On the American table at Eastertime, ham and lamb are traditional.
Last Easter morning, however, in Italy’s Marche region, we awoke to smells of neither of those meats. Though a good smell, it was different.
Going downstairs at Palazzo Donati, an ancient home on the central square in the small town of Mercatello sul Metauro, we found a group of men, a local cooking club, preparing a traditional breakfast of … tripe.
Tripe is cow stomach, part of what Italians refer to as the “fifth quarter” of a butchered animal, the “nasty bits” that few people would probably prefer. Still, many appreciate tripe, and it has a place on traditional tables in Italy and around the world.
In the northeastern part of Italy, tripe seems to turn up frequently during days of celebration. In Siena, for instance, on the morning of the annual horse races in the city square, competing fraternal orders recognize this holiday with a pre-race meal of tripe.
Tripe is probably eaten at such celebrations because it takes some effort to make, so it’s best prepared as a group, with many hands helping.
Here’s the recipe used by those who made us tripe for breakfast last Easter. Pair with Lambrusco, a sparkling red:
1. Wash 2 pounds of tripe. Boil 45 minutes. Cut into strips.
2. Dice 1 carrot, 1 onion, and 1 celery stalk; saute in 1 tablespoon of butter until soft. Add bay leaf, 4 cloves garlic, minced, and pinches of salt, crushed red pepper and thyme.
3. Add 1 cup of white wine to the vegetables and cook until sauce is slightly reduced. Add 2 cups tomato sauce; reduce the sauce again. Add ½ cup of parmesan cheese and pinch of pepper. Add tripe strips and heat through. Let rest 10 minutes before serving.