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Have you ever wondered what is tripe? It’s very popular in Italy and other parts of the world. There are many ways for how to cook tripe.
Tripe is a meat that comes from the stomach of the animal (typically cow) and is a white spongy texture.
In this post, I’ll share some highlights about tripe, what is tripe and how to cook it.
I’ll share with you an Italian Roman Style tripe recipe you might enjoy below!
What is Tripe
If you don’t know what tripe is, well, you do now. I learned what tripe was in Italy.
As I mentioned tripe is the stomach lining of an animal. It resembles a spongy honeycomb pattern. It can actually be from any animal but cow is most common.
There is cow tripe also called beef tripe but there is also veal tripe and lamb tripe which is used in many cuisines.
Cow or beef tripe 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 when I ate it over two decades ago while in Italy visiting relatives.
It can be cut length wise into approximately 1/2″ widths, and included in broths or sauces.
What is Trippa?
Trippa is an Italian word used for what we call Tripe.
Trippa, pronounced “tree-pah” is very popular in Italian dishes, but more so in Italy vs here in the US, unless your someone who loves truly authentic Italian cuisine!
I’ve had trippa before and I’ll never forget it. It was when I was in Italy and I asked what it was and was told “trippa”.
I looked it up in my dictionary and it was exactly what I was afraid it was… cow stomach. Full personal story is at end of this article for those interested to read about my experience.
For the sake of this article, I’ll be referring to it as tripe.
How to Cook Tripe?
There are multiple ways for how to cook tripe. Regardless of the type of tripe you choose, all tripe can be boiled, broiled, or fried.
Tripe must be cleaned thoroughly before cooking.
If purchasing directly from a butcher make sure to confirm if it’s cleaned fully or not. Typically, it will already be boiled from the butcher shop if they are selling it.
What is Beef Tripe?
I’ve pretty much explained it already, but beef tripe is the stomach lining of a cow, specifically the lining found in the three stomach chambers called the rumen, reticulum, and omasum.
Here’s a diagram of the three stomachs below.
How to Cook Beef Tripe?
Cooking beef tripe or trippa is really no different than any other type of tripe. Cook it by boiling it, frying it, or broiling. Make sure it is clean before cooking and that you cook it thoroughly and serve it hot.
It is not quick to cook beef tripe, it takes between two to four hours depending if it is already boiled partially (parboiled) or not. Make sure to read the instructions on the packaging carefully.
There are plenty of recipes for beef tripe but I’ve included one further down below for Roman Style tripe.
Many people will cook beef tripe over the stove, I’ve never seen it baked. Tripe has a very spongy texture so baking it would not be ideal.
How Long to Cook Tripe?
You can boil tripe as explained for a number of hours. Try to purchase tripe already boiled, or at minimum parboiled to cut down on the cooking time required.
Many recipes will saute the tripe by adding tripe to a pan of hot cooking oil along with onion, celery and garlic and after about 10 minutes when the onions are tender, add in 2-3 cups of stock and some tomato paste or a can of tomatoes.
Then let it cook on low/simmer gently for about 3 hours making sure the sauce doesn’t become too thick. .
For the recipes I’ve seen, they have one thing in common regardless if you choose to broil, boil, saute or fry, and that is the tripe must be able to be easily pierced with the tip of a sharp knife or a fork.
It is possible to overcook, so make sure you check towards the end until your desired doneness is reached.
It’s also common to serve the tripe hot and topped with some Italian cheese (for Italian cooking).
Other cultures will cook tripe in different ways with different ingredients. My recipes and cookbooks I have are all Italian cuisine. Some people will just eat it plain or chopped and added to soups.
You typically boil it whole and then when done or parboiled, you slice it into short 1/2″ strips about 2″ in length.
Mexicans cook what is called menudo which is a stew that uses tripe. It is very popular.
How Long to Boil Tripe?
If the tripe is sold parboiled, you only need to boil it for about two hours at home. If it isn’t parboiled, then you need to boil it for four hours.
When boiling tripe you want to make sure the tripe is easily pierced with the tip of a sharp knife. It will still maintain the chewy texture.
If you plan on simmering the tripe, bring it up to a boil first then low and proceed, again making sure it is cooked thoroughly.
How to Make Tripe in Recipes
Speaking for Italian cooking, tripe is often cooked with onions and some form of tomato sauce. It can also be cooked simply with some onion, butter, salt and pepper plus some Italian cheese when served.
On the other hand, tripe can be cooked like a stew with beans, tomatoes, stock, cabbage, potatoes and herbs. You start by boiling the tripe in water for two hours.
Once cooked, you can cut into strips and set aside. Meanwhile in a large pan add chopped onions, celery and garlic and brown in some olive oil or butter. Some recipes use bacon which I prefer to omit.
Once browned, add a can of tomatoes and cook until heated about 5 minutes. Then add back in the trip along with a cup of water and cook 30 minutes.
Add in some hearty vegetables or legumes such as beans along with some chopped potatoes which will help thicken the dish.
Cook for another 30 minutes over low to medium heat until potatoes are able to be pierced with a fork easily. Top with Romano or Parmesan Cheese. Serve warm.
I’ve included a recipe for Roman Style Tripe below adapted from The Talisman Italian Cook Book from 1972 which I have on my shelf.
I can see that Amazon has sellers that are trying to sell this book for over $100 which is nuts so I won’t bother linking to it. You might be able to find a used copy on Etsy or someplace else.
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.
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.
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.
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 many cities such as NYC as noted in Bloomberg.com, or by Chef Tim Timko of Lenzi’s Italian Restaurant in Pennsylvania, if it still exists at the time I’ve updated this post in 2022.
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 for fresh tripe. 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.
I’ve seen on Amazon tripe supplements for digestive health, all I can do is point you there as I don’t use tripe for my own digestive health – maybe cause I don’t eat it to begin with (hahaha).
Can Dogs Eat Tripe?
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. There are a variety of tripes including green tripe.
I don’t have much more to say about that topic so check it out online.
How to Serve Tripe?
Tripe or trippa can be served a variety of ways. But what do you serve it with?
Tripe will go well with meats such as sausage as I had it in Italy. If served in a soup or broth I recommend serving with some Italian or artisan bread along with salad or even rice.
You can also serve it atop a bed of pasta, this would be perfect for a roman style recipe as I’ve included in this post.
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. 🙂