Roman Oxtail Stew (Coda alla Vaccinara)

By March 1, 2016 Recipes 12 Comments

When I arrive in Rome every fall Roman Oxtail Stew or Coda alla Vaccinara is one of the dishes that I must have.  The food of Rome is different than what our perception of Italian food is in the US.  The people of Rome historically survived on the parts of the animal that no one wanted.  That is where this dish was derived, it’s made with oxtails.  Anyone who has ever tasted an oxtail stew will tell you this is one of the most flavorful cuts of beef to braise.  That is why this dish is a classic today.


This recipe comes from Cooking the Roman Way by David Downie (HarperCollins 2002).  He is an American who was raised in Rome so he has an understanding of how to present the Roman culture in a way we Americans can embrace it.  I love his stories about food, his descriptions of Mario the Spice Guy who has a stall in the Campo di Fiori I make sure to visit every year,  the restaurants, the traditions and history of the food.



In this recipe, Mr. Downie explains how the dish got its name.  The men and women who slaughtered the cows were called “vaccinari“.   The origins of this dish are in the up and coming Testaccio neighborhood.  That is were the slaughterhouses were located.  

I do love this book   It is out of print now but if you are seriously looking for a culinary guide to Rome, it’s well worth seeking out a used copy.



4.5 from 2 reviews
Roman Oxtail Stew (Coda alla Vaccinara)
Recipe from Cooking the Roman Way by David Downie, HarperCollins 2002
Servings: 6 Servings
  • 1 beef oxtail (2½-3 pounds)
  • 12 celery stalks
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 medium-sized white onion
  • 4 ounces pancetta
  • 2 heaping tablespoons minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt or coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup Italian dry red wine
  • 1 tablespoon tomato concentrate
  • 2 (28-ounce) cans Italian plum tomatoes, preferably San Marzano
  • 6 to 8 cups boiling water
  • 5 cloves
  • 1 bay leaf
  1. Rinse the oxtail under warm running water and eliminate any fat or gristle with a paring knife and your fingers. Chop it into sections along the vertebrae. Pat them dry with paper towels.
  2. Remove the stringy parts of the celery. Mince 1 stalk and reserve the rest. Peel and halve the garlic with a paring knife, removing any imperfections including the green shoot. Mince the garlic with the carrot and onion. Mince the pancetta; you should have ¾ cup. Combine the minced vegetables and pancetta with 1 heaping tablespoon of the parsley.
  3. Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high. Add the minced vegetable-and-pancetta mixture and sauté, stirring with a wooden spoon or spatula until the onion becomes translucent, 4 to 5 minutes.
  4. Add the oxtail, a generous pinch of salt and several turns of the peppermill. Brown thoroughly, stirring, flipping and scraping for about 15 minutes.
  5. Pour in the wine and boil to evaporate it, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the tomato concentrate. Add the tomatoes and their packing juices, crushing and stirring. Add just enough of the water to completely submerge the oxtail bones.
  6. Wrap the cloves in a beggar's purse of gauze and tie it closed with kitchen string, leaving about one foot of string attached. Lower the purse into the stew and secure the string to a pot handle. Drop in the bay leaf and stir.
  7. Lower the heat to minimum and simmer, partially covered, for 2 hours.
  8. Slice the remaining 11 celery stalks into sticks the size of an index finger. Add them to the stew and simmer, covered, for 40 minutes.
  9. Remove and discard the purse of cloves and the bay leaf. Stir in the remaining 1 heaping tablespoon of parsley. Serve in soup bowls.



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