Rigatoni con la Coda alla Vaccinara alla Maniera di Ada Boni (Old School Roman Ox Tail Stew with Rigatoni)
I know I promised to be more frequent with my posts but stuff happened in the meantime.
I moved to a new place, I broke all my good plates (that’s why you see a tiny bowl in the picture) and I was generally submerged by other things. I hope you’re all well and up for some more tasty Italian recipes.
Today’s recipe is a milestone of the Italian tradition: Coda alla Vaccinara.
I followed the instructions of a very respected keeper of Rome’s culinary culture: Ada Boni.
This woman wasn’t a professional but thanks to her passion she collected the core of Roman cuisine’s tradition in a couple of books released by the end of the 1920’s.
Her work is still considered as a sort of Bible in the matter so there’s no better source if you want to cook this kind of stuff.
Roman cooking is straight to the point and badass: the ingredients are seasonal and “poor”, the pairings rustic and the portions abundant.
It’s the total opposite of modern fancy cooking as it’s honest, heartwarming, super yummy and “real” food.
Eating a traditional Roman dishes is a bit like leaping back in 1800’s Italy, when being poor meant you had to adapt and using creativity to put together nutrient and satisfying food with whatever was available.
Maybe the idea of eating the tail of an animal can gross you out if it’s not in your culture but it’s well worth to try: it’s delicious, cheap and it proves that offal deserves our respect too.
The original recipe doesn’t specify quantities so I’m just reporting the amounts I used. With this setting me and my husband had a rich dinner and a good plate of pasta the following day.
To make a good old Coda alla Vaccinara you’ll need:
- Strutto (creamy lard obtained from pork fat), one spoonful
- Lard (the pancetta-like one), finely minced
- 1 big yellow onion, finely diced
- 1 big carrot, finely diced
- 2 garlic cloves, finely minced
- 1,5 kg Ox tail cut and rinsed
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Half a glass of red wine (there’s no need to use a fancy one)
- Warm water
- 2 spoonfuls of tomato concentrate
- 6 celery stalks cut crosswise in 5 cm chunks, blanched and set aside (this is MANDATORY)
Melt strutto in a large pan on low fire.
When it’s transparent add the lard (neither of them should fry for now, so be careful with the temperature) and let it cook until it dissolves.
I used Lardo Di Colonnata cause it comes from my husband’s hometown and it’s tasty as hell, but any kind of lard will do.
Gently raise the flame and add onion, carrot, garlic and celery.
Stir until they soften up and the onion gets a blonde tan.
Raise the flame again to medium/high fire and add the oxtail, salt and pepper.
Cook the tail until it becomes golden brown and then add the wine.
Let it simmer until the alcohol evaporates.
Add the tomato paste, stir and finally cover with the warm water.
Set the flame at a very low fire and find something to do in the meantime because this will take a few hours.
Tradition dictates that Coda alla Vaccinara should cook for about six hours and stirred from time to time.
When only 30 minutes of cooking time are left boil a bowl of salted water and blanche the celery for one minute ca. (save this water for a mischievous project I’ll explain later).
Add the celery to the ox tail mix (which should be dark and thick by now) for the last ten minutes.
Now your Coda alla Vaccinara is ready.
Enjoy it with a generous glass of wine.
For maximum debauchery you could boil the water from the celeries and cook some Rigatoni in it then stir them in with part of the ox tails and their sauce. This way you’ll obtain one of the tastier pasta dishes ever to go along your Coda.
Trust me, the extra effort is worth it. You can also prepare this pasta the day after (this is what I did: I ate the Coda in the evening and it was too dark to take pictures so I waited for the next day for a good bowl of pasta).
Traditionally Coda alla Vaccinara is made with ox tails and cheeks (gaffi) but I didn’t find the latter (Oslo people: if you know where I can find them contact me!). Anyway cooking something that was on a face together with something near the arse says a lot about Roman spirit.