Renaissance cookbooks like Bartolomeo Scappi’s Opera Dell’Arte del Cucinare name a fair number of methods for cooking beef tripe, the upper stomachs of grazing cows. But in modern Rome, it is prepared by one method only: honeycomb tripe, called cuffia locally, is simmered with tomato and menta romana, a variety of local mint, or mentuccia, a mint-like herb, then seasoned with Pecorino Romano. Trippa alla Romana is so entrenched in the local cuisine that unlike many other classic dishes, its elements almost never waver. Book tripe, called centopelli, is rarely used. Roman chefs declare it cat food, a possible dig at Florentines, who prefer it to other tripe forms.
(Serves 4 to 6)
2 pounds honeycomb tripe, washed
¼ cup sea salt, plus more as needed
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, coarsely chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 cup white wine
1 (14-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
Leaves from 4 sprigs fresh mint, chopped
1 1/2 cups grated Pecorino Romano
Place the tripe in a large pot and add cold water to cover. Bring to a boil over high heat. Drain and repeat. Drain again. Return the tripe to the pot and again add cold water to cover. Bring to a boil over medium-low heat. Add the salt and simmer until the tripe is fork-tender, about 3 hours. Drain, rinse under cold water, then cut the tripe into 1/2-inch strips.
Heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium-low heat. When the olive oil begins to shimmer, add the onion and carrot. Season with a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring, until the onion and carrot are softened, about 15 minutes. Add the wine and cook until the alcohol aroma dissipates, about 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and the sliced tripe and cook for about 1 hour. Turn off the heat, add the mint and 1 cup of Pecorino Romano, and mix well. Season to taste.
Plate and sprinkle each portion with the remaining Pecorino Romano. Serve immediately.
Tip: While menta romana is hard to come by outside of Rome, mentuccia, which goes by lesser calamint and nepitella, can be found in the U.S. In the absence of either herb, you’ll do perfectly fine to substitute standard mint.
Originally published in Tasting Rome: Fresh Flavors and Forgotten Recipes from an Ancient City.