Coda alla vaccinara | Oxtail vaccinara

Coda alla vaccinara | oxtail vaccinara - served with mashed potatoes

Coda alla vaccinara is a typical Roman dish. ‘Alla vaccinara’ (vaccinara-style) denotes that it is a dish done in the traditions of the ‘vaccinari’ – the slaughterhouse workers of Rome, where many delicious traditional Roman recipes originate as the slaughterhouses came up with ways to use up all the parts of the animals they slaughtered.

As with most traditional recipes, there are hundreds of variations as each family has their own way of doing it. All variations based on the traditional recipe do, however, have the tomato and the celery in common. This particular recipe is my nonna Wanda‘s version, so eating it brings back happy memories and so much love!

When my zia Emila (my youngest auntie) was about to move out of the family home because she was getting married, she wrote down all her favourite recipes. I love that she still uses that original cookbook of hers and that she shares them with me 🙂

Here is a photo of the page with nonna Wanda’s Coda alla Vaccinara recipe, transcribed by zia Emilia all those years ago (shared with permission from and my gratitude to my zia Emilia):

Hand-written 'coda alla vaccinara' recipe, written down by my auntie (zia Emilia) many years ago as she was about to get married and leave home.
My nonna Wanda’s recipe for Coda alla Vaccinara – transcribed into her ‘leaving home’ cookbook by my zia Emilia

This recipe is very easy to make, but it does take time as it has to cook for about 2.5-3 hours – until the meat is beginning to fall off the bones! It’s also not for the faint-hearted…it’s very rich as oxtail is a very fatty meat. But that’s what makes it so deliciously tasty and tender.

I have remained as true as possible to my grandmother’s recipe – I’ve replaced the ‘Gradina’ (a brand of margarine) with butter, which my zia Emilia also does. And I’ve used just 30g of butter rather than 150g as the meat makes the dish quite fatty already. For the same reason (and for reasons of availability and cost in the UK), I have omitted the ‘lardo’. Note: Lardo is not the same as lard. Lardo is a cured product (like pancetta, Italian hams, guanciale etc); it’s the fatty part of the pork found under the skin, typically in the neck or back region, seasoned with lots of salt and sometimes herbs (as always, there are regional variations and variations from individual butchers) and left to cure over time. It is delicious sliced very thinly and served over rustic brown bread 🙂 I have also used a 400g tin of chopped tomatoes, which is slightly more than my nonna Wanda’s recipe called for.

Typically, you would eat the sauce with pasta as a ‘primo piatto’ – the first course of a meal – followed by the meat as a ‘secondo’ – the second course. My appetite isn’t quite up to that these days, so we’ve had ours as an only course, served with mashed potatoes (delicious to mop up all that tasty sauce).

Ingredients for Oxtail vaccinara-style for 4 generous portions

  • Approximately 1.8kg of oxtail
  • 1 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 30g butter or margarine
  • 1 small onion or a small piece of onion
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 whole head of celery
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 small glass (150-200ml) dry white wine
  • 2 small glasses (300-400ml) warm water
  • sea salt – to taste

Method – how to cook Coda alla Vaccinara

Finely chop the onion, garlic and 1 trimmed celery stalk. Heat up the butter/margarine in a large sauté pan or casserole dish, then add the chopped onion, garlic and celery and the bay leaf and gently fry these off in the butter/margarine over a low heat for about 5-10 minutes, until they are nice and soft. Keep the heat low so they don’t caramelise.

Sauté pan with finely-chopped onion, garlic and celery and a whole bay leaf frying off in butter or margarine as the first step to cooking coda alla vaccinara.
Frying off the chopped onion, garlic, celery and a whole bay leaf for the coda alla vaccinara

Turn up the heat and add the oxtail pieces, browning them off all over for a few minutes, then pour over the wine and turn down the heat. Leave them to simmer, uncovered, over a low heat for 15 minutes.

Coda alla vaccinara | oxtail vaccinara - browning the meat and simmering in white wine
Browning the meat and simmering with white wine

Pour over the chopped tomatoes and add the warm water. Season with salt (careful not to over-season as the sauce will cook down a lot). Bring to the boil, then turn the heat down to very low, cover with a lid and leave to simmer for 2.5-3 hours, until the meat nearly falls off the bones. Turn the pieces of oxtail over 2-3 times during the cooking process.

