When cooking ragu, I have one rule: go slow and low. That’s right. Particularly when cooking ragu, it is incredibly difficult to screw things up other than not cooking it for long enough (wink wink).
This morning I chose to make oxtail ragu. Oxtails are a great alternative to other cuts of meat when it comes to stewing as they are often cheaper. Well, they used to be very cheap until they got popular, thereby driving the price up. Basically it tastes like beef. However, because of the extra fat and gelatin, cooking oxtail for several hours will produce an incredibly rich stock or stew and the meat will yield a better texture than most beef.
When cooking oxtail, first brown it in the dutch oven (or heavy pot). Then add the aromatic vegetables that will go into the base. Add the wine and stock as well as the herbs. Personally, I like to add a few rosemary and thyme sprigs and a bay leaf or two. Season and let it simmer for hours on low heat (or in a slow cooker). A sprinkle of red pepper will add a dimension of warmth too. The meat is cooked properly when is its soft, jelly like and will fall off the bones easily.
N.B.: Feel free to use a pressure cooker or a slow cooker too (can cook overnight in that case).
Oxtail Ragu with Fettuccine
PREP: 15 min | COOK: ~3 hours (shorter if using pressure cooker and longer if using slow cooker) | TOTAL: 3.5 hours | YIELDS: 4 servings
- 1kg of oxtail, cut into thick pieces
- 2 x 400g cans of diced tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon of tomato paste
- 3 cloves of garlic
- 2 bay leaves
- 1-2 tablespoons of diced fresh rosemary
- Few sprigs of fresh thyme
- 1 onion, peeled and diced
- 2 sticks of celery, peeled and diced
- 1 large carrot (or two small carrots), peeled and diced
- 1 cup of red wine
- 2 cups of chicken stock (feel free to opt for beef if you want a heavier flavour)
- 30g of butter (or substitute for olive oil)
- Black pepper and salt, to taste
- Sprig of rosemary or fresh parsley to garnish
- Few shavings of parmesan if desired (for serving)
- Heat dutch oven on high heat. Melt the butter or olive oil. Brown the oxtail a minute or two on each side till it yields a golden colour.
- Once browned, remove oxtail and reduce heat to low. With the juices still in the pot, add the diced onions and sweat for several minutes until translucent.
- Add the diced garlic, carrots, celery, bay leaf and herbs. Season with salt and pepper and stir for 15 minutes or so until softened.
- Transfer the oxtails back into the pot. Add the red wine, shortly followed by the diced can tomatoes, chicken (or beef) stock and tomato paste. Mix thoroughly till all coated.
- Let the mixture simmer on low heat for several hours (around 2-3 but you can go longer) with the lid on. You know when the oxtail is done when the meat falls of the bone. Remember to periodically check the pot though and if the stock runs low, simply add more water or stock (or red wine). The mixture should look something like the picture below when almost done.
- Once done, remove the pot to the side and using a fork, start stripping the meat off the bones and removing the bone and thyme sprigs so that you are left with the ragu and the sauce.
- While you are removing the meat from the bones, you can start cooking the pasta. Bring a pot of water to the rolling boil and add salt and oil. Add the fettuccine and cook according to packet instructions till al dente (roughly 6 minutes). Once done, grab a pair of tongs and transfer the pasta to the serving bowl. Generously spoon the oxtail ragu on top of the pasta and garnish with parsley or rosemary sprig (and a few shavings of parmesan if desired) and serve while warm.