Coda alla Vaccinara – Eat Like a Roman Butcher

Coda alla Vaccinara - Braised Oxtail Butcher Style

Famous for dishes that highlight quinto quatro, the “fifth quarter” or oft-ignored parts of an animal, Rome sounds like my kind of town. Alla vaccinara is old Roman for “butcher’s style” and no other cut could be more appropriate for such a designation than oxtail. Unappealing to most, a butcher would know that when properly prepared, oxtail can be much more enjoyable than pricey ribeye or tenderloin.

Unlike other offal that hide behind cutesy names (sweetbreads for thymus glands, adidas for chicken feet, rocky mountain oysters for uh, cow “berries,” and soup number 5 for see preceding item), oxtail is exactly what it sounds like. It is, in fact, the tail of an ox-slash-cow, so unless there’s a nuclear spill nearby, there’s only one small sliver per beast. I’m convinced, however, that the neighborhood meat counters rarely carry oxtail not because of low supply, but because the white-clad guys behind the counter keep it for themselves.

Until the day the vaccinari hones a cleaver and gets its hands on the vacca, the oxtail wags away happily while shielding sensitive bovine parts from the harsh elements and inappropriate bulls gone wild. Since oxtail gets quite the workout, in addition to being bony, the meat that it does have is Schwarzenegger-tough. The adage goes, “The closer to the bone, the sweeter the meat,” and it couldn’t be more true for oxtail. Slowly simmered for hours in an aromatic base of tomatoes and white wine, a rich broth is produced from the bones and the tough meat is coaxed into silky tenderness.

recipe adapted from Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking

Coda alla Vaccinara
Roman Braised Oxtail, Butcher’s Style

makes 4 to 6 servings

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/2 teaspoon chopped garlic
2/3 cup diced onions
2/3 cup diced carrots

2 1/2 pounds oxtail, severed at each joint
1 1/2 cups dry white wine
1/2 cup diced plum tomatoes

salt and black pepper, to taste

1 1/2 cups chopped celery


  • Coda alla Vaccinara is best made at least a day in advance. The rendered oxtail fat will also be much easier to remove if refrigerated before serving (see“if preparing ahead of time”).
  • Add 1/4 pound of diced pancetta to the soffritto (sauteed aromatics) for a richer base.

To Prepare the Soffritto:

In a wide saute pan or enameled dutch oven, combine the olive oil, parsley, garlic, onion, and carrots. Place over medium heat and saute for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently. The onions should be slightly translucent and the garlic pale gold.

Coda alla Vaccinara Soffritto
Italian Cooking 101: The Soffritto – saute the parsley, onions, garlic, and carrots in extra virgin olive oil

To Braise the Oxtail:

Push the soffritto base to the sides of the pan. Increase the heat to medium high and add the oxtail to the middle of the pan. Turn the oxtail pieces until lightly browned on all sides, about 4 to 6 minutes.

Add the wine and simmer for about 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes and 1 cup water. The oxtail should be about halfway immersed after adding the water. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and lower the heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Cover and braise for 1 1/2 hours.

Add the chopped celery and stir thoroughly with the other ingredients. Cover and simmer for another 45 minutes, or until the oxtail meat is tender and almost falling off the bone.

Coda alla Vaccinara Braised Oxtails
cooling the braised oxtails

If serving immediately:

Tip the pan and skim as much of the fat as possible.

If preparing ahead of time:

Let the coda alla vaccinara cool to room temperature while uncovered. Cover and refrigerate overnight, for up to 3 days. Once thoroughly chilled, the rendered oxtail fat will congeal on top and is easily removable with a spoon. Remove the fat and reheat gently over medium heat to serve.

La Cucina Italiana – Authentic Italy hosted by Meeta of What’s for Lunch, Honey?

