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Gnocchi with Oxtail Ragú

Show Stopper.  That's what this is.  Rich and decadent and so complex that your mind will surrender to the bliss brought on bite after silky bite.  I wouldn't recommend serving this on a first date...unless you want to see your new love interest cry.  The sheer intensity is likely to leave even the most composed individual staring through eyes filled with salty tears.  Instead, set this in front someone in need of comfort.  Of reassurance.  Of proof that there is always something to look forward to in this trying world.  As the scent wraps its embrace around them...and the texture engages their tongue in ecstasy...and their bellies are caressed by its warm, tender hand...all of their troubles will fall away.

Gnocchi w/ Oxtail Ragú
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by Heather Schmitt-Gonzalez
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 2.5-3 hours
Keywords: braised entree sauce oxtails tomatoes beef Italian winter

Ingredients (serves 6)
  • 3 lbs. Oxtails, cut into ~2" pieces
  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 Tbs. olive oil
  • flour, for dredging
  • 2 small onions, sliced "¼ thick
  • 2 c. red wine
  • 3 c. beef stock or broth
  • 1 c. Basic Tomato Sauce (see recipe below)
  • few fresh sprigs of thyme
  • 1-1½ lb. gnocchi
for serving:
  • freshly grated Parmesan
  • Italian Parsley
for the Basic Tomato Sauce:
  • ¼ c. olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
  • a few sprigs fresh thyme
  • ½ medium carrot,shredded
  • 2 (28 oz.) cans peeled, whole tomatoes
  • kosher salt, to taste
Preheat oven to 375° F.

Trim any excess fat from oxtails and season liberally with salt and pepper. In a large Dutch oven or heavy bottomed pot, heat olive oil over high heat until it is just smoking. Quickly dredge the oxtails in flour and sear them on all sides until browned, ~8-10 mins. Remove to a plate and set aside.

Add onions to same pot, stirring almost constantly, until browned, ~5-7 mins. Add wine, stock, tomato sauce, and thyme sprigs. Bring mixture to a boil. Return oxtails to pot, submerging in liquid, and return the pot to a boil.
Cover pot and cook in oven for 1½-2 hours, or until meat is falling off bone. Remove pot from oven and carefully remove oxtails. When cool enough to handle, remove meat from bones and shred into small pieces with a fork. You can also remove the thyme sprigs at this point.
Discard the bones (or save for another purpose, if you wish).
With a small ladle, skim the fat from the surface of the sauce. Return the shredded meat to the pot. Place over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and then allow to reduce to a very thick ragú. Taste and adjust seasoning.
Now. Either proceed with the next step immediately, or cool down the ragú and refrigerate until ready to use, like I did. I then scooped individual serving sizes into a skillet and reheated it over a low heat. Cook your gnocchi and ladle it into your pan (I cooked about ¼" at a time), bringing a bit of the cooking water with it...just what's stuck to the slotted spoon and pasta. Toss with ragú until gnocchi is well coated.
Serve with freshly grated Parmesan and some chopped, fresh Italian Parsley.
to make the Basic Tomato Sauce (yield: 4 cups):
Heat olive oil over medium heat in a 3-qt. saucepan. Add onion and garlic and cook until soft and light golden brown, ~8-10 mins. Add thyme and carrot until carrot is soft, ~5 more mins. With your hands, crush the tomatoes into the pot and add the rest of juice from the can. Bring to a boil, stirring often, then reduce heat and simmer for ~30 mins, or until thick like hot cereal. Season to taste with salt.
Use immediately or refrigerate up to 1 week (or freeze up to 6 months).
-adapted from The Babbo Cookbook