's amazing.
Or cook another recipe with shanks, this amazing Braised Veal Shank with Orange Sauce.
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What is osso buco?
Osso buco or ossobuco is one of the best-known Italian dishes. Always present on the menus of any serious Italian restaurant, ossobuco has a reputation for being incredibly rich and incredibly delicious but also quite challenging to make.
The parts about its being rich and delicious are perfectly true, but I disagree about having any problems with cooking this dish at home. I’ve often cooked a classic ossobuco on the stove, and I didn’t find it particularly challenging. Using a slow cooker makes the recipe even more straightforward. Just prepare a few things on the stovetop, place everything in the cooker, and let it do its magic.
So, what is ossobuco? The translation would be “bone with a hole,” referring to cross-cut veal shanks with the bone and its marrow in the center. The pieces of veal are slowly cooked in sauce, and the marrow releases its flavor during cooking.
The dish is a specialty of Lombard cuisine, and it is usually served with another regional classic – the risotto Milanese, made with saffron. And with gremolata, a zesty mixture of parsley and garlic, which cuts very nicely through the richness of the dish.
What cut to use for osso buco?
Ossobuco can be made with beef or veal shank, but the veal version is considered superior; the meat is tenderer and thus easier to cook, and the taste is somewhat sweet and delicate. The plus point of using beef is that beef has a more robust flavor. I’ve tried both versions over the years; I love them both.
I had veal this time. Buying veal is generally challenging; you would have to find butchers that sell it, and when you need something as special as shanks, you might even have to order it in advance.
The slices are cut from the rear or front muscle of the upper leg. The best pieces are those cut from the middle of the leg; they are larger, they have the most marrow, and the ratio of meat and connective tissue is proportional, making these cuts particularly tender and succulent.
It is considered better to use the cuts from the animal's rear legs for making ossobuco and the front leg pieces for making soups.
- Meat: Four thick slices of veal osso buco, cross-cut slices of the shank with the bone marrow in the middle. The recipe can also be cooked with pieces cut from a shank of beef.
- Vegetables: Carrots, onion, garlic, celeriac, or celery stalks. I use celeriac because it is more common where I live, but celery stalks are just as good.
- Liquids: Beef broth or veal stock. Make sure it is either homemade or low-sodium. Regular stock with too much salt would make the dish too salty. You can also use chicken broth or stock.
- Red wine: You can substitute it with white wine; the rich flavor will be slightly different but still delicious.
- Other ingredients: All-purpose flour, olive oil, tomato paste, canned crushed tomatoes, red wine vinegar, fine sea salt or Kosher salt, and ground black pepper. You can also add two bay leaves to the pot.
- Gremolata: Garlic, fresh parsley, anchovy filets, lemon zest.
How to make osso buco in the slow cooker or crock pot?
- Prepare the meat: Dry it with a paper towel, and sprinkle it with salt and pepper. Place the flour on a large plate, and dredge the shanks lightly through the flour. Pat it over the sink to remove the excess flour.
- Sear: Heat the oil in a large skillet. Brown the meat on both sides. Remove from the skillet.
- While the meat browns, finely chop the onion and the garlic. Dice the carrots and celeriac or celery.
- Cook the diced veggies in the same skillet for 5-7 minutes or until softened, occasionally stirring with a wooden spoon. Add tomato paste, and mix well for 1 minute.
- Add the canned tomatoes, stock, and wine, stir well, bring to a boil, and cook for about 3 minutes. Adjust the taste with some salt and pepper.
- Pour the sauce into the pot of the slow cooker (1). Add the browned meat and cover it with the sauce (2).
- Cook on high for 4 hours or low for 6-8 hours (3). The cooking time depends on the type of slow cooker you have. Make sure you read its instructions.
- Adjust the taste with salt, pepper, and vinegar to lift the flavors. Sprinkle the dish with fresh herbs before serving if you are not making the gremolata.
