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Oxtail Ragú over 4-Cheese Macaroni

Although it is officially Spring, you'd never be able to tell it by the snow boots still strewn all over our entryway.  Instead of witnessing quiet birds huddled together in the tree in my front yard, I want to hear a raucous racket of tweets and chirps that won't let me sleep!  I want to see tender green shoots with buds emerging from the ground, as opposed to those brittle remains of the last time we didn't have to pull on hats and gloves when we walked out the front door.

Phil lied.  I always knew he was unreliable.
So, it's with visions of Spring cleaning (really) in my head, I'm balancing bouts of cabin fever with a few last hurrahs of hunkering down with comfort food.  I know it shouldn't be stick-to-your-ribs meal time anymore.  I do.  However, I find braised meat that is not only pull-apart tender, but rich and warm like a blanket, enough to make me enjoy this still-frigid weather.  Winter's final hurrah, if  you will.

But don't tell Phil I said that.  I'm still not talking to him.

Oxtail Ragú over 4-Cheese Macaroni

by Heather Schmitt-González
Prep Time: 30 minutes (includes meat-pull
Cook Time: ~2½ hours
Keywords: braised entree beef cheese pasta oxtails

Ingredients (serves 8-10)
    for the oxtail ragu:
    • 3 lbs. oxtails, 2-inch sections
    • kosher salt
    • freshly ground black pepper
    • 2 Tbs. olive, corn, or vegetable oil
    • ~1 c. all-purpose flour, for dredging
    • 3 small onions, thinly sliced
    • 4 cloves garlic, peeled & smashed
    • 1 small carrot, carrot
    • 1 sprig fresh thyme
    • 1 bay leaf
    • 2 c. red wine
    • 2 c. Pomì strained tomatoes
    • 3 c. beef stock or broth
    for the four-cheese macaroni:
    • 1 lb. cavatappi
    • 3 Tbs. unsalted butter
    • 3 Tbs. all-purpose flour
    • 2 c. whole milk
    • ¼ tsp. salt
    • ¼ tsp. ground white pepper
    • 18 oz. shredded white cheese (I used a mixture of Aged Irish Cheddar, Dubliner, Gouda, and Swiss)
    to serve:
    • fresh parsley, chopped
    making the oxtail ragu:
    Preheat oven to 375° F.

    Trim any excess fat from oxtails and season liberally with salt and pepper. Dredge them in flour. Heat oil in a Dutch oven over high heat until it is very, very hot. Add prepared oxtails and sear them on all sides until browned, ~8-10 minutes. Remove to a plate and set aside. Drain all but one tablespoon of grease from the pot and return to heat.
    Add onions to same pot, stirring almost constantly, until browned, ~5-7 mins. Add garlic, carrot, and herbs to the pot and saute for another 5 minutes. Add wine and let bubble for about 1 minute. Add the Pomì tomatoes and the beef stock and bring to a boil; let bubble for 5-10 minutes before carefully adding the oxtails to the pot. Cover and slide into preheated oven for 1½-2 hours, or until meat is falling off bone.

    Remove pot from oven and carefully remove oxtails to a bowl or plate. When cool enough to handle, remove meat from bones and shred into small pieces with a fork. Also remove the thyme sprigs and bay leaf at this point.
    Discard the bones (or save for another purpose, if you wish. I give mine to my husband and he gets ridiculously giddy).

    Skim the fat from the surface of the sauce, and then return the shredded meat to the pot. At this point, you should have a very thick ragú. If by chance it is not thick, set over medium heat and reduce until thick. Taste and adjust seasoning, as needed.

    Serve over 4-Cheese Macaroni, sprinkled with parsley.
    making the Macaroni and Cheese
    When the ragu is almost ready to come out of the oven, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Drop in the cavatappi and boil for 8 minutes.

    In the meantime, melt the butter in a pan over medium heat and whisk in the flour to form a roux; cook for 1 minute. Whisk in the milk, salt, and white pepper until smooth and bring just to the simmer. Let bubble until thick and then turn off heat. Whisk in the cheeses until melted.

    Drain the cavatappi and toss with the cheese sauce. Serve immediately with the oxtail ragu over the top.

    Refrigerate leftovers tightly covered for up to 3 days.
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    And by Phil, I mean that lying groundhog.

    I received two free cartons of Pomì Tomatoes for tasting purposes.  All opinions stated in this post are my own.