Coda alla Vaccinara (Stewed Beef Tail or Shank)
2 to 6 hours
If you have an electric multi-cooker or stovetop pressure cooker, you can still follow the recipe as written—and you’ll save at least a couple of hours. Just release the pressure to open it and check the progress after about 1 hour in Step 3. Otherwise, the process is the same.
1/4 cup olive oil
2 ounces pancetta or bacon, chopped
2 pounds oxtail (cut into 2-inch lengths), or beef shanks (cross-cut into 1-inch pieces)
Salt and pepper
6 stalks celery, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
5 anchovies, chopped
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1 stick cinnamon
3 bay leaves
1 tablespoon chopped fresh marjoram or oregano (if you have it; don’t substitute dried if you don’t)
About 2 pounds ripe tomatoes, chopped (a 28-ounce can is fine)
1 pound pasta (optional)
Chopped parsley for garnish
1. Put the oil in a large pot over medium-low heat and cook the pancetta, stirring occasionally, until most of the fat is rendered, 5 to 10 minutes. Transfer the pancetta to a plate, raise the heat to medium-high and add the beef in a single layer. (You might need to work in batches). Sprinkle with salt and pepper and cook, turning and seasoning until the pieces are well browned on all sides, 5 to 10 minutes.
2. Remove the meat, lower the heat to medium and add all remaining ingredients except the tomatoes, pasta, and parsley. Cook, stirring and scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot, until the vegetables are soft, 10 to 15 minutes. Add the tomatoes and some more salt and pepper, raise the heat to high, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens, about 10 minutes.
3. Return the meat to the pot and adjust the heat so the stew bubbles gently. Cover and cook, turning the meat and stirring every 30 minutes or so, until the beef is falling from the bone, 3 to 5 hours depending on the size of the pieces.
4. Remove the meat from the pot. If the sauce is thin, bring it to a boil to reduce it a bit. When the meat is cool enough to handle, pull it from the bones and shred it. Scoop out the marrow in the center of the bones and return everything to the sauce. (You can make the recipe to this point and refrigerate it for up to a few days.)
5. If you’re serving the stew with pasta, bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it. Cook, stirring occasionally, until just tender; start checking after 5 minutes. Drain, reserving about a cup of the cooking water. Reheat the stew if necessary and taste and adjust the seasoning. To serve with pasta, toss a little of the sauce from the stew and some of the reserved cooking liquid with the noodles, then spoon over more sauce. Or just eat the stew alone. Either way, garnish with parsley.