Coda alla Vaccinara (Oxtail Stewed in Tomato Sauce)

All regions of Italy have their own traditional dishes, referred to as piatti tipici. I like to cook my way through Italy by trying piatti tipici  from different regions. Coda alla Vaccinara is a typical dish from the cucina povera (poor man’s kitchen) of Rome (Lazio). Oxtail is part of what is called the quinto quarto (the fifth quarter), the less desirable parts of an animal that remain when all the nice parts have been taken. As often with traditional Italian dishes, there are many different versions. I made an elaborate version with  raisins, pine nuts, and cocoa powder in the sauce. The sauce can be served over penne rigate or rigatoni, which is called Rigatoni al Sugo di Coda.

There is quite a bit of bone in oxtail, so from 1 kilo (2.2 lbs) of oxtail you only get enough meat for 2-3 servings, but enough pasta sauce for 6 servings.

Although I’m not cooking Italian food exclusively, it is still my favorite food and my love for Italy and Italian food and wine has motivated me to start learning the language. To practice writing in Italian I have started a spin-off blog in Italian called Stefano Buongustaio, with Italian translations of part of the recipes of my main blog (i.e. the one you’re reading right now).



For 2-3 servings (6 servings of pasta sauce)

1 kilo (2.2 lbs) oxtail, cut into pieces

100 grams (4 oz) lardo or guanciale

3 Tbsp olive oil

1 onion

1 carrot

2 celery stalks

2 cloves garlic

1 Tbsp chopped fresh flatleaf parsley

3 cloves

400 ml (1 2/3 cups) dry white wine

2 cans (400 g/14 oz) peeled tomatoes

salt and freshly ground black pepper

To finish the sauce

3 stalks celery

20 grams (2 Tbsp) pine nuts

30 grams (2 1/2 Tbsp) raisins

1 tsp cocoa powder


Cut the lardo into cubes.

Mince the carrots, onion, garlic, and celery finely with the food processor.

Wash the oxtail pieces and dry with paper towels.

Heat the oil in a casserole and add the lardo. (It would be advisable to use a larger casserole than I did.)

Sauté the lardo until it starts to turn golden.

Add the oxtail pieces.

Brown them on all sides.

Add the minced vegetables, parsley and cloves. [The traditional recipe says to add this to the meat, but when I make this again I will take out the oxtail first and put it back in right after adding the wine.]

Cook for a few minutes, stirring, until the vegetables start to turn golden.

Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and add the wine. Cover and cook for 15 minutes over low heat.

Add the tomatoes (whizzed in the foodprocessor).

Bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer, cover the casserole, and simmer for about 4 hours or until the oxtail is fall-off-the-bone tender.

The sauce can be used to serve over rigatoni.

The pasta can be served with freshly grated pecorino romano (a cheese from the same region as the dish) and chopped parsley.

To finish the sauce, soak the raisins in hot water for 10 minutes.

Remove the fibrous part of the celery stalks with a vegetable peeler.

Cut the celery stalks into small pieces.

Parboil the celery pieces for a couple of minutes.

Drain the celery.

Put a bit of the sauce in a small bowl and add the cocoa powder.

Stir the cocoa powder into the sauce and then add this mixture to the casserole.

Add the celery…

… the raisins …

… and the pine nuts.

Stir to mix and cook for 15 minutes to allow the flavors to mix.

Serve the oxtail with some sauce. As a wine pairing a red from Lazio such as a Cesanese del Piglio would be traditional, but this dish is great with many full-bodied red wines.

25 thoughts on “Coda alla Vaccinara (Oxtail Stewed in Tomato Sauce)

  1. My dad introduced us to oxtail stew using a French recipe “Hodge Podge de queue de bouef.” It’s been my all-time favorite recipe ever since. I love the way you’ve finished off your dish – cocoa powder!


      1. I don’t have the recipe in front of me, but I remember it was twice cooked. The first time with the tails dredged in a fiery spiced flour, browned, then stewed all day. Once cooled and defatted, you baked it again with button mushrooms, pearl onions, and bacon. Must organize my recipes on-line!


  2. Ok Stefano buongustaio, allora da adesso in poi ti scrivo solo in italiano. Se ci sono degli errori, vuoi che te lo faccia notare? Ma dubito


  3. I may have to ask for some demarkation given that you have started an Italian blog (I don’t know where you get the time). I don’t understand half the comments. However, I do understand that this is a fantastic looking dish. I am hoping to do something with oxtails soon. I have no idea what just yet.


    1. Oxtail soup is a classic dish around here that is very good — a strong but clear oxtail broth with some morsels of the oxtail meat in it.

      As for the time, I did realise the other day that I spend almost as much time on cooking, shopping for ingredients, eating, and blogging, as I do on my day job 🙂 Since our lot was drawn for participation with our boat in the gay pride canal parade and the preparations for that are about the commence, I may have to cut back just a little to have time left for sleeping as well…


  4. This is the quintessence of Roman cooking! From the area known as the “Mattatoio” (i.e. the abattoir) of Rome’s Testaccio neighbourhood. I have an old cookery book dating back to 1934 “La Vera Cucina Italiana” in which this recipe is called “La codata”. And the writer complains that it’s difficult to get hold of an oxtail ! Quote: Per quanto la cosa possa sembrare inverosimile in questi tempi, la grande difficoltà di questa ricetta è trovare una coda. Voglio dire una vera coda di bue o di vitello.” He then goes on to remark that: “Persuadetevi che a Roma mangiano superlativamente bene soltanto gli artisti e gli svizzeri del papa, perché sanno scegliersi con cura la loro osteria. La codata è dunque un piatto squisito.” At this point the recipe he writes of is taken from someone he highly esteems in terms of Roman cooking: “Eccovi la ricetta che devo a Cincinnato, autentico vaccinaro ed oste. Mi pare che, come romanità, non si possa andare più in là di Cincinnato”. Okay …This recipe calls for nutmeg as well as the chocolate and pine kernels. Even small prunes! “prugne visciole” … Because, according to him, the recipe is a sweet and sour one (agrodolce): Final touch is a slight dusting of cinammon.

    Whatever! Your coda looks fab!


  5. This sounds like a wonderful dish and tasty meal, Stefan. Using raisins, pine nuts, and cinnamon to finish the sauce would definitely add depth to the dish, as well as a bit of texture. Although I don’t specifically remember oxtail being served, I’d be very surprised to learn that it wasn’t. Very few meats didn’t end up in some sort of tomato sauce back home, sooner or later. I’ll have to ask The Fountainhead, Zia, to see if she remembers. 🙂
    This was another great post, Stefan.


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