Where does one buy oxtail in St. Petersburg? The only way I knew to get oxtail was at a fritanga (sort of a Nicaraguan cafeteria-style restaurant) in Miami. Locally, our first thought was Mazzaro's Italian Market, but they directed us to another nearby butcher: Tony's Meat Market on Fourth Street S.
What I did find at Mazzaro's while elbowing my way down the aisle packed with fellow biscotti enthusiasts was an awesome and new-to-us pasta called garganelli, which I paired up with this oxtail ragu. I couldn't find the strozzapreti the Bon Appétit recipe originally called for, but found that any short pasta with some texture would do.
One lesson from this recipe is that we should always be seasoning our bread crumbs. Always. At first I rolled my eyes at the request for "coarsely torn" bread crumbs, but instead of just slicing old bread, Danny dutifully produced them according to the instructions, and they turned out like baby croutons. I can't argue with that. We tossed the rough-edged pieces of bread with olive oil, horseradish and chopped rosemary. They were just the zippy, fragrant and final touch the oxtail ragu needed, and now I think these horseradish bread crumbs belong on all meaty pasta dishes going forward.
Oxtail, a very fatty piece of meat, turned out to be easy to work with. When we broke down the cooked meat for the sauce, it reminded us a lot of short rib in terms of texture and its cooking temperament. You can feel free to swap in short rib if you can't find oxtail.
This is definitely a weekend pasta, calling for a few more steps and shopping trips than a Tuesday bowl of spaghetti. But truly, nothing is difficult.
We loved the flavors, and we'll definitely be venturing back to Tony's meat counter soon to re-create this for another small dinner party or date night in.
I served hearty helpings of the ragu with grated Parmesan on top, plenty of those horseradish bread crumbs, and a simple arugula salad on the side dressed with olive oil and fresh lemon juice. I recommend serving something clean and bright on the side to counter the rich pasta and sauce.
Ileana Morales Valentine is a writer living in St. Petersburg with her husband. For more of their kitchen stories, visit her blog, alittlesaffron.com. Say hello at email@example.com.