This authentic coda alla vaccinara recipe is packed with bold and hearty flavors. Beef oxtail is braised in a hearty tomato sauce and cooked slowly until the meat falls from the bone.

Coda alla vaccinara is a traditional Italian dish that consists of a slow-cooked stew made with oxtail, tomato sauce, and vegetables such as onion, carrots, and celery.

The recipe originally comes from the heart of Rome in the Regola neighborhood where the bovine butchers (called vaccinari) lived many years ago. It belongs to the category of cucina povera which is noted by its use of simple cooking techniques and humble, seasonal ingredients.

This roman dish is comforting, hearty, and really easy to make. I like to serve it with crusty bread and use the vaccinara sauce leftovers to serve with fresh pasta.

Coda alla vaccinara in a cast iron pan.

This is my family recipe, my mother-in-law taught me to make coda alla vaccinara about 20 years ago and I have been cooking it this way since then.

Ingredients

  • Oxtail. You can find this type of meat at the supermarket butchery sold cut into chunks. The oxtail is actually the cow’s tail.
  • Vegetables. You will need onion, carrot, and celery to make the soffritto condiment, which adds not only flavor but also texture to this dish.
  • Passata. Is a smooth tomato sauce usually sold in bottles, if you can’t find it, use canned tomatoes and blend them until smooth.
  • White wine. This type of meat has a strong flavor, the wine helps to balance it. If you don’t want or can add wine, you can also replace it with a splash of white vinegar.
  • Lardo. Lardo is a salumi prepared with pork fat, it is widely used in Italian cuisine. You can replace it with regular lard or just use olive oil if you prefer.
  • Oil. An excellent extra virgin olive oil is the key to almost all Italian recipes. You can also use your favorite cooking oil.
  • Seasonings. You will need salt and pepper, and a few whole cloves.
  • FOR THE CACAO SAUCE. For the savory hearty sauce, you going to need celery, pine nuts, raisins, and unsweetened cacao powder.
Ingredients for coda alla vaccinara in a kitchen surface.

How To Make Coda Alla Vaccinara

Wash and peel the carrots, celery, and onion. Finely chop everything. You can also check here our recipe for soffritto.

Pro Tip: If you use a knife, the soffritto will be chunkier and the sauce will have more texture. If you want a smoother sauce, use a food processor to chop the vegetables.

Wash the meat thoroughly and then pat dry it with kitchen paper towels.

Place it in a large braising pan along with olive oil, lardo, garlic, and whole cloves. Season with salt and pepper.

Oxtail in a pan with olive oil, lardo, garlic, and whole cloves.

Sauté everything over medium heat for 10 minutes or until the meat is nicely browned on all sides.

Seared oxtail in a pan with condiments.

Add the chopped vegetables and cook everything for 10-15 minutes over medium heat while stirring constantly.

Soffritto condiment with carrots, celery, and onions, stirred with oxtail in a pan.

Turn the heat to high and pour the wine, mix, and cover the pan. Let everything cook for 5 more minutes.

Oxtail simmering with soffritto condiment and wine.

Add the tomato sauce and enough water to slightly cover the meat. Season with salt and bring to a boil.

Tomato and water added to the pan with oxtail and condiments.

Set heat to low and cover the pan, then cook for about 2.5 – 3 hours mixing from time to time and adding more water if needed.

Meanwhile, make the cacao sauce

  • Cook the celery stick in water until tender.
  • In a small saucepan add 1 cup of the oxtail sauce and 1 cup of water.
  • Add cooked celery, pine nuts, raisins, and cacao powder.
  • Mix well and let it simmer over low heat for about 10 minutes.
The ingredients for cacao sauce for coda alla vaccinara in a pan.

When the meat is cooked to the point that almost falls off the bone, add the cacao sauce and allow it to simmer everything for 5 minutes.

Adjust salt to taste, turn off the heat, and serve.

Fully cooked coda alla vaccinara.

Notes

  • This is a recipe that takes time to make, a classic Italian slow-food dish. It is necessary that the meat is cooked for at least 3 hours at low heat so it will be nicely tender and release all the amazing flavor into the sauce.
  • Coda alla Vaccinara can be made in a slow-cooker pot. Just sauté the meat and soffritto in a pan separately and add less water to the stew since it won’t evaporate as it does in a regular braising pan. It can be cooked in about 6-7 hours over low.
  • Give the stew a spicy touch by adding one or two crushed peperoncini.

