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Oxtail Ragu with Fresh Papardelle

November 24, 2013

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Every time November rolls around, I seem to forget how awfully cold it gets in the UK, how biting the wind is. Of course, I’ve never gotten used to the cold, despite having moved here from Hong Kong six years ago. But the change in weather also signifies wintery food rushing back onto the menu: stews, casseroles, hearty soups, Asian braises – all the classic belly-warmers you can think of.

Oxtail ragu seemed like the perfect candidate. Tender, silky oxtail chunks bobbing in a rich tomato and wine sauce, the flavours marrying overnight before tossing it with some fresh papardelle the next day. I was gifted a pasta machine from my cousin that I hadn’t used before, so this was a great excuse to try it out.

I’m not knowledgeable in wine at all, so I just chose a wine I thought was reasonable – Waitrose-own “rich and intense spicy Italian wine” (£4.99). I’d go for whatever you find acceptable to drink and use that!

Oxtail Ragu with Fresh Papardelle

For the ragu

  • 1 kg oxtail
1 large shallot, finely diced
  • 200 g carrots, peeled and finely diced
  • 2 stalks of celery, finely diced
  • A can of whole plum tomatoes
  • 
700 ml red wine

For the pasta

  • 2 room-temperature eggs, preferably free range
  • 200 g type 00 flour
  • A pinch of salt

Pat dry the oxtail and season all over with salt. In a large dutch oven, heat up some olive oil and sear the oxtail on all sides on high heat until browned. You want the Maillard reaction to occur to coax as much flavour into this dish as possible. This may have to be done in batches. Set aside.

In the same pan, sauté the diced shallots, carrots, and celery, tossing and coating until soft, about 3 minutes. Add the wine to deglaze, scraping up the fond as you go. Reduce for 5-10 minutes, then add the canned tomatoes along with their juices. Nestle the oxtail in the sauce, cover the dutch oven with a tight-fitting lid, and place the whole thing in the oven.

It will take about 2-3 hours for the oxtail to become tender; I kept it in the oven for 2 hours but mine could have done with a little longer in the oven. Remove the oxtail from the dish to a large baking tray and shred the meat from the bones using two forks.

Return the meat to the dish (keep the bones if you like, for stock later). Taste and adjust for seasoning. At this point, I let it cool on the counter and left it in the fridge overnight for the flavours to meld with each other, but if you can’t wait, no one is stopping you from having it straight away!

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To prepare the pasta, tip your flour and salt into a bowl and create a well in the flour. Drop the eggs in and mix well until it comes together as a dough – this will be difficult at first, but use a fork to begin with and scrape the sides down occasionally. Knead for 2-3 minutes by hand until the dough becomes smooth but not sticky. Cover it with clingfilm and let it rest at room temperature for an hour.

After resting, cut the dough into two pieces. Roll it out roughly to a rectangular shape, about 1/4 inch thick before passing it through your pasta machine on the widest setting. Fold it over onto itself and pass it through the machine once more. Keep passing the dough through the machine without folding in half, but decreasing the thickness of the dough one step at a time and dusting with flour in between passes if it starts to stick. Do this until it is at the thickness you want (I used the 3rd lowest setting on my machine, but it could have been thinner in hindsight).

Dust the pasta with more flour and nestle into little mounds while you roll and cut the rest of the dough, but if you’re not cooking it straight away, lay them flat on a baking sheet dusted with flour, or hanging over a rack (say, the handle of a wooden spoon, or a pair of chopsticks suspended between two jars).

Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to the boil and toss your pasta in. It should only take a few minutes – I forgot to time mine, I think it was about 3-4 minutes but keep tasting it until it’s done! It had a much more different texture than dried pasta – snappier, silkier, and a more pleasant al dente chew. Drain, reserving a cup of the starchy cooking water.

Toss the pasta with the oxtail ragu until well coated, with a few splashes of the pasta water. Serve immediately!

P.S. Yes, that is Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them underneath the table. The machine needed a thicker edge for clamping, so the closest book became the victim. Don’t worry, it was unscathed, just a bit floury.

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