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Traditional Roman Style Oxtail

Traditional Roman Style Oxtail

A dish that’s a feast for all the senses. Traditional Roman Style Oxtail is as close as you can get to dining like the ancient Romans.

Traditional Roman Style Oxtail

If you were lucky enough to visit Rome and eat in one of its many “trattorie” (Italian informal restaurants), you’ll have noticed that the food experience is a visceral, rough and traditional one. The Roman cuisine has very ancient origins, but has been able to evolve at an equal pace with the discovery of new ingredients from other continents, such as cocoa and tomatoes.

The queen of entrees is without a doubt the traditional Roman oxtail or “alla vaccinara”, one of the most popular among Roman dishes and the pride of every self-respecting cook of the capital. Today I present you with a more traditional and rich recipe: a dish which is complex in flavors, elegant, but also full of history: a real treat!

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  • Author: Filippo Trapella
  • Yield: 4 servings 1x
  • Category: Secondi


  • 3 lb 1,35 kg oxtail
  • 2 oz 60 gr lard
  • 13/4 lb 260 gr chopped white onions
  • 21/4 lb 500 gr chopped celery
  • ¾ 100 gr carrots
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 17 oz 500 gr whole peeled tomatoes
  • 1 cup 250 ml white wine
  • 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp raisin
  • 2 tbsp pine nuts
  • 4 tbsp 30 gr cocoa powder
  • 1 tbsp parsley
  • 2 cloves
  • to taste black pepper
  • to taste table salt



  1. If the butcher has not already done so, remove the fat which results the toughest on the outside of the tail (without exaggerating, otherwise the meat will not cook well, remaining too hard) and cut into pieces following the joints along the spine.
  2. Wash the pieces of tail well by soaking for at least 1 hour in cold water and changing the water until it remains clear.
  3. Now dry the meat and roast in a casserole with a thick bottom at least 8 inch high along with the melted lard.
  4. When the tail begins to brown, remove from the casserole and keep warm, then add the olive oil and cloves and saute the finely chopped onion, carrot, garlic and half of the celery, until the carrot is soft and the onion translucent.


  1. When the sauce is ready add the tail, stir, raise the heat to high and add white wine and let simmer.
  2. When the alcohol has evaporated, add the peeled tomatoes mashed with a fork, lower to minimum heat, cover and cook until the meat becomes very soft and will tend to detach itself from the bone, it will take at least 3 hours, perhaps more, depending on the age of the animal.
  3. If you prefer, from this step forward it is possible use a slow cooker.
  4. When cooked, the sauce should be soft and juicy without being too watery. If the sauce should result too dry, add a little meat stock (which has to be added boiling).


  1. If you prefer the ordinary version of oxtail, once the meat is cooked, adjust seasoning, add the chopped parsley and cook for another 10 minutes, completing with a sprinkling of pepper at the end.
  2. If you want to try the traditional version, clean and cut the remaining celery (preferably the heart) into strips ¼ inch thick and 5 inch long, then boil for 1 minute in lightly salted water, finally add to the oxtail and cook for another 20 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile soak the raisin in water for 10 minutes, toast the pine nuts in a drop of olive oil and finely chop the parsley.
  4. When the celery is cooked (al dente) remove the meat from the sauce, add the pine nuts, drained raisins, parsley and unsweetened cocoa.
  5. Blend the sauce well, then add the meat and stir gently. Serve immediately while still hot with a few slices of toasted bread.


If you want to prepare the oxtail in advance the day before, follow all the previous steps up until the boiling of the celery. Complete the recipe just before serving, in this way just half an hour will suffice to serve a classic of the Roman cuisine.

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