Coda alla Vaccinara, Roman Oxtail Stew

Coda alla Vaccinara, Stewed Veal Tail

Coda alla Vaccinara, Stewed Veal Tail

Coda alla vaccinara is the quintessential Roman stew, and as such there are innumerable variations on the theme. Armando, who prepared the coda pictured here, prefers to use veal tail, which is tenderer and requires a shorter cooking time, rather than oxtail. It’s the way his family does it, and since they are Romani de Roma, from one of the old neighborhoods behind the Vatican, what he does is as far as I am concerned as authentic as a dish made with oxtails and cooked for several hours longer.

The meat is not the only thing that varies from recipe to recipe. Some coda alla vaccinara recipes are fairly simple, calling for oxtail, a battuto of herbs, a splash of wine, and some tomato paste, whereas others also include pine nuts, plumped raisins, and bitter chocolate, in other words a dolce e forte (sweet and piquant) combination that was once more common than it is now. The one one constant all the recipes I have looked at call for is celery, which is generally boiled separately until almost done, cut into short lengths, and added shortly before the stew is done.

We’ll begin with a simple version, drawn from Ada Boni’s Talismano della Felicità.

To serve 6:

  • 3 1/2 pounds (1.5 k) oxtails, cut at the joints between the vertebrae
  • 1 tablespoon rendered lard (you could also use olive oil)
  • A thin slice of cured lard, or the fat from two prosciutto slices
  • A medium onion, peeled and chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • A carrot, peeled and chopped (not too finely)
  • A small bunch of parsley, minced
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • A glass of dry red wine
  • 2-3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • Celery (6-8 stalks)

Mrs. Boni begins by noting that Romans commonly also add beef cheeks to the pot (if you follow suit, and Armando did not, figure 3 1/2 pounds of tail and cheeks), and says to wash all the meat well and pat it dry.

Put a tablespoon of rendered lard with the lard (or prosciutto fat) onion, garlic, carrot, and parsley, and sauté until the onion is translucent and beginning to color before adding the meat. Season to taste with salt and pepper and continue to sauté until all is well browned.

While the meat is cooking bring a teakettle of water to a boil.

Sprinkle the red wine into the pot and continue cooking until it has evaporated. Stir the tomato paste into the pot and add boiling water to cover. Cover the pot, reduce the heat to a gentle simmer, and cook for about 6 hours, by which time the sauce will have thickened considerably.

About an hour before the coda is ready, trim the leaves and strip the fibers from the celery stalks, and boil them until almost fork tender in lightly salted water. Drain them, cut them into 2 1/2 inch (6 cm) lengths, and add them to the coda, and continue cooking until all is done.

Coda alla Vaccinara, Stewed Veal Tail

Coda alla Vaccinara, Stewed Veal Tail

Livio Jannattone quotes Ada Boni’s recipe in “La Cucina Romana e del Lazio,” noting that now some contest the carrot, while others instead “even” add red pepper. He also notes her omission of the sultana raisins, pine nuts and grated bitter chocolate others call for, and says some also add a little cinnamon, whereas others add some freshly grated nutmeg. In short, there is considerable room for improvisation in Coda alla Vaccinara, and Mrs. Boni’s recipe is comparatively modern, reflecting the fall from favor that the dolce-forte combination suffered in the 20th century.

Mr. Jannattoni also gives the Ristorante Checchino dal 1887’s recipe:

To serve 4:

  • 4 1/2 pounds (2 k) oxtail, which translates into three pieces, one large, one medium, and one small per person.

Take a large oxtail, wash it well, and cut it into pieces at the vertebrae. In a heavy-bottomed pot set a mashed mixture of lard and olive oil, and brown the pieces of meat. As soon as it browns add chopped onion, two cloves of garlic, a clove or two, and salt and pepper to taste. After a few minutes sprinkle with dry white wine and cover. Let it cook for 15 minutes, and then add 2 1/4 pounds (1 k) blanched, peeled, seeded chopped tomatoes.

Cook for another hour, then add boiling water to cover, cover the pot with a heavy lid, and simmer for 5/6 hours, or until the meat begins to fall from the bones. At this point take celery, strip away the fibers, and boil the stalks until almost fork-tender in lightly salted boiling water.

Cut the stalks into pieces and put them in a saucepot with a ladle or two of sauce from the coda, adding pine nuts, plumped raisins, and a grating of bitter chocolate. Simmer all for five minutes, add the celery to the coda, and serve at once, on warmed plates.


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Categories: Beef and Veal Stews, Recipes from Rome & Lazio, Cucina Romana e Laziale, Tripe, Liver, and More

Author:Cosa Bolle in Pentola

Italy boasts an astonishing number of varietals, denominations, and wines, and tremendous changes are sweeping the land. New wines are being created, new DOCs are being introduced, and the existing denominations are overhauling their regulations both to reflect the practices adopted by their member wineries and to favor improvements in quality. Even the most staid and stolid region can flower seemingly overnight, emerging with exciting new wines and wineries that require rewriting the enological maps and rethinking one's positions. And, of course, recipes too, because cuisine and wine are closely intertwined and it's difficult to imagine one without the other.


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