The Nasty Bits: Trippa alla Romana
I'd like to put forth the claim that Trippa alla Romana is really an excuse to enjoy a lot of tomato sauce. We talk about the ability of pasta to cling to a sauce, but pasta pales in comparison to tripe's sponge-like powers.
At restaurants you'll see Trippa alla Romana (or alla Parmigiana, or some other locale), the variants all tripe stewed in tomato sauce, topped with a grated hard cheese like parmesan or pecorino. The tomato sauce is tart, more so than what you might taste with pasta, so that biting into each tender sliver of tripe yields a gush of sauce strong enough to undercut the richness of stomach. There's a great synergy that happens between the soft offal and the sauce, so much so that the cheese is an outsider to that dynamic. (So too, are rounds of toasted bread or crackers, and wilted greens, or whatever other additions you can think of that could get along well with the tripe. They are all welcome, but not integral.)
You'll see here the difference between cooked honeycomb tripe and cooked rumen tripe, the latter being the shaggy carpet-like one. They're merely different parts of the stomach and both are adept at sopping up sauce.
Whenever I stew tripe I stew a lot it. Some of it goes to making tripe chili, which I talked about last week. Some of it will be for menudo, famed Mexican tripe soup. The rest goes for Trippa alla Romana, which I eat with more frequency than any other iteration of tripe, probably because I love to have it for breakfast.
Tripe simmered in tomato sauce is really not a breakfast food at all, but it certainly feels like one when anointed with a fried or poached egg. I may be in the minority when I place tripe and eggs among the most soothing of breakfast foods. Actually, I happen to think that a bowl of oatmeal has more in common with a bowl of stewed tripe than it does with, say, jam and toast. Both oatmeal and tripe are soft and mushy. Both are really only palatable when hot. Imagine dipping a sliver of tender tripe, bursting with tomato sauce, into that shallow and precious pool of egg yolk. And everything topped with grated cheese. There may be better ways to start a day, but I can't think of one.
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About the author: Chichi Wang took her degree in philosophy, but decided that writing about food would be much more fun than writing about Plato. She firmly believes in all things offal, the importance of reading great books, and the necessity of three-hour meals. If she were ever to get a tattoo, it would say "Fat is flavor." Visit her blog, The Offal Cook.