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This Oxtail Ragu Recipe Is A Classic Roman Favorite

This Roman Oxtail Ragu Recipe is a classic example of Cucina Povera cooking and it is an amazing dish that you will love served by itself or over pasta.

Oxtail Ragu Recipe - Served


The Roman dish, known as Coda alla Vaccinara, is named after the Vaccinari, who were the ox butchers in the city. This is considered one of the most iconic dishes of la cucina povera because it was not, and still isn’t, a popular cut of meat that used to be enjoyed only by the poor of Rome. Today, it is popular around the world for its amazing flavor which has a place in every culture.

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Oxtail Ragu Recipe Ingredient Recommendations

  • Oxtails – This recipe has only a few ingredients and the only one of note is the namesake oxtail. The reality is oxen are no longer used, so what you are looking for is actually beef tail. You will probably need to go to a proper butcher to get this cut of meat because I doubt the local supermarket would have this in stock. One word of warning, this cut of meat is exactly what it sounds like. When I bought this recently, my butcher came from the back room, after I asked for it, carrying what is obviously a tail. I know this sounds obvious, but there is a certain amount of distance between the meat you typically find in the supermarket and what the actual animal looks like. This experience wasn’t negative for me, but I was a bit surprised, so be prepared.
  • Wine – My recipe calls for using a dry white wine, preferably from around Rome, to deglaze the pan. The last time I made this dish I only had some dry red wine, so I used that and it was just as good. The flavors are noticeably different, but both are delicious and not worth stressing over.

Roman Oxtail Ragu Recipe Frequently Asked Questions

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What Is Oxtail Ragu Made Of?

This is a very simple recipe and the main ingredient is the oxtail. There is also tomato sauce and a mirepoix of carrots, onions and celery, but not much else. This real star is the oxtail and the flavors that are released during the long braising time.

What Is The Best Way To Soften Oxtail?

Time is the best gift you can give Oxtail because of the connective tissue and fat that dominates this cut of meat. Similar to a Neapolitan Ragù, the longer you cook the oxtail, the better the sauce or stew becomes. The flavors are released in the collagen and the connective tissue also dissolves. This results in meat that is falling off the bone and tender.

Oxtail Ragu Recipe - Pieces

Oxtail Pieces

Why Do You Brown Oxtails Before Cooking?

As any Foodie would love to tell you, browning a protein creates a chemical process called a Maillard reaction that adds some amazing flavors to braised meats. Browning a meat before braising is a very common step, and this recipe is no exception. This is similar to caramelization, which is a similar process for sugars (instead of proteins).

Should You Boil Oxtail Before Cooking?

This depends on the preparation. For example, I believe the British way of preparing oxtail stew is to boil the meat first to remove any impurities, but my view is that this isn’t necessary if you are preparing this in the Roman style. You certainly can if you want to, but I don’t think it is necessary.

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Oxtail Ragu Recipe - Ingredients


Oxtail Ragu Recipe

  • Difficulty: Medium
  • Prep Time: 30 mins
  • Cook: 270 mins (4.5 hours)
  • Servings: 4

Oxtail Ragu Ingredients

  • 3 lbs. (1.5 kg) of Oxtail
  • 8 oz.(250g) of Celery
  • 6 oz. (150g) of Yellow Onions
  • 3 oz. (80g) of Carrots
  • 2 cloves of Garlic
  • 1 sprig of Parsley
  • 4 oz. (120 ml) of Dry White Wine
  • 1 oz. of Lard (optional)
  • 16 oz. (400g) of Peeled Tomatoes (Sauce, Crushed or Whole)
  • 3 Tbl. of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Salt and Black Pepper to taste
Oxtail Ragu Recipe - Browning


Oxtail Ragu Cooking Instructions

  1. In a heavy bottom pan, turn on medium heat and add olive oil.
  2. If you choose, add the lard to the hot pan and wait until it melts. This is optional because oil was considered too expensive, so lard was traditionally used, but not required and Olive Oil is a good substitute.
  3. Add pieces of tail to the hot pan, don’t crowd the pieces and brown well on all sides.
  4. While the meat is browning, dice the carrots, onion and celery and add to a bowl.
  5. Chop the garlic and the parsley and add it to the bowl of vegetables.
  6. When the meat is browned on all sides, add the wine and deglaze the pan.
  7. After the wine evaporates, add the chopped vegetables and mix into the meat.
  8. Add the tomatoes, salt and pepper and mix in the pan with the meat and vegetables.
  9. Lower the heat to the lowest boil possible with your stove and cook for 3 hours minimum.
  10. While it is cooking, if the sauce gets too dry and begins to burn on the bottom, add some water and loosen the meat from the bottom. Continue to monitor while it cooks.
  11. After 3 or 4 hours, once the meat is falling off the bones, you are ready to serve.

Oxtail Ragu Serving Suggestions

There are two different serving suggestions that I love. The first is to spoon the meat and sauce onto a plate. Enjoy this ragù with some crusty bread, but be careful of the bones. The second serving suggestion is to wait until the sauce has cooled, separate the meat from bone and serve the reheated meat sauce with your favorite pasta, like Rigatoni. Either way, you will enjoy these amazing flavors with your favorite red wine and bread.

Oxtail Ragu Recipe - Braising


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