Coda alla Vaccinara is a classic dish from Rome: oxtail stewed in tomato sauce. It is usually served as a secondo, but you can also eat the sauce over pasta as a primo before that. Another less common variation is what I’ve done here: pasta with oxtail ragù, where the meat is chopped up and mixed with the pasta to create a very flavorful piatto unico.
Classic coda calls for stewing the meat until it falls off the bone. But now we have sous-vide and can make something special: medium oxtail that is very tender and juicy and still pink. It requires an exceptionally long cook of 100 hours at 60C/140F! The meat is very beefy and flavorful when cooked this way, and the only drawback besides the long cooking time is that it won’t fall off the bone so you will have to work a bit to separate the meat from the bones. (By the way, you don’t have to do anything during those 100 hours. Just vacuum seal the oxtail and put it in the sous-vide and then forget about it for 4 days.)
As I’ve shown in this post you can cook the oxtail sous-vide with the tomato sauce, and then the tomato flavor will penetrate all the way into the meat. For this version I decided to cook the oxtail separately and only mix it with the sauce in the end, and mixing the sous-vide juices with the tomato sauce. This makes for a more interesting flavor profile, because the oxtail stays more beefy inside the tomato sauce.
Finally a note on the pasta shape. In Rome the most usual pasta shape for this would be rigatoni. I thought that conchiglie rigate (ribbed pasta shells) would work even better, because they have the ideal shape to ‘absorb’ the pieces of oxtail meat in the sauce. But you can make this with any short pasta of your choice.
For 2 servings
About 600 grams (1.3 lbs) oxtail, cooked sous-vide for 100 hours at 60C/140F
250 ml (1 cup) peeled tomatoes, pureed in the food processor
80 ml (1/3 cup) dry wine
1 Tbsp raisins
1 Tbsp pine nuts
1 stick cinnamon
1 carrot, 1 onion, 1 celery stalk, minced
2 celery stalks
150 grams (.33 lb) conchiglie, or other short pasta
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp minced fresh flat leaf parsley
Season the oxtail with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Then vacuum seal, and cook sous-vide for 100 hours (96 hours or 4 days will be fine, too) at 60C/140F.
Use only meaty segments of oxtail and save the thin ones to make beef stock.
To make the sauce, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a frying pan. Add minced carrot, onion, and celery, and season with salt.
Add a tablespoon of pinenuts as well.
Stir over medium heat until the vegetables start to color, about 5 minutes.
Deglaze with 80 ml of wine (white or red are both fine).
Add a tablespoon of raisins, 2 cloves, and a stick of cinnamon.
Add 250 ml of peeled tomatoes, pureed in the food processor. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Simmer until the sauce has thickened, about 15 minutes.
In the meantime, peel the top of the 2 celery stalks to remove the tough fibers, and then cut them into slices.
Now take the oxtail out of the sous-vide. Cut open the bag, and add the juices to the sauce.
Bring to a boil again, stirring, then reduce the heat to a simmer again.
Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to a boil. When the water boils, add salt and the pasta. Set the timer for the time indicated on the package for al dente.
While the pasta cooks, take the meat off the bones (this is easiest with your fingers)…
…and chop it roughly.
About 3 minutes before the pasta is ready, add the sliced celery to the pot with the pasta.
When the sauce has reached a nice thick consistency…
…remove the cinnamon and the cloves.
Add the chopped oxtail meat…
…and stir to incorporate. Then turn off the heat, so the oxtail meat won’t overcook.
When the timer beeps, drain the pasta and celery, and add it to the sauce in the pan.
Toss to mix.
Serve at once on preheated plates, sprinkled with minced parsley.
Shrimp with almonds and onions is a simple but very tasty appetizer that was inspired by something we tried in Croatia. The combination of the sweet earthy shrimp with the sweet onions and earthy almonds works very well. The garlic adds depth of flavor and it brightened up by parsley and just a drop of lemon juice.