As soon as we were told that our families were not allowed to visit in our homes, I went straight to the stove and made a huge pot of oxtail sugo…double the quantity in this recipe- enough to feed the five thousand. We ate it together…in the garden in the cold!

My dear late cousin, Joe Conetta, of your favourite Di Maggio’s Restaurants, loved this sugo with a passion. His mother, Aunty Margaret, always made it for him, especially in times of crisis, and so it goes, down the generations.



Serves 6 -8

400g oxtail, 4-5 pieces

2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 garlic cloves

2 dried chillies

1 large Spanish onion, finely chopped

2 fresh bay leaves

Sea salt and ground black pepper

75 ml red wine

3x 425g tins Italian Plum tomatoes

A few leaves fresh basil


Before starting, soak the oxtail in cold water for 30 minutes.

Warm the oil in a wide saucepan, add the garlic and chilli and sauté gently.

Add the chopped onion and bay leaves, turn in the oil and with the lid on sweat the onion for 10-15 minutes until it is soft and translucent.

Drain the oxtail and pat dry. Season well.

Remove the onion from the saucepan and set aside.

Raise the heat, add a little more oil and brown the oxtail well on all sides.

Once the meat is browned add the red wine and boil to evaporate the alcohol and concentrate the flavours.

Whizz the tomatoes in a blender or if you have the patience, pass them by hand through a sieve to remove all the seeds.

Add the onions and tomatoes back to the saucepan and stir everything together.

Rinse all the tins of tomatoes to get the last of the juices and add the equivalent of a tin of water to the sugo.

I add another glug of olive oil as the oxtail itself is surprisingly lean.

Bring to a gentil simmer and with the lid balanced on a wooden spoon, leave to cook for 2-3 hours, checking now and then to prevent it sticking or getting too dry.

Once it is cooked, taste and season with sea salt and black pepper and stir in a few fresh basil leaves

This is a sauce that tastes even better the next day.

Re-heat for at least 30 minutes so that the oxtail is warmed right through.

Check the seasoning before serving.

Serve with a chunky pasta like rigatoni or pappardelle, thick ribbon pasta.

Add plenty of grated Parmigiano.

The oxtail pieces are for gnawing at with your hands with the people you love; unrefined, delicious dining!