Braised Oxtail w/ Pesto Gnocchi

Most people cringe at the word oxtail, but it is one of the most flavorful meats out there if you know how to cook it right and don’t mind removing all the bones! This recipe is a simple braise with gnocchi and pesto that really compliant the meat and the braising liquid, which we turn into a sauce.

Serves 3 – 4

2 – 3 lbs of oxtail

1 cup red wine (I used a decent cabernet)

1 cup beef stock

2 shallots, chopped fine

1 small onion, chopped fine

2 carrots, chopped fine

2 celery stalks, chopped fine

1 sprig each of rosemary, thyme, and oregano

2 cups cooked plain gnocchi – see recipe here (premade from the store is fine)

2 tbsp buerre manie

½ cup pine nuts

½ cup pecorino Romano

2 cloves of garlic

1 package of fresh basil leaves

S&P to taste


First season the oxtail liberally on all sides with S&P.  Add 1 tbsp of EVOO to a hot heavy bottom pan (be sure it has a tight fitting lid) or a pressure cooker and brown all sides of the oxtail; remove and set aside.

Ox tail - try and just buy the large pieces, as the smaller ones are harder to work with and have less meat

Ox tail – try and just buy the large pieces, as the smaller ones are harder to work with and have less meat

Add the shallot, onion, carrots and celery to the same pan and cook for about five minutes, or until they have a nice brown color. At this point you’re ready to deglaze the pan with the wine; pour it in and be sure to scrape up any the fat and brown bits the veggies didn’t absorb – can I say “flavor town” here and not come off like a d-bag? Add in the beef stock and the rosemary, thyme, and oregano and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and add in the oxtail; be sure the braising liquid only comes up ½ – ¾ of the way up the side of the meat, or it will boil and turn into a stew…it would still be good, just not what you wanted.

Now is when the magic happens; if you have a pressure cooker tighten the lid, crank up the heat, and follow the pressure directions that came with your pot…mine usually takes about 45 minutes on high pressure. If you are one of those poor souls who is not fortunate to have a pressure cooker just keep the heat on low, cover and cook for 3 – 4 hours; be sure to check the level of the liquid if you see steam coming out (i.e. not a tight seal) because if it dries up you will be left with a brunt hunk of crap.

While this is cooking, get the pesto ready by adding the basil and the pine nuts into a food processor and pulse it a few times to combine. Next add the cheese and garlic and pulse a few more times; this will allow all of the ingredients to come together before adding the oil. I prefer the pecorino over parm due to it’s milder flavor.

Pesto Ingredients

Pesto Ingredients

Slowly add ½ cup of EVOO while the food processor is on; blend until incorporated, about 30 seconds.

Once the meat is done, remove to a plate and strain the braising liquid through a fine wire colander to ensure only the liquid remains; be sure to remove all the meat from the bone. Add to a sauce pan and cook on medium for about 5 minutes to reduce the sauce. Slowly add in beurre manie (to make, combine 2 tbsp of softened butter with 2 tbsp of flour and form into little balls) a little at a time until the sauce thickens and can coat the back of a spoon.

To plate, mix the cooked gnocchi with the pesto and spoon a little into a medium deep bowl and top with some of the oxtail. Ladle in some of the braising sauce around the gnocchi and garnish with a little thyme!

Not too shabby!

Not too shabby!


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