Lunchbreak: Cavatelli with Oxtail Ragu

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Executive Chef Zach Walrath

The Florentine

151 W. Adams St. (inside J.W. Marriott)

Chicago, IL 60603

(312) 660-8866


  • National Pizza Month Cooking Class – The Florentine will guide guests through a hands-on pizza-making class to celebrate National Pizza Month. Guests will learn the techniques and tools to create The Florentine’s delicious wood-fired pizzas in an intimate environment while mingling, enjoying two glasses of wine and snacking on antipasto. Ticket price is $50 per person, October 26th.
  • Aperitivo special – Features authentic bites for under $5 (including crostini #1) and cocktails under $9. Additionally, guests can receive a complimentary full-sized pizza (with the purchase of any alcoholic beverage between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Monday through Friday.


Cavatelli with Oxtail Ragu Recipe


  • 3 to 4 pounds oxtail, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus 3 tablespoons
  • 2 small onions, divided
  • 6 carrots, divided
  • 6 celery stalks, divided
  • 2 tablespoons Italian double concentrate tomato paste, divided
  • 1 head garlic, sliced in half horizontally
  • 1 bottle red wine
  • one 35-ounce can San Marzano tomatoes
  • 2 sprigs thyme, rosemary, or savory
  • 1/2 bunch parsley
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 lb cavatelli pasta


  1. Heat the oven to 250° F. Get out a cast-iron pan and warm it over high heat. Pat the oxtail dry and season liberally with salt and pepper.
  2. Add the olive oil to the pan and add the oxtail one at a time in a single layer, working in batches if necessary. Brown each oxtail on either side, about 6 to 8 minutes a side. When all the oxtail is browned, drain the fat from the pan and set the meat aside.
  3. Add 1 chopped onion, 4 chopped carrots, and 4 chopped stalks of celery to the pan and lower the heat to medium. Let them brown and wilt for a few minutes in the oil, then add one tablespoon of tomato paste and let cook 5 to 6 more minutes.
  4. Add the oxtail, garlic halves, and the red wine and bring to a boil. If the wine doesn’t cover the meat, add water until the meat is covered. When the wine is boiling, scrape the browned bits up off the bottom of the pan.
  5. Reduce heat and braise in the 250° F oven for 3 to 4 hours, until falling apart tender.
  6. Meanwhile, take the remaining carrots (2), celery (2), and onion (1), and the herbs and parsley and chop finely in a food processor.
  7. Heat the remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-low heat in a large Dutch oven-type pan. Sauté the chopped vegetables and herbs in the oil. After 7 to 8 minutes, when the onions start to get translucent, add 3/4 cup of water to the pan and dissolve the remaining tablespoon of tomato paste in it. Let cook until all the liquid is reduced and the vegetables are practically dissolved.
  8. Add the can of San Marzano tomatoes and break up with a fork, wooden spoon, or potato masher. Let this simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, then reserve for the oxtail.
  9. When the oxtail is done, filter off all the cooking liquid and let it separate. Then remove the fat that rises to the top layer as completely as you can. Add the filtered liquid to the cooking vegetables and tomatoes and bring to a simmer. When the oxtail is cool enough to handle, pick the meat off and add it to the pot of vegetables, tomatoes, and cooking liquid.
  10. Simmer everything together until all the elements are amalgamated and the juices have reduced to a slightly syrupy consistency just rich enough to coat a pasta noodle, 20 to 35 minutes. At this point, the ragu can be eaten immediately or refrigerated.
  11. Bring water to a boil in large pot; cook the cavatelli until al dente.
  12. Top with ragu and serve.


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