Boiled ox tongue with green parsley sauce

Boiled ox tongue with green parsley sauce

Boiled ox tongue with parsley sauce is a recipe typical of the Piedmont region, in North-West Italy.

Ox tongue belongs to the so-called meat category of the “fifth quarter”. The name might seem a bit nonsensical as quartering means literally to cut in four parts.

However, thinking at the food tradition behind it, it’s actually a clever definition.

In the past, when cows were butchered – or quartered – all the finest, most expensive parts were sold to wealthier or more powerful members of society, such as the nobility, rich merchants and members of the church.

What was left was the offal: liver, kidneys, tongue, testicles and so on. Parts that would otherwise be thrown away. That became known as “fifth quarter.”

A food for peasants

For peasants who couldn’t really afford to eat much meat, these less attractive, funky tasting bits became a key part of the daily diet and a great way to get some animal protein.

This is true for many other countries, not just Italy. Think of France for example.

Over time, clever, tasty recipes developed around these dishes, often using ingredients or sauces that would help to mask the strong flavours and chewier, more difficult to cook textures.

The parsley sauce I’m proposing today is no exception.

The saltiness of the anchovies and capers, the acidic of the vinegar teamed with the fresh, herby flavour of the parsley work beautifully with the chewy, rich flavour of ox tongue meat.

Chefs rediscover offal

Despite their humble origins, many of these recipes are so delicious that offal now increasingly appears in menus of fine dining restaurants as well. As chefs continue to rediscover these food traditions, I think it’s time for the wider public to also learn to make use of these cuts again and appreciate them a bit more. This means overcoming a perception of grossness that is often completely misplaced.

There are plenty of good reasons for doing that. Offal meat is healthy and incredibly nutritious, and offal cuts are often cheaper than other more popular cuts. But there’s also an ethical side to it, as one might argue that since you’re butchering an animal, then making full use of its meat would be fairer.

To make this recipe, I had to order the ox tongue way in advance at my local butcher. He wasn’t even sure of the price since, he said, as he hadn’t received an order in months. What’s more surprising is that when I collected the meat, he told me he had never tried ox tongue in his whole life…Time for a change of perspective? 🙂

Boiled ox tongue with green parsley sauce


2-6 hours soaking time + 2.5-3 hours cooking

Ingredients (for about 5-6 portions)

For the boiled ox tongue

One whole ox tongue, fresh and unsalted (about 1-1.5 kg)

1 small carrot

1 shallot

1 celery stick

For the parsley (green) sauce

50 g of fresh parsley, stems removed

2 anchovy fillets

2 small garlic cloves

A teaspoon of capers, washed under running water to remove the salt

2-3 spoonfuls of breadcrumbs

6 spoonfuls of white vinegar

1 boiled egg yolk


Extra virgin olive oil


  1. Wash the ox tongue under running water. Then transfer to a pot, add the carrot, shallot and celery and cover with cold water. Cover with a lid and transfer to the fridge for 2-6 hours.
  2. Remove the pot from the fridge and throw away the water. Rinse the meat and vegetables a few times.
  3. Then fill once more with cold water, transfer to the stove and bring to the boil. Once it starts boiling, reduce the heat and let it simmer, covered, for 2-3 hours depending on the weight of the meat (if you can find veal tongue, that’s going to be smaller requiring a shorter cooking time).
  4. Meanwhile, prepare the green sauce. In a bowl, put the breadcrumbs and add the vinegar. Let it absorb all the liquid. Separately, finely chop together the parsley, capers, anchovies and hard boiled egg yolk then add them to the breadcrumbs soaked in vinegar. Mix thoroughly, then gradually pour in the extra virgin olive oil, enough to reach an amalgamated texture. Taste to check the level of saltiness and if you like, add a little bit of fine salt of Maldon flakes. But be careful as the anchovies and capers already give quite a bit of saltiness to the sauce. Cover with cling film and transfer to the fridge until you’re ready to serve the meat.
  5. Go back to your boiling ox tongue, regularly checking that there’s enough water to cover the meat. You know the ox tongue is ready when pinching it with a fork, you encounter no resistance.
  6. Drain the ox tongue and set aside.
  7. When you’re ready to serve it, peel the skin from the ox tongue, then slice it in rather thin slices. Transfer to individual plates, garnishing with a bit of green sauce. Alternatively, you can serve the sauce separately in bowl for your guests to help themselves.


– The boiled ox tongue is great both warm and cold. You can keep it cooked in the fridge for two days max.