coda alla vaccinara

21 Nov

Okay, when does it start to get obnoxious with my foreign language recipe titles. But I feel like this one is warranted, as it’s supposedly some sort of time-honored Roman stew. In case you’re wondering and haven’t translate-widgeted it yet, it’s oxtail. My first time making something with an oxtail! I’d seen it fresh before at my little meat market that I go to to get my kitties’ food, but didn’t have anything in mind for it at the time. So I went back this past weekend to get it – never a good idea there, because their stock of odd bits is seemingly unpredictable – but only found it in the freezer. No big deal, except I was a little impatient in letting it defrost fully before starting this recipe. Hey, I’ve got limited daylight hours to get some somewhat decent pictures. The stinkin’ oxtails defrosted quick enough in the pot.
Oxtail is a strange cut of meat. It’s mostly bone and some weird collagen, but it becomes super wonderful and fun to eat after simmering for hours. The end of the tail was my most favorite. The texture is hard to describe, but the bit of collagenmeat on them was delicious, and since the pieces are small you can pick them up with your fingers and they don’t go flying across the table, like some of the larger pieces did a couple times. Whether you try to use just your hands or a fork, those larger pieces are a little unwieldy no matter what.
The oxtails I bought weren’t trimmed, which gave me a bit of a hard time (because, you know I hadn’t totally defrosted them), but I got a ton of fat chunks that I made tallow with. I currently have jars of schmaltz, lard, lard from those carnitas, bacon grease, and now tallow in my kitchen. I need a few more birds and then I’ll feel so complete! Ultimately, though, my oxtail pieces were still a little too fatty and I’ll definitely make more of an effort to trim them better next time. The recipe I used said to have whole ribs of celery. I liked this idea – it sounded real rustic, but the celery ended up being incredibly hard to eat and kind of embarrassing when I was trying to eat it for lunch at work and the ribs just balled up in my mouth because I couldn’t saw through the strings with my teeth. Maybe I needed to stew them for longer? Or maybe avoid that altogether and cut them into manageable pieces?

coda alla vaccinara
adapted from Saveur, serves about 6

4 lbs. 2 1/2″ oxtail pieces, trimmed of most fat around the outsides
coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 ounces pancetta or guanciale, minced
6 celery ribs (5 whole, 1 minced)
5 whole cloves
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 medium carrot, minced
1 small white onion, minced
1 dried bay leaf
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 1⁄4 cups red wine, such as chianti
1 28-ounce can of whole peeled plum tomatoes,preferably San Marzano, undrained and crushed by hand
1⁄8 teaspoon cinnamon, plus more to taste

1. Season oxtails with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the oxtails and cook, turning once, until browned, 8–10 minutes total. Transfer to a plate.

2. Put pancetta, minced celery, cloves, garlic, carrots, onions, and bay leaf into the Dutch oven and cook, stirring occasionally until soft, about 5–6 minutes.

3. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes.

4. Add the wine and bring to a boil. Cook until mostly evaporated, about 5 minutes.

5. Add the oxtails, the hand-crushed tomatoes, and 1 1⁄2 cups water. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, for 2 hours.

6. Add whole celery (or the chopped celery) and cook over medium heat, uncovered, until celery is tender, about 40 minutes. Stir in cinnamon and season with salt and pepper.

Skim some of the pools of fat from the top (this will be easier after you’ve refrigerated the leftovers). Serve oxtails with sauce on top and the celery ribs or pieces. Don’t be afraid to get messy eating this!


9 Responses to “coda alla vaccinara”

  1. Monica Hughes November 21, 2011 at 22:44 #

    I love oxtails. They’re great for making a rich, gelatinous broth. 🙂

    • Julie November 22, 2011 at 07:43 #

      Yes! I can’t wait to make them again. Do you get yours from your CSA?

  2. Arvid Larsson April 3, 2012 at 05:52 #

    First, thank you for a excellent
    write-up. A true pleasure to read.

    A bit about myself. I am a 34 year old swede living in Jakarta, Indonesia. I have a passion for food which mirrors the passion you show in your recipe.

    Anyhow, in Indonesia oxtail is very popular. Oxtail soup is a close second-place contender for a national dish, after nasi goreng.

    I got my hands on some beautiful imported Australian oxtail 2 week ago. Wanted to try something new. Stumbled upon coda alla vaccinara by accident on Wikipedia.

    I looked up several recipes, and none “felt” right to me. So, I took the bits from each recipe I liked and compiled a new one. I also made some changes of my own.

    Then I stumbled into your recipe. INCREDIBLE! My own version was 99% identical to yours!!!

    And it tasted fabulous, as you already know.

    A few small recommendations.

    1. Yes, definitely, cut up the celery chunks at the end. Lacks rusticness perhaps, but makes life easier ( and less embarrassing!)
    2. A tip regarding tomato paste that I picked up from a YouTube video from Mario Batelli: don’t just add it and stir for 5 minutes. Add it, turn the head WAY down and leave it for 20 minutes. This slowly caremelizes the sugar in the paste and intensifies the flavor dramatically. I learned this tip only last month and applied it to your recipe. Related, sautée the mirepoix ( or soffritto) slowly for 20 minutes to really soften th and brim out the flavors. it takes patience, I know, but it’s worth it.

    I will keep an eye on your other recipes. And I think you have inspired me to start making food postings myself. Many gems up my sleeve.

    Take care,


    • Julie April 3, 2012 at 22:10 #

      Thanks for the input! Neat that you’re living in Jakarta. You must eat so well there. I’m jealous!

      Those are good tips – especially the tomato paste one! I’m definitely going to try that.

  3. Adam Tsiopani September 29, 2012 at 08:48 #

    If you snap the end of the whole raw celery with your hands and tear down the ribbed edge of the stem, it’s really easy to de-string! Whole cooked destringed celery is delicious!

    • Julie September 29, 2012 at 21:40 #


  4. Robyn Puglia November 10, 2012 at 05:47 #

    I found your recipe randomly, while looking for something to do with some oxtail that I bought. I just wanted to let you know, that it was seriously delicious. I used the tweaks that Arvid suggested, cooking the soffritto and also the tomato paste, all the way down for 20 minutes each, and I cooked it for 2 hours on the stove top, and then three more hours on a low heat (150 C) in the oven (taken from a cookbook that I have). The flavour was incredible. So i just wanted to say thank you very much for posting this recipe. I will probably be making it relatively regularly from now on.

    • Julie November 10, 2012 at 07:55 #

      So happy you found it! You know, I haven’t made this since I initially posted it. I have to do that, especially because I want to try Arvid’s suggestions. It’s supposed to drop 30 degrees here this weekend and snow… sounds like wonderful weather for oxtail.

      Thanks for commenting! 🙂


  1. coda alla vaccinara | Paleo Digest - November 21, 2011

    […] blogs and sites on the web!coda alla vaccinara the crankin' kitchen! / Posted on: November 21, 2011the crankin’ kitchen! – Okay, when does it start to get obnoxious with my foreign language recipe titles. But I […]

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