Veal is traditionally used for this deeply flavored Italian main course. When I found some beef shanks in the freezer – lingerers from a whole cow purchased in the spring – I wondered if the more richly flavored beef would also transform into the mouth-watering dish that its veal counterpart can.

Turns out the beef is actually just as good, if not better – full of flavor and less expensive. The only drawback is that the shank cuts are wider in diameter, and it’s difficult to reduce the portion size.

Perhaps the best way to get around that is to go the informal route and either slice the meat or cut portions of the beef off for everyone. That’s what I ended up doing – but then, I was just serving my family and a few friends.

Also, if you have a choice, choose smaller shank cuts that would be a better one-person portion size. At the grocery store, beef shanks are sometimes labeled “soup bones.”

The bone marrow in this dish is terrific, which makes sense, as the shank bone is often used as part of a beef stock. When braised, as it is in this dish, it melts in the mouth, and is perfect slathered on a baguette.

The gremolata is a wonderful foil for the rich, buttery taste of the marrow, and is best when combined on the baguette to give an amazing burst of lemony parsley with the silky mouth feel of the marrow. Even if it’s not what you typically might choose, give it a try.


3 or 4 beef shank cross cuts, 2 inches thick, between 4 and 5 pounds total

2 tablespoons canola oil

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus several more grinds

1/2 teaspoon salt, plus

1/4 teaspoon

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1 cup finely diced celery, about 2 stalks

2 cups finely diced onion, about 1 large onion

2 cups finely diced carrots, about 1 large carrot

2 tablespoons minced garlic, about 3 cloves

2 cups red wine, preferably full-bodied

2 cups canned crushed tomatoes

Combine oil, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, 1/2 teaspoon salt and paprika in a shallow bowl. Dip the shanks in the oil, coating well before transferring to a large, hot skillet over medium-high heat. Sear for about 5 minutes on each side or until the meat begins to turn a rich brown. Remove from pan and set aside.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Add to the pan the celery, onions, carrots, 1/4 teaspoon salt and several grinds of fresh black pepper. Saute for seven to 10 minutes or until the vegetables are tender and the onions translucent. Add the garlic and saute for another 30 seconds to 1 minute. Add the red wine and tomatoes and mix well.

Transfer the beef to a Dutch oven and cover with the vegetables mixture. Cover with a lid and transfer to the oven. Cook for 21/2 to 3 hours, until the meat is very tender and almost falling off the bone.

Remove the pan from the oven and transfer the beef to a platter. Strain the fat off the top of the remaining sauce in the pan and then transfer the sauce to a blender. Puree carefully, making sure that you have a vent and you’ve covered the lid with a towel to be safe.

Add 1/2 to 1 cup of hot water as needed to thin the sauce. Serve immediately with the beef shanks. If the beef shanks are large, slice the meat if you like, or leave it on the bone for everyone to pull off as much as they like.

Serves four to six.


4 cups minced parsley, about 2 bunches

3 tablespoons minced garlic, about 3 cloves

Zest of 1 lemon

Juice of 1 lemon

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

3/8 teaspoon salt

Several grinds of fresh black pepper

Combine all ingredients in a medium-sized bowl. Best if served 30 minutes to 1 hour after making, so begin making this first.

Makes 4 cups.


3 cups sliced onion, about 1 large onion

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Zest of 1 lemon

Pinch of salt

1/2 cup white wine

2 cups arborio rice

4 to 5 cups vegetable or chicken stock

1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onions and saute until the onions are translucent, about 10 minutes. If the onions begin to brown, reduce heat. When the onions are done, add the rice and stir for 1 minute.

Add the salt, pepper, wine and 1 cup of the stock, and stir. Continue to add the stock 1 cup at a time until it is all incorporated, stirring frequently. Add the lemon zest with the last 1/3 cup (or so) of the stock.

The rice is done when the liquid is completely incorporated and the grains are just the tiniest bit al dente in the center. Add 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, reserving the second 1/2 cup for garnishing at the table. Serve immediately.

Serves four to six.


Anne Mahle of Rockland is the author of “At Home, At Sea,” a recipe book about her experiences cooking aboard the family’s windjammer. She can be reached at: [email protected]