Jan 19, 2021

Braised Oxtail Ragu with Chile Gremolata

Prep Time: 10 mins
Cook Time: 3 hrs 30 mins
This recipe is based on a dish I had years ago at Chef Roy Choi’s now closed restaurant, Sunny Spot, in Venice, California years ago.

This was one of the first dishes that I had eaten using oxtails now I can’t get enough of the tender meat. If you know me then you know I love any type of braised meat dishes. In this recipe succulent spiced red wine braised beef ragù is paired with bitter mustard greens and a zesty chile gremolata. I serve the ragu over pasta for a rich and unique pasta dinner.

Braised Oxtail Ragu with Chile Gremolata

All About Oxtails

If you are unfamiliar with oxtails, it is pretty much explained in the name; they come from the tail of a cow. Historically it would be from an ox but now it’s an umbrella term for the tail from either gender cow. It is extremely flavorful. Since it is very fatty it’s a great cut for braising. Look for bigger pieces of oxtail since there will be more meat.

I think it is important to make use of less popular cuts of meat rather than tossing them aside as garbage. Because they aren’t popular cuts, oxtails are also fairly cheap.

They are commonly used in Asian recipes like soups. They can be found fairly easily at Asian markets or at your butcher. Some grocery stores keep them in the freezer section in bags. If you can’t find oxtails, then I’d recommend substituting beef short ribs.

Braised Oxtail Ragu with Chile Gremolata-10.jpg

Key Ingredients in This Recipe

  • Oxtails – Because they are a tough cut of meat, they are best served braised so the meat can break down. Bone-in beef short ribs are a suitable substitute in this recipe if needed.
  • Mustard greens – Mustard greens have a spicy, slightly bitter flavor comparable to horseradish or wasabi. The greens come from the mustard plant and are the perfect contrast to the rich ragu. Be sure to cut the tough stem out of the leaves before adding to the pot. If you can’t find mustard greens, substitute Tuscan kale, Swiss chard or Broccoli rabe.
  • Herbs – The gremolata is made with a combination of cilantro and parsley. It’s used to add a fresh element to the oxtail stew that will be used as a pasta sauce.
  • Lime Zest – The lime zest is the grated outer skin from the citrus to add a concentrated flavor. Use a zester or microplane to remove the zest. If you don’t have a zester use a paring knife or vegetable peeler to remove the rind and finely chop it. 
  • Pasta – Tubular shapes of pasta like penne rigate or curved shapes like shells and orecchiette are perfect to serve with a ragu like this. They work to capture the sauce well.

How to Make Oxtail Ragu

  1. Make the spice mixture. In a small bowl stir together the salt, cumin, black pepper, paprika and cinnamon. Season the oxtails all over with the spices. Heat a large Dutch oven or heavy bottomed saucepan over medium heat, add the oil and heat through.
  2. Sear the oxtails. Working in batches if needed, arrange the oxtails in a single layer in the pot. Sear the oxtails golden brown on all sides. Next, transfer the meat to a plate. Repeat until all the oxtails are browned.
  3. Sauté the aromatics. Next, return the pot to medium heat, add the carrots, celery and onion and sauté, stirring occasionally until the vegetables are tender. Add the garlic and cook, stirring until fragrant.
  4. Make the broth. Add the wine to the Dutch oven and simmer until almost completely evaporated. Pour in the beef stock followed by the thyme and red pepper. Arrange the oxtails in the pot and bring to a simmer. Cover the pot and transfer to the oven.
  5. Braise the oxtails. Cook at 325ºF (162ºC) turning oxtails half-way through cooking, until the meat is tender, about 3 hours. Remove the oxtails from the pot and let cool. Once cool, pull the oxtail meat from bones and shred the meat, discarding any large pieces of fat.
  6. Add the mustard greens. Add the meat back to the pot with the mustard greens and stir to combine, cooking over medium-low heat until the greens wilt.
  7. Make the gremolata. While the mustard greens cook, make the gremolata. In a small mixing bowl, stir together Fresno peppers, cilantro, parsley, lime zest, lime juice, vinegar and olive oil until combined. Season with salt and set aside.
  8. Cook the pasta. Place a large pot with salted water over medium heat and bring to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until just al dente. Drain the pasta, reserving some of the pasta cooking water and return to the pot.
  9. Serve. Ladle the oxtail stew over the pasta with the parmesan and ½ cup of the pasta cooking water, stirring to combine. Add the gremolata and stir once more. Divide among warmed pasta bowls. Serve immediately.

Other Recipes to Try

If you enjoy this recipe, I recommend checking out some of these:

Braised Oxtail Ragu with Chile Gremolata

Print Pin
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 3 hrs 30 mins
Serves 6

Ingredients:

Braised oxtails:

  • 3 pounds oxtails, about 5 to 6 large oxtails
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 large carrots, diced
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 3 celery stalks, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 cups red wine
  • 4 cups beef stock
  • 2 sprigs thyme
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 packed cups roughly chopped mustard greens, stems removed

Chile gremolata:

  • 1 Fresno pepper, seeded and finely diced
  • ½ cup chopped cilantro leaves
  • ½ cup chopped parsley leaves
  • 2 teaspoons grated lime zest
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt, as needed

For serving:

  • ¾ pound medium shell pasta
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese

Instructions:

For the braised oxtail:

  • Heat oven to 325°F.
  • In a small bowl stir together the salt, cumin, black pepper, paprika and cinnamon. Season the oxtails all over with the spices. Heat a large Dutch oven or heavy bottomed saucepan over medium heat, add the oil and heat through.
  • Working in batches if needed, arrange the oxtails in a single layer in the pot. Sear the oxtails golden brown on all sides, about 6 minutes total. Transfer meat to a plate, repeating until all oxtails are browned.
  • Return the pot to medium heat, add the carrots, celery and onion and sauté, stirring occasionally until the vegetables are tender, about 6 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  • Add the wine to the Dutch oven and simmer until it’s almost completely evaporated, about 8 to 10 minutes. Pour in the beef stock followed by the thyme and red pepper. Arrange the oxtails in the pot and bring to a simmer. Cover the pot and transfer to the oven.
  • Cook, turning oxtails half-way through cooking, until the meat is tender, about 3 hours. Remove the oxtails from the pot and let cool. Once cool, pull the oxtail meat from bones and shred the meat, discarding any large pieces of fat.
  • Add the meat back to the pot with the mustard greens and stir to combine, cooking over medium-low heat until the greens wilt, about an additional 10 minutes.

For the chile gremolata:

  • In a small mixing bowl, stir together Fresno peppers, cilantro, parsley, lime zest, lime juice, vinegar and olive oil until combined. Season with salt and set aside.

For assembly:

  • Place a large pot with salted water over medium heat and bring to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until just al dente, about 10 minutes. Drain the pasta, reserving about 1 cup of the pasta cooking water and return to the pot.
  • Ladle the oxtail stew over the pasta with the parmesan and ½ cup of the pasta cooking water, stirring to combine. Add the gremolata and stir once more. Divide among warmed pasta bowls. Serve immediately.

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