Italy has changed me. There was a time not so long ago when if I saw a piece of pork with a tinge of pink, I wouldn’t go near it. And just ask my Dad how many Thanksgiving turkeys I denounced, when they arrived at the table, because I thought they were too juicy. But now after almost four years of living here, I can happily munch a crostino con salsiccia e stracchino, basically sausage that is still pink after spending a brief time under the broiler. What has happened to me? Did I undergo some intense therapy where I was forced to confront years of accumulated fears of trichinosis, salmonella, or E coli. Nah, nothing so dramatic. Instead, I have simply learned to enjoy local foods and to cook them in the traditional way they have always been prepared. Mayonnaise with raw eggs? Not a problem. Carpaccio of beef? Bring it on.
Then came Marinella’s announcement that our next recipe for our cooking lesson would be La Trippa. Tripe. I’ll admit, my old OCD self came roaring back urging me, “Easy tiger, let’s not go too native.” When I mentioned to Marinella that it wasn’t a dish I was really comfortable with she replied, “Nonsense. I am famous for my tripe, you will love it.” Erm, ok. In the end I agreed, but then hastened back to my house to find out a bit more about this trippa.
I’ll admit, I always thought that tripe involved the intestines of the cow, and in fact in some Spanish speaking countries, tripe does include the intestines. But here in Italia, it’s just the stomach lining. Whew! For me the distinction was huge and I was able to get on board with what to many is a fabulous dish. I made it first with Marinella and then again on my own to practice.
La Trippa di Marinella (Marinella made a huge batch, so for our purposes I cut it half… serves 4 people)
– 1 kilo of Tripe (around 2 pounds) It will come already cleaned, but we cleaned it again with hot water and lemon. When I did it on my own, I rinsed it two times. You can buy the tripe already cut (which I did), or you can get the disgusting looking piece of stomach and cut it yourself into strips like Marinella did!
– 1 yellow onion
– 1 carrot
-1 celery stalk
-1 handful of parsley
-3 cloves of garlic
– small pieces of peperoncino (ATTENZIONE…. When I did the dish on my own I put way too much red pepper. You can’t undo it once it’s in. So I’d put one or two and then add more if it’s not spicy enough. )
– 5 whole cloves
– Medium can of peeled whole tomatoes that you have pureed. (Marinella uses her food processor but I just did with a hand mixer.)
Chop the vegetables in a food processor and then saute in heated olive oil. Just eyeball the oil, should coat the bottom of your pot. When the vegetables are softened…Marinella made me smell the aroma of when they were just right, but if you cook them until they are softened, you will be good to go. Then add the cloves and the red pepper.
The next step is adding the tripe. Slowly add to the vegetables and stir. Add a generous amount of salt at this point and then you are a going to leave it partially covered on a low flame for almost two hours, basically until the water drains out of the tripe and then is reabsorbed.
After the two hours and the tripe has reabsorbed the water, you add the pureed tomato. Then add enough hot water to cover. Salt again.
You then let it cook slowly on a low flame for 4-5 hours. You’ll know it’s done because you’ll see the oil rise to the top.
Now, I made of couple of mistakes, the first being the red pepper. The second was that too compensate I added some more water so it took longer to cook it down.
So did I like it?? Marinella’s was obviously very tasty, but there is something about the consistency of the tripe that doesn’t work for me. I like the sauce that it makes. But I would not make it if I was cooking just for me. That being said, I did make it so that I could share the recipe with you guys. Selfless, right? And then I rounded up some friends to fare la cavia and try it. I discovered that la trippa is not universally adored here either. People either love it or leave it.
I brought my finished product to Marinella for a verdict, even though I knew it was too spicy. “The perfume is perfect,” she told me. “The taste is spot on…. except that it is troppo piccante!” She told me to bring it to my guinea pig friends only if they loved spicy foods. Granted one is a fire fighter so I thought he could probably handle it, but in the end I couldn’t bring myself to serve a dish that wasn’t just right. My poor friend, Marco, wasn’t so lucky. I gave him some last night before the verdict and he agreed to try it spice and all! No word from him today and one assumes he is in the emergency room with a burned palate!
On the plus side, the baguettes that I made to serve with la trippa are just lovely!
Making Tripe with Marinella