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Have you ever wondered what is tripe? It’s very popular in Italy. It comes from the stomach of the animal and is a white spongy texture. It can be cooked a variety of ways.
In this post, I’ll share some highlights on this unique meat and I’ll share with you an Italian Roman Style tripe recipe you might enjoy below!
What is Tripe?
As I mentioned tripe is cow stomach, the lining to be specific. It resembles a spongy honeycomb pattern. It can actually be from any animal but cow is most common. It comes from any of the three chambers: the rumen, reticulum, and omasum.
The meat is not eaten raw but can be boiled or fried. When I had it, it was boiled which when bleached turns white – which is exactly how it looked.
It can be cut length wise into approximately 1/2″ widths, and included in broths or sauces.
Who Eats Tripe?
Tripe is used in multiple cuisines, however I am only familiar with it in Italian cooking. If you like meat-filled recipes you may want to check out some cookbooks on Amazon that should have some pretty cool and interesting recipes you can try in addition to the one I’m offering below.Check Out Meat Cookbooks on Amazon
My First Experience Eating Tripe in Italy
However, the first time I heard of tripe (prounounced trippa) was in San Giovanni Incarico, Italy at my cousin’s house. No one spoke a word of English and all I had to go on was my English/Italian dictionary.
Sitting at a round table crowded with family, I sat there eating a piece of sausage that would have fed 5 people easily back here in the States. Along with the sausage, I was served nice white spongy textured strips of something that I cut and started to eat.
After tasting this mysterious meat, I knew it was nothing I had eaten before and I knew instinctively that it was something that my own stomach was not ready to handle.
After using my Italian-American dictionary, I put two and two together and I learned I was eating Tripe (pronounced tree-pah).
To soften any potential insult, I said in America we don’t eat this, followed by a ton of “Mi dispiace”. White lie? Well, in my family we never ate it.
Fortunately, word spread and it became something we had a good laugh about! Many people still eat this meat and so it deserves mention.Check Out Meat Cookbooks on Amazon
When Did We Start Eating Tripe?
The question should really be stated, “Who ate tripe?”. Tripe goes back as much of Italian food do – to the poor. It was cheap and wasn’t considered a luxury as many Italians especially during the WWII era, was too poor to purchase beef or other meats, but they could afford the tripe.
Tripe is eaten in many cultures not just Italian. I’ve seen it used in UK recipes and in Korean. Wherever people have cows… you’ll probably find a history of tripe.Check Out Meat Cookbooks on Amazon
Who Eats Tripe Today?
Ironically, it seems tripe has been revitalized and is now being served in restaurants across the country.
Should we scoff? No, look at lobster – once considered unfit for the upper class it was left to the lower class citizens and slaves to eat. And snails – do we really think snails was always a luxury menu item – and let’s not forget caviar… probably not.
Tripe is served in places like Fedora in NYC as noted in Bloomberg.com, or by Chef Tim Timko of Lenzi’s Italian Restaurant in Pennsylvania. Tripe is also making a comeback in the UK as described from this article back in April 2010 by telegraph.co.uk. No those aren’t sea urchins – those are you guessed it…
Dare I say, it’s even come to a super market near me.
Where to Buy Tripe?
The best place will be from your local butcher. I would recommend asking them if this is something they can supply you, already cleaned up for you. If they don’t, keep asking around.
Since tripe is used in multiple cuisines and not just Italian, this is something someone near you is bound to have.
If you’re looking for tripe for your dog (not kidding, it’s a common ingredient), check out Amazon, it seems lamb tripe is popular.
How to Serve Tripe?
Tripe or trippa can be served a variety of ways. I mentioned above it can be boiled and then added to a red sauce. It can be served plain, having been cooked in butter or olive oil, or in soup.
There are of course more ways to eat and serve tripe, as evidenced by the many cultures that use it more frequently in their dishes than we do.
I ran across this enjoyable article here by Susan Smillie of the guardian.co.uk Word of Mouth Blog. She took it to task to try and enjoy the not so lovely cow’s anatomy, only to find there was simply no way to make it palatable. I don’t feel so alone.
For those who want to try, here’s a recipe from an old family cookbook I’d like to share that I’ve slightly adapted. But please keep in mind, I’m not a fan of tripe, but given it’s uniqueness and the tradition in Italian cooking, I am glad to share this recipe with you.
Tripe: Roman Style
How to prepare trip Italian-Roman style
- 1 onion chopped
- 2 slices bacon chopped
- 1 tbsp chopped parsley
- 1/2 clove garlic chopped
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 cup water
- 2 lbs parboiled tripe cut into finger strips
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp pepper
- 2 tbsp grated Romano or Parmesan cheese
- 1 tbsp chopped mint leaves optional
Place onion, bacon, parsley & garlic in frying pan over medium heat and brown slowly and thoroughly.
Add tomato paste and water and cook 10 minutes.
Add tripe, reduce heat to low and cook slowly 1 hour or until tripe is as tender as you desire
Add salt and pepper and if sauce is too thick add a little water.
Remove from pan, sprinkle with cheese and mint and serve.
This recipe is adapted and slightly modified from THe Talisman Italian Cookbook, 1972.
Good luck – I don’t vouch for any recipe using tripe!
For me, I’ll let someone else do the taste testing on this piece of meat as I’d like to try and keep my own stomach intact. 🙂