I recently came back from Rome not too long ago although it was another quick weekend trip, I was really able to cover a lot of ground, explore, wander and get a real taste of what the city offers. Besides its tremendous history and the footprint it has made in our modern world in terms of religion, history and art, its food really spoke to me. I was so focused on having fresh pasta - that was literally the only thing on my mind! Of course, fresh gelato and pizza were up there as well but what I was really curious about was real traditional Roman dishes. And I found that in coda alla vaccinara.
Coda was my absolute favourite dish I had in Rome. I wish I had the opportunity to try it again! But, I have a rule: I encourage myself to try something new all the time and, if time persists, if I am really in love with something, I can allow myself to try it again, twice. But due to time constraints (the only downfall with my type of traveling), I was only able to try this once!
Coda alla vaccinara is a beautiful Roman dish consisting of braised oxtail, stewed in a tomato sauce and spiked with wonderful warming spices like cinnamon and clove and sometimes dotted with raisins and pine nuts. The version I had did not have the latter. In fact, the version I had was stuffed in leftover pizza dough at a super fun spot called Trapezzino. SO GOOD. I ordered it and stood outside eating in the sun along with the other locals and inhaled it. It was a flavour like no other. It was love at first bite. I knew I had to make this when I came home.
And so I did. This is a dish that you cannot rush but is really quite simple to make and perfect for these winter months. You can serve this with bread or, in my case, with a hot bowl of pasta. This dish is definitely going down in my recipe repertoire - buono appetito!
CODA ALLA VACCINARA - serves 4
2 tbsp olive oil
2 lbs beef oxtail, equivalent to about 6 pieces
5 pieces of bacon, chopped
1 white onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 small stalks celery, diced
1 medium carrot, peeled and diced
2 (6 oz) cans tomato paste
1 cup dry red wine
1 (28.5 oz) can whole tomatoes, with juice
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground cloves
1 tsp dried marjoram
3 tsps granulated sugar
salt + pepper
5 stalks celery, chopped into 3” pieces
In a large heavy-bottomed pot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat and brown the meat on all sides. Set aside.
Add in the bacon and saute until fat starts to appear.
Add in the onion, garlic, celery and carrots and saute until softened.
Add in the tomato paste and stir until toasted.
Add in the spices until fragrant and add in the wine to de-glaze. Make sure to get any bits stuck on the bottom of the pan.
Pour the entire can of whole, peeled tomatoes (with juices) into the pot and crush the tomatoes with a back of a spoon.
Once the stew is brought to a boil, add the oxtail back in and bring the heat down to low and simmer for 2 hours.
At this point, add in the celery pieces and add salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for one 1 hour or until the meat can be cut with a spoon.
Remove from heat and serve with pasta or crusty bread.