Coat a large Dutch oven generously with olive oil and bring to a high heat. Season the shanks generously with salt and add them to the pan. Brown well on all sides. This is an incredibly important step; do not rush it.
Meanwhile, puree the onions, carrots, celery and garlic in a food processor until it becomes a coarse paste. Remove and set aside.
Remove the shanks from the pan to a sheet tray. Discard the excess fat from the pan. Add a little more oil to coat the bottom of the pan and add the pureed veggies. Season with salt, to taste. Saute the veggies until they are very brown and aromatic, about 20 minutes. The brown veggies should form a sort of crust on the bottom of the pan, do not let this burn; it is where a lot of the flavor is! Don't rush this step either, since this is where you will develop the brown color and flavor.
Add the tomato paste and brown for 5 minutes. Stir in the wine, chopped rosemary and thyme bundle. Stir frequently and cook until the wine has reduced by about half.
Add the shanks back to the pot and pour in 3 to 4 cups of water. The shanks should be submersed, if they are not, add more water. Add the bay leaves to the pan, cover and put in the preheated oven. The cooking time will be about 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Turn the shanks over about halfway through the cooking time. Check the shanks every 45 minutes or so. If the liquid has reduced too much add more water. Defat as you go.
Remove the lid during the last 30 minutes of cooking time for maximum browning. When the shanks are done the meat should be incredibly tender and flavorful. Transfer to serving plates and garnish with Gremolata. Serve with Hard Polenta Cakes, if desired,
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In a small bowl, combine all ingredients and set aside until ready to use.