Serve With

Coda alla vaccinara is served traditionally by using the vaccinara sauce to coat pasta rigatoni. This is usually called pasta con sugo alla vaccinara.

Then the meat with a little sauce will be served as secondo (main course) to be enjoyed with homemade bread to do the classic scarpetta at the end, that is, mop up every last drop of the sauce on the plate with a piece of bread.

Of course, you can serve this amazing Roman-style oxtail stew however you prefer, like with pasta or with bread, over a bowl of rice, or even with zucchini noodles if you want a low-carb meal.

Coda alla vaccinara served in a plate with crusty bread on the side.

Store and Reheat

Coda alla vaccinara lasts up to 3 days in the refrigerator in a container with a tight-fitting lid.

It can also be frozen for up to 3 months, which makes this recipe an amazing prep meal for those busy nights when you want to enjoy a cozy, homemade meal.

For reheating, place the leftovers in a pan and add a splash of water to loosen up the sauce, and reheat over medium heat for 10 minutes or until everything is nicely hot.

FAQ

What does vaccinara mean?

In Italy, alla vaccinara means “butcher-style” and it refers mostly to a stew made with oxtail simmered in a tomato sauce along with onions, carrots, and celery.

What are oxtails really made of?

Oxtail is a type of cut that comes from the tail of the cow. It is full of connective tissue and rich in collagen, making it one of the best beef cuts for braises and stews.

More Italian Stews

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Coda alla vaccinara recipe.

Coda alla Vaccinara

4 servings
This coda alla vaccinara is the ultimate comfort dish for any day of the week. Beef oxtail is braised in a hearty tomato sauce with celery until nicely tender. Enjoy with crusty bread or pasta!
prep 15 minutes
cook 3 hours 10 minutes
total 3 hours 25 minutes

Ingredients 

  • 2.2 lb oxtail
  • 1 small onion
  • 2 sticks celery
  • 1 medium carrot
  • 3 ½ cups tomato sauce
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 4 whole cloves
  • ¼ cup lardo, cubed (or bacon)
  • 3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic (lightly crushed)
  • salt and pepper (to taste)

For the sauce

  • 3 sticks celery (cut into 3-inch pieces)
  • ¼ cup pine nuts
  • cup raisins
  • 1 Tbsp unsweetened cacao powder

Instructions
 

  • Finely chop the carrot, onion, and 2 sticks of celery. Set aside.
  • Place the meat in a large braising pan along with olive oil, lardo, garlic, and whole cloves.
  • Season with salt and pepper and sauté everything over medium heat for 10 minutes or until the meat is nicely browned on all sides.
  • Add the chopped vegetables and cook for 10-15 minutes over medium heat.
  • Turn the heat to high and pour the wine, mix, and cover the pan. Let everything cook for 5 more minutes.
  • Add the tomato sauce and enough water to slightly cover the meat. Season with salt and bring to a boil.
  • Set heat to low and cover the pan, then simmer for about 2.5 – 3 hours mixing from time to time and adding more water if needed.

Make the cacao sauce

  • Cook the remaining celery sticks in water until tender.
  • In a small saucepan add 1 cup of the oxtail sauce and 1 cup of water.
  • Add cooked celery, pine nuts, raisins, and cacao powder.
  • Mix well and let it simmer over low heat for about 10 minutes.
  • Add the cacao sauce to the oxtail stew and let everything simmer for 5 minutes.
  • Adjust salt to taste, turn off the heat, and serve.

Notes

  • You can chop the vegetables by hand or use a food processor. 
  • This oxtail stew lasts up to 3 days in the fridge and up to 3 months in the freezer.
  • It can also be made in a slow-cooker pot over low heat for 6-7 hours. Make sure to adjust the liquid accordingly.
Nutrition Information
Serving: 1 serving | Calories: 944kcal | Carbohydrates: 29g | Protein: 85g | Fat: 51g | Saturated Fat: 16g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 5g | Monounsaturated Fat: 25g | Cholesterol: 274mg | Sodium: 3599mg | Potassium: 1058mg | Fiber: 6g | Sugar: 11g | Vitamin A: 3704IU | Vitamin C: 20mg | Calcium: 125mg | Iron: 13mg
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