1.5kg oxtail pieces on the bone; choose equal-sized pieces of oxtail
Olive oil, for cooking
1 brown onion, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 bottle (375mL) full-bodied red wine
800g tinned Italian tomatoes
3 oregano sprigs
1 Tbs red wine vinegar, or to taste
500g dried rigatoni or conchiglie
Finely grated pecorino cheese, finely grated lemon zest and oregano leaves (optional), to serve
Note: braised oxtail is beautifully versatile. Try keeping it on the bone and serve spooned over soft polenta, or a creamy mash and scatter with gremolata to cut through the richness.
To braise the oxtail, heat a splash of olive oil in a large enamelled cast iron casserole over medium-high heat, then add the onion, celery and carrot and sauté, stirring occasionally, for 4–5 minutes until the vegetables begin to soften, adding the garlic in the final minute of cooking. Transfer to a plate.
Season the oxtail generously with salt and pepper. Add a little extra olive oil to the casserole, then add the oxtail in batches and sear, turning occasionally, for 5–6 minutes until browned all over.
Return the vegetables and the seared oxtail to the casserole, add the wine and bring to the boil, then cook for 5–6 minutes until reduced by half. Add the tomatoes, breaking them up with a wooden spoon, then add the oregano and 250mL of water, season with salt and pepper and bring to a simmer.
Cover with a lid, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 2 1/2-3 hours until the meat falls from the bone.
Remove the oxtail pieces from the sauce and skim the excess fat from the surface. When cool enough to handle, shred the meat off the bone, return it to the sauce, then add the vinegar and check the seasoning. Keep warm.
Cook the pasta in a large saucepan of well-salted boiling water for 8-10 minutes until al dente, then drain and return to the pan. Toss the oxtail through the pasta and serve hot, scattered with pecorino, lemon zest and oregano, if using.
Credits: Images and recipes from Meat by Anthony Puharich and Libby Travers. Photography by Alan Benson (with exception of images pages 6 & 11, which are by Paul Gosney), Murdoch Books, RRP $79.99.