- Gremolata: Make the gremolata about half an hour before serving the slow cooker ossobuco. Finely chop the parsley and the anchovies. Grate the garlic and zest the lemon. Mix everything in a small bowl.
The meat will fall off the bone by the end of the cooking process. It is the way it’s supposed to be. However, if you want the meat to stay on the bone, you can tie it with string. Not my favorite task, though, I did it this time for presentation purposes, but I leave it be otherwise.
Sure, cook the crock pot osso buco 1-2 days in advance. Transfer the food to another pot or container, let it come to room temperature, and refrigerate it, covered. Reheat well on the stovetop before serving.
Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for 2-3 days and reheat before serving.
Freeze leftovers in a freezer container for up to 3 months. Defrost in the fridge and reheat before serving.
A slow cooker is a kitchen appliance (metal pot). A crock pot is a type of slow cooker with a stoneware pot surrounded by a heating element.
How to serve?
- Serve crock pot or slow cooker osso buco the classic way with risotto Milanese and gremolata.
- Other delicious side dishes would be polenta (always my number one choice), either a simple polenta or one mixed with fresh herbs or enriched with a little Parmesan.
- Mashed potatoes are great as well. Plain rice is also fine if you don’t want to make risotto.
More Italian meat dishes
Slow Cooker Ossobuco
- Slow cooker or crockpot
- 4 thick slices of veal osso buco a total weight of about 1,4 kg/3 lbs., about 2.5-3 cm/ 1-1.2 inches thick
- 1 tablespoon all- purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 medium carrots diced
- 1 medium onion diced
- 2 large garlic cloves minced
- 1 small piece of celeriac or 2 celery stalks diced
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 2 cans crushed tomatoes each 400 g/ 14 oz
- scant 1 cup beef stock homemade or low sodium, 200 ml/ 6.5 fl. oz
- scant 1 cup dry red wine ml/ 6.5 fl. oz
- 1-2 teaspoons red wine vinegar to taste
- fine sea salt and ground black pepper
- 1 small bunch parsley 3 tablespoons when chopped
- 2 anchovy filets finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves grated
- zest 1 lemon
- Prepare the shanks: Dry them with paper towels and sprinkle them generously with salt and pepper. Place the flour on a plate and dredge the meat lightly through it. Pat it over the sink to remove the excess flour.4 veal shanks + 1 tablespoon flour
- Sear: Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet and brown the meat on both sides. Remove from the skillet. (Note 1).
- Vegetables: While the meat sears, finely chop the onion and the garlic. Dice the carrots and celeriac or celery. Cook the vegetables on low heat in the same skillet for 5-7 minutes until softened. Add tomato paste and stir well for 1 minute.1 onion + 2 garlic cloves + 2 carrots + 2 celery stalks
- Add tomatoes, stock, and wine, stir well, bring to a boil, and cook for about 3 minutes. Adjust the taste with salt and pepper.2 cans crushed tomatoes + scant 1 cup beef stock + scant 1 cup red wine
- Slow cook: Pour the sauce into the pot of the slow cooker. Add the meat and cover it with the sauce. Cook on high for 4 hours or low for 6-8 hours (Note 2).
- Serve: Gently lift the meat from the pot using a large slotted spoon. Adjust the taste with salt, pepper, and a little vinegar (1-2 tsp). Transfer the sauce to a warm serving bowl and place the meat on top.
- Make the gremolata about half an hour before serving the slow cooker ossobuco. Finely chop the parsley and the anchovies. Grate the garlic and zest the lemon. Mix everything in a small bowl. Spoon on top of the ossobuco on the plate.1 small bunch parsley + 2 anchovies + 2 garlic cloves + zest of 1 lemon
- The meat will fall off the bone by the end of the cooking process. It is the way it’s supposed to be. However, if you want the meat to stay on the bone, you can tie it with string. Not my favorite task, though, I did it this time for presentation purposes, but I leave it be otherwise.
- The cooking time depends on the type of slow cooker you have. Make sure you read its instructions. When ready, the meat should be fall-off-the-bone tender.