My take on one of the stars of Quinto Quarto/the 5th Quarter Roman “cuisine.” Trattoria Sora Lella on Isola Tibernia (Tiber Island) in Rome was the basic inspiration for my oxtails and it’s delicious. Over the years I’ve added things I’ve seen in other preparations from places in Rome such as Trattoria Agustarello and Trattoria da Cesare. Here’s a bit of history of the why and how this cuisine came about. Quinto Quarto is the offal of butchered animals and amounts to about a fourth of the weight of the carcass. These “less desirable” bits became very important to Roman cooking. Years ago slaughterhouse workers in the Testaccio area of Rome were partly paid in kind with a share of the offal. Oxtails may be considered part of the 5th Quarter but in my books they are just another cut of beef that’s so worth cooking, ending up with almost falling off the bone deliciousness. In Rome the oxtails are sometimes served on pasta but I enjoy them simply served with good, crusty bread with either a salad beforehand or a vegetable side dish. And nibbling on the bones is part of the fun…or it is for me!
Approximately 4 – 6 Servings
3-4 lbs. oxtails, larger pieces are preferable
2Tbsp. EVO + 2 Tbsp. canola oil
3 stalks celery, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2-3 bay leaves
¼ cup raisins
2 Tbsp. Pine Nuts or toasted slivered almonds (see below)
3 whole cloves
1 clove garlic, chopped
2/3 cup red or white wine
28 oz. tin Italian Plum Tomatoes, chopped + 1 Tbsp. tomato paste if desired
1 cinnamon stick
Salt & pepper
¼ tsp. pepperoncino (chili flakes) or to taste
1-2 Tbsp. cocoa powder mixed with a bit of wine to a paste
Preheat oven to 300F.
Make a “battuto” celery, carrots and onions (a battuto is the Italian word for finely chopped).
Brown the oxtails in the EVO and canola oil (using a combination of oils seems to help the oxtails brown better than just EVO). Removing to a plate as they are browned.
Add the finely chopped celery, carrots and onions to the pan a saute until soft. Add the wine and allow to bubble for a minute or so. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, if using and remaining ingredients except for the cocoa-water paste.
Return the oxtails to the tomato mixture in the pot. Bring to a simmer, cover and place in the preheated oven for 1 ½ hours. Turn the oxtails over, cover and continue to bake until they are done, approximately 1 to 1 ½ hours longer.
Half an hour before they are done stir in the cocoa-water paste, cover and bake for the remaining 30 minutes.
You will have to skim the fat once cooked. One of the best ways for me is to skim some then to get up as much as you want by placing paper towels on the surface for a few seconds until the fat is absorbed. Discard the paper towels and repeat as necessary.
Yum, Yum. As a fellow oxtail lover friend once told me “you know when they are good when your lips sort of stick together.”
Helpful link to Toasting Nuts.