Coda alla Vaccinara

Roman Braised Oxtail


Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves


Appears in

The Italian Regional Cookbook

The Italian Regional Cookbook

By Valentina Harris

Published 2017

  • About

For thousands of years, until the Second World War, teams of oxen ploughed fields and pulled loads in the countryside around Rome. When they could no longer work, they were slaughtered and their skins became leather, their horns a variety of accessories and their meat was cooked in stews. The people whose jobs were to slaughter, butcher and skin the oxen were paid with skins, unwanted offal and other parts of the animal - including the oxtails. This created a style of cooking that is closely associated with the Roman neighbourhood where the slaughterhouse and tanneries were located - Testaccio. Nowadays, it is a trendy area, but the traditions remain, and the local restaurants still serve these old Roman dishes, using the humblest meats.


  • 1 oxtail and 1 ox cheek, 2.5 kg/5 ½ lb total weight, cut into large chunks
  • 200 g/7 oz pork belly or bacon, finely chopped
  • 1 large carrot, very finely chopped
  • 1 celery stick, very finely chopped, plus 5 celery sticks, diced
  • 1 onion, very finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, very finely chopped
  • a large pinch of crushed dried red chilli
  • 250 ml/8 fl oz/1 cup dry white wine
  • 45 ml/3 tbsp tomato paste diluted in 500 ml/17 fl oz/generous 2 cups warm water
  • sea salt and ground black pepper


  1. Bring a large pan of water to the boil and add the chunks of oxtail and cheek. As soon as the water comes back to the boil, remove the meat using a slotted spoon or kitchen tongs. Set it aside to cool.

  2. Put the pork belly or bacon into a separate pan with the carrot, celery stick, onion and garlic. Fry gently together for 10 minutes, stirring frequently.

  3. Add the oxtail and cheek, and brown it thoroughly all over. Season with salt and a generous pinch of crushed dried red chilli.
  4. Add half the wine and cook for 1 minute to evaporate the alcohol. Pour in the diluted tomato paste and stir. Cover and simmer for 1 hour.
  5. Add the remaining wine and cook, uncovered, for 2-3 minutes to evaporate the alcohol. Cover and simmer for 3 hours more.
  6. Stir in the diced celery and cook slowly for a further 30 minutes. Transfer the finished dish to a platter and serve immediately.