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29 Responses to “Coda alla Vaccinara – Eat Like a Roman Butcher”

  1. Ning says:

    This dish is rich and delicious! I remember I made something similar once but I used the bone marrow and meat instead of oxtail.

    last blog post: Pork Chop Noodle Soup

  2. [eatingclub] vancouver || js says:

    Hearty and stick-to-your-ribs this one. It’s perfect for the winter-like weather we’ve been having for the past three days!

    last blog post: Quesadilla: Sprouted Grain Tortilla and other stuff

  3. Christine says:

    Oxtail is delicious. So rich and gelatinous. Your Roman version sounds wonderful!

    last blog post: 135. How to cook one ear of corn in the microwave and corn almond soup – Recipes

  4. Rachel says:

    Mmm, looks and sounds delicious! It’s been too long since my last oxtail dish.

    last blog post: ‘Pig’ging Out

  5. kat says:

    I had oxtail stew once in Spain & it was so delicious

    last blog post: What we did with CSA box #7

  6. noobcook says:

    This is the perfect stew … and better still if eaten during a rainy day… beautiful :)

  7. kellypea says:

    Another succulent piece of meat I’ve always wondered about. Without posts like this, I would never see oxtails. The grocery store never has them, and so I need to make a point to find a butcher. We have them, but it’s a special trip. This looks very delicious and know that with cooking it a day ahead, it must be remarkably flavorful.

  8. Marvin says:

    I’ve never had oxtail any other way than in Kare-Kare. And this Italian version looks much easier! I also like that this can be made ahead of time.

    last blog post: Gin and Juice

  9. maybelles mom (feeding maybelle) says:

    looks very delicious; i have bookmarked it.

    last blog post:

  10. Claire says:

    I’m a vegetarian, but I’d even be willing to try this. I wouldn’t pass up a taste of a well-prepared traditional dish. Thanks for the fun and informative post.

    last blog post: Fig and Walnut Bread

  11. Jeff says:

    I love oxtail! Such a wonderful piece of meat that is dirt cheap. As long as I don’t tell people what part of the cow it came from they never complain but man tell them they ate tail and they will freak out on you.

  12. Tom Aarons says:

    I have some of this in my fridge right now. And you’re right. I had to wrastle from the butcher. Said he was saving for a regular. Pah. Lies. I know he just wanted to keep it all for himself! :)

    last blog post: Cha Tlarm Bay – Three Liver Stir Fry

  13. Joelen says:

    Wow – I could eat oxtail everyday and this dish looks amazing! If you have any leftovers I’d be happy to take them off your hands :)

  14. ning – is it osso buco? this might be considered the poor man’s version.

    js – it was a bit early, but it’s almost the right weather for braising.

    christine – the broth is really rich… it makes the three hour wait worth it.

    rachel – it’s not too easy to find around here.

    kat – was going to make a spanish version, maybe next time

    noobcook – definitely

    kellypea – it’s the same here — a bit of a trip to get oxtails. There are a lot of butchers here but they never seem to “have them.”

    marvin – I was going to make kare kare but I was short by, uh, about 10 ingredients.

    maybelle’s mom – hope you like it!

    claire – If I was vegetarian this would probably be the dish that changes my mind.

    jeff – It’s hard to convince some people to try this. “Try it you’ll like it” doesn’t work most times.

    tom – It’s funny how some butchers avert your gaze when asked for oxtail.

    joelen – The celery makes it completes te dish… Will let you know the next time :)

  15. Dragon says:

    This dish is pure comfort. So lovely!

    last blog post: Roasted Corn with Chili Lime Butter

  16. oggi says:

    This Italian version is similar but lighter than the Spanish Rabo de Toro and of course our Kare-kare. I’ll definitely try this.

    last blog post: Omnivore 100

  17. Ivonne says:

    I love your blog and yes … you must have been a Roman in a past life!

    last blog post: Hello, Autumn!

  18. Sweatha says:


  19. yasmeen says:

    Congrats on winning the recipe ,jude:)

  20. Liliana says:

    I have never made oxtail before and when I do I will certainly use your recipe. It looks and sounds delicious!

    Congratulations on the winning recipe!

  21. Arundathi says:

    Congratulations on the winning recipe! :-)

  22. Lien says:

    Congratulations Jude! A fantastic posting it’s well deserved!!

  23. Thanks everyone! :)

  24. Donte Sorgatz says:

    I was doing some browsing and came across this website. Have to say that this information is on point! Keep writing more. Will be reading your posts

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