Coda alla vaccinara | oxtail vaccinara - adding the tomatoes and water
Adding the tomatoes and water before leaving to simmer

While the meat is cooking, trim the remaining celery stalks, then chop them into large pieces (about 7cm long) – typically you would get about 3 pieces out of each celery stalk. Boil the celery pieces in a pan and take them out when they are soft but not falling apart. Set them aside until the oxtail is nearly ready.

When you just have 10 minutes to go until the meat is ready to serve, add the cooked celery to the pan with the oxtail, stir it in and leave it to finish cooking.

Coda alla vaccinara | oxtail vaccinara - cooked (in the pan)
Coda alla vaccinara | oxtail vaccinara – cooked

Serve and enjoy!

Coda alla vaccinara | oxtail vaccinara - served with mashed potatoes
Coda alla vaccinara | oxtail vaccinara – served with mashed potatoes

Coda alla vaccinara | Oxtail vaccinara-style … Gloriously Simple, Gloriously Good!

Creamy pistachio and pancetta pasta

Pancetta pistachio cream pasta

This delicious pasta dish was inspired by one of many mouth-watering meals we had in Sicily on a family holiday in 2016. Pistachios were found on just about everything (even spaghetti alle vongole!). This particular dish was really memorable – because it was simply heavenly, but also because of the location we ate it in…

We were at Bellavista Ristorante, a seafront restaurant on the North-Eastern tip of Sicily, in Torre Faro, near Messina – the very tip of the island, in the Strait of Messina, from where you can see across to Calabria.

In the photos below, you can see Hannah on the beach in Torre Faro, with Calabria a short distance away across the Strait, followed by the original creamy pistachio and pancetta pasta dish we ate in the restaurant.

So, nearly four years later, while having fun experimenting in the kitchen and creating recipes under the ‘Cooking with my daughter’ part of this blog (see also our Instagram account for photos, reels and live videos!), we decided to finally re-create this amazing yet incredibly simple dish.

In our recipe, we used home-made orecchiette (mixing up our regions, as orecchiette are from Puglia, but that’s ok – they work well with this sauce) – watch this space for the orecchiette recipe. They are remarkably simple to make. Meanwhile, take a look at our quick preview reel on Instagram.

Creamy pistachio and pancetta pasta sauce – Ingredients

(for 4 generous portions)

  • 200g diced pancetta (unsmoked)
  • 500ml single cream
  • 150g ground pistachios (we use the nut chopping/grinding attachment on the Nutribullet, which does this in seconds)
  • fine sea salt – to taste

Pasta – which one, and quantities…

Use a short pasta of your choice. We used home-made orecchiette (recipe coming soon!), but lots of different types of short pasta will work. For 4 generous portions, as a single-course meal, you will need around 500g of dry pasta.

If you are being more traditional and having this dish as a ‘primo piatto’ to be followed by a meat or fish dish, you’ll want to roughly halve the portions for the pasta and the sauce.

Method

Place a large pan of water over a high heat and add a generous amount of coarse sea salt (about a handful) and a few drops of vegetable oil.

While the pasta water comes to the boil, prepare the creamy pistachio and pancetta sauce:

In a large sauté pan, fry off the pancetta over a medium heat until it has browned and crisped off.

Drain off most of the fat, then reduce the heat to low and add the cream to the pan. Stir from time to time and, once the cream is simmering, stir in most of the pistachios (save about 25g for sprinkling later). Check for taste and add a little bit of fine sea salt if needed.

Once the water is boiling, cook the pasta to your liking (is there any other way than ‘al dente’?!). Once cooked, drain and add to the sauce in the sauté pan. Stir through with the low heat still on, then take off the heat and serve.

Sprinkle the remaining ground pistachios over each portion.

Pancetta pistachio cream pasta

Creamy pistachio and pancetta pasta | Gloriously Simple, Gloriously Good!

Pizza

Ham and mushroom pizza

How to make Pizza from scratch

Simple Pizza recipe

Making pizza is far easier than many people think. Here is a simple recipe to make the dough and cook it with toppings of your choice.

