Disclosure: We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. We are also a participant in other affiliate programs designed to provide a means for us to earn fees, at no extra cost to you. Thanks!
The deeply, spiced aroma of braised oxtail transports me back to Italy instantly. In Italy, Coda alla Vaccinara is made into a stew that eats like a sauce, traditionally made in Rome. This rich oxtail ragu, spiced with cinnamon and juniper just begs to be eaten with a big bowl of pasta, creamy polenta or zucchini noodles, if you’re paleo-ish like we are.
Braising oxtail can take up to 4 hours in the oven and these days I’m just not able to babysit my oven for that long. My solution: Instant Pot oxtail. If you’re not sure about oxtail, let me convince you! Oxtail is a delicious, relatively affordable cut of beef that’s unctuous, richly flavoured and perfect for winter stews, ragus, and curries.
The Instant Pot is a pressure cooker (amongst other things) so it makes quicker work of tough cuts of meat like oxtail and transforms them to be tender and perfectly cooked. If you don’t have an Instant Pot, I’ve included the instructions to prepare this recipe in the oven or slow cooker.
What’s the deal with oxtail?
If you haven’t tried oxtail, it’s time you did! Oxtail is, as the name suggests, the tail of an ox, or cow. Oxtails have a lot of connective tissue and cartilage that provide an amazing amount of collagen which breaks down while it cooks to create the richest, deepest, most unctuous sauce. Collagen is also incredibly good for you – Mark’s Daily Apple explains why here!
Oxtails come in round small to large pieces from the butcher – I prefer the medium to large rounds for braising, while the smaller rounds are great for adding to bone broth and stock. Each piece of oxtail has a bone in the center so once the oxtail is cooked, you can easily separate the meat from the bone, if it hasn’t already done so in the pot.
What’s a ragu?
You may see the word ragu on menus, or in blogs, and cookbooks, but do you know what it means? This typically Italian term refers to a ‘concentrated, dense, meaty sauce made in Bologna…’* It’s traditionally made by slow cooking beef and pork with celery, onions, carrots, herbs, a small amount of tomato, and wine or broth. In our version, we forgo the wine for balsamic vinegar and increase the tomato.
WHAT ARE JUNIPER BERRIES?
If you’ve ever tasted gin, you’ve tasted the flavour of juniper berries. Juniper berries are the ‘seed cones’ from certain juniper trees. They lend an herbal, earthy, incredible flavour to traditional game dishes like rabbit, venison, duck but also, pork and oxtail. When I worked in Italy at La Palta, we made a braised rabbit stuffed pasta tossed in olive oil that had been flavoured with juniper and bay leaf – it was sublime and reimagined the way I think about juniper and bay leaves.
If you’re looking to buy juniper, it’s available from good spice shops and online from my friends at Gneiss Spice. They are kind enough to offer a discount to my readers – use the coupon code PASTATOPALEO15 for 15% off your first order!
NEED SOME MORE OXTAIL RECIPES?
*The Oxford Companion to Italian Food, p. 433.
MORE RECIPES TO ENJOY