Pappardelle with West Indian stewed oxtail ragu recipe


Patience is truly a virtue in cooking, and for me, oxtail is worth the wait. This muscle-y meat requires long, slow love to give up the goods and then falls completely and utterly off the bone. The bones and marrow have an incredibly robust beef flavor and make incredible stock. West Indian–style stewed oxtail has long been a favorite of mine, as it’s delicious and oxtail is cheap! If you can’t easily find oxtail, however, this would work beautifully with short ribs, shanks, or even pork shoulder or belly. It’s traditionally eaten with peas and rice or even white rice, but it dawned on me one day just how good this stew would taste as a ragu for pasta. And voilà! This recipe was created.

  • Yield: 4 Servings


  • 2½ pounds oxtail, cut into segments
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2½ tablespoons brown or palm sugar
  • 2 medium yellow onions, roughly chopped
  • 2 green onions, white and light green parts only, roughly chopped
  • 1 jalapeño, roughly chopped
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon minced ginger
  • 4–5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 quart beef stock
  • 4–5 dashes of Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 fresh or dried bay leaf
  • 1 small bunch of thyme
  • 2 tablespoons cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1 pound fresh or dried pasta
  • Chives or other fresh herbs, for garnish
How to Make It
  1. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Let the oxtail come up to room temperature and season all sides generously with salt and pepper.
  2. Heat a Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pan over medium-high heat. Add the oil and when it shimmers, add in the oxtail pieces. Brown for about 2 minutes per side and remove to a plate.
  3. Reduce heat to medium-low and add the sugar. (If the oil is heavily smoking, pull the pot off the heat for a minute or two to cool—if it’s too hot the sugar will burn quickly.) Stir the sugar and once it has caramelized and starts to smoke, throw in the onions, jalapeño, ginger, and a bit of salt to draw out the moisture. Sauté for 5 to 7 minutes, until the onions turn translucent.
  4. Add the minced garlic and sauté for another 30 seconds to a minute, just until it becomes fragrant. Now, add the beef stock, Worcestershire, bay leaf, thyme, and cilantro. Nestle the oxtail back into the pot, cover, and bring up to a boil. As soon as it boils, remove from the heat and put it into the oven, making sure it’s covered tightly. Let it braise in there for 3 to 31⁄2 hours, until the meat is fork tender and falling off the bone.
  5. At this point, skim off as much of the oil/fat from the braising liquid as possible. I personally like to do this a day ahead and refrigerate. It’s always better for the meat to cool in the braising liquid to keep its moisture, and the fat rises to the top of the liquid and solidifies. Then, it’s really easy to skim it off.
  6. Remove the oxtail pieces, using a ladle or spoon to take out as much as possible. Remove and discard the bay leaf and the thyme stems, and pour the remaining braising liquid along with the cooked-down onions, etc., into a food processor. Process until completely puréed and pour back into a clean pot. If it’s nice and thick, you’re good and you can keep it on low to warm through—if it’s a bit watery, heat over medium-low and simmer uncovered for anywhere between 3 and 10 minutes to get it to a nice, thick ragu consistency.
  7. Using a fork, remove the meat from the oxtail bones, making sure to discard any parts you deem too fatty. If the pieces are too big, chop with a knife to achieve bite-sized pieces. Return the oxtail meat to the saucepot and warm through.
  8. Bring a large pot of water up to a boil and season generously with salt until the water tastes salty. Add the pasta and cook until al dente. Using a strainer or tongs, transfer the pasta directly into the oxtail ragu and add a ladleful of the starchy water as well.
  9. Toss until the sauce and meat is evenly distributed and serve immediately, garnished with chives or any other fresh herbs you prefer.

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