Ingredients for the pizza dough (for one 11 inch pizza) – increase quantities for more pizzas

  • 150g plain flour (or Farina Tipo 00 if you can get it)
  • 1/2 tsp white granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp dried yeast (I use Fermipan Red Dried Yeast)
  • 2tsp extra virgin olive oil (plus generous additional amounts to rub onto the dough before each rise)
  • 100ml of lukewarm water
  • a generous pinch of fine sea salt

Note: Flour and water may need adjusting up or down, depending on the humidity in the room and the specific flour you are using.  Always add water gradually to achieve the right consistency, and have additional flour to hand in case you need to add a little.

Method

You can watch the video of me making the dough for 3 pizzas here:

Place the flour into a large bowl and mix in the sea salt. Make a well in the middle and add the sugar and yeast.

Gradually add some of the water and start mixing the flour into it with a large mixing spoon, then add the oil and keep mixing the flour in from the outside of the ‘well’. Keep adding water until you have more or less mixed in all the flour and have a wet and uneven/lumpy dough. At this point, remove any dough sticking to the spoon and proceed by hand, kneeding long enough to have a soft, malleable dough that almost doesn’t stick to your hands (it needs to stick a little or it will be too dry). Add extra water or flour if needed. This process should only take you a minute or two.

Tip: I find the best way of kneeding is to pull away from you, then fold the dough over itself with your knuckles, then keep rotating the dough and repeating this action – see video above. When the dough is ready, it will be quite springy to the touch. Shape the dough into a ball (you can separate this into separate portions for each pizza later, or make separate dough balls now).

Take a generous amount of extra virgin olive oil into your hands and rub it all over the dough ball. Place the dough ball back in the bowl (or if you’ve made separate dough balls, place each one in a separate bowl) and cover with a dry cloth or clingfilm. Put the covered bowl(s) into a warm, draught-free place (I find the airing cupboard ideal) for 1.5-2 hours, until the dough ball(s) has/have roughly doubled in size.

After the dough has rested the first time:

If you still have one single dough ball for all your pizzas, place it on a floured surface (a large wooden chopping board is ideal, but a clean kitchen work surface will work equally well) and, using a dough cutter or a smooth-bladed large knife, cut it into equal portions according to the number of pizzas you are making.

If you had already split the dough into separate portions, work with each dough ball individually.

Take each portion of dough and work it by grabbing a ‘corner’ at a time and pulling away from you with your finger tips, then folding it into the centre, repeating for each ‘corner’ as you rotate the dough. See video above for demonstration of how to do this. Shape each portion into a ball and rub generously with extra virgin olive oil again. Place into a bowl and cover with a cloth or clingfilm. Leave it in a room-temperature draught-free place for 1-1.5 hours (I leave it in the kitchen at this point – if the dough is warm – e.g. from the airing cupboard – when you make the pizza, it can stick to the pizza paddle).

You’ll know it’s ready when it’s more or less doubled in size.

Pizza dough rising
Pizza dough before and after second rising

Place one dough ball onto a floured surface (e.g. wooden chopping board) and gently stretch it out to make a pizza shape (you can also start the process by moving the dough around over your knuckles – make sure you don’t wear any rings or it will tear!) – see video above. Once you have the desired shape and size and the dough is nice and thin, you can pinch around the edges to give you a slightly thicker crust.

Top with your chosen toppings – see some suggestions in the pictures below – transfer to the oven using a pizza paddle and bake in a hot pizza oven, if possible (this will only take 1-2 minutes…follow pizza oven instructions, but you’re likely to need to rotate it during cooking to ensure it cooks evenly).

Ooni Pizza oven

Tip: If you don’t have a pizza oven, I find it works better to cook it in a pan and under a grill than to bake it in a conventional oven (though if you have a pizza stone for the oven, this helps).

To cook it in a pan, place the shaped dough into a pre-heated pan or skillet that has been very lightly oiled, over a high heat. Put the toppings on when the base is already in the pan – this will start cooking the base. Then, once topped, place the pan under a very hot grill to cook the top.

Note: You can also use the dough to make Focaccia (recipe coming soon) and Calzone.

Pizza topping suggestions:

Pizza | Gloriously simple, gloriously good!