Kitchn Love Letters

This Oxtail Ragu Is My Favorite Comfort Meal on a Cold Winter Night

published Dec 6, 2020
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image
Credit: Nicole Rufus

You know those foods you love to eat but are too intimidated to make yourself? For the longest time I felt that way about oxtail. I’m borderline fanatical about eating it at Caribbean restaurants (some may say I’m an oxtail connoisseur), but the idea of cooking it myself has always been completely out of the question.

In the past few years, however, I’ve come to realize that cooking oxtail is actually quite simple. Sure, it takes a little time to get the meat to fully tenderize (as its name implies, oxtail is the meat from the tail of the cow, which means it’s a tougher cut), but all you have to do it is let it simmer over low heat and back away for a few hours. The end result is a rich, tender protein that falls off the bone. Needless to say, oxtail ragu is basically my version of heaven.

Get the recipe: Braised Oxtail Ragu

This Oxtail Ragu Is So Good, It Makes Me Feel Like I’m at a Fancy Restaurant

Oxtail ragu is exactly what I want to be eating once winter takes full swing. It’s warm and hearty, but also feels like a special treat. To be fair, with the ever-increasing cost of oxtail, it is a special treat, but it’s okay to take some liberties (and save a few dollars). For example, I only used three pounds of oxtail (the recipe calls for four to five) and I felt there was plenty of meat in the sauce.

This ragu is brimming with flavor not only from the addition of rosemary, thyme, and bay leaves, but also from the oxtail itself. Because the cut of meat contains more fat and gelatin than most, it gives stocks and stews a rich, deep flavor. Combined with a generous amount of red wine and a can of crushed tomatoes, it’s one of those homemade meals that tastes so good you feel like you got it at a fancy restaurant.

I’m also drawn to this recipe because of how forgiving it is — you can customize it based on your tastes and whatever you’ve got going on in your spice cabinet. Personally, I hold off on the grated nutmeg in favor of a generous pinch of red pepper flakes, because I always need a bit of heat.

My Favorite Way to Eat Oxtail Ragu

What’s ironic is that the very thing that used to stress me out about cooking oxtail — getting it soft enough to eat — is now the thing that excites me the most. I relish the moment of pulling the meat off the bone once it comes out of the oven.

When I made the recipe recently, I felt it was an occasion for fresh pasta, so I put my ragu atop some fresh pappardelle. But any sturdy noodle (or even polenta) will do the trick here. I promise you this ragu is so good you should expect some competition for who gets the leftovers.

At Kitchn, our editors develop and debut brand-new recipes on the site every single week. But at home, we also have our own tried-and-true dishes that we make over and over again — because quite simply? We love them. Kitchn Love Letters is a series that shares our favorite, over-and-over recipes.