Ciceri e Tria: Southern Italian Soul Food
Although far less famous abroad than le orecchiette, this is actually the most beloved dish of the Salento. You’d never put cheese on this. Nor would you want to add any meat whatsoever, the fried pasta was originally meant to mimic the texture of meat, back when there was so little of it going around in our neck of the woods.
Ciceri e tria is really a cold weather dish but we serve it all year long, dropping the portions to thimble-sized portions as the sun starts to become a larger presence. This is one of those flip-flopped dishes, what used to be the cooking of the poorer but is now mostly made by the rich: Only the truly wealthy have the free time on hand to make something from scratch when cheaper versions are available for sale.
Please don’t eat this with any wine aside from a negroamaro. And no cheese. This is a human-ingenuity at its best, how mothers solved nearly empty larders over time, deliciously. Dishes that remember those sober moments are what true cuisine is about.
Chick peas, dried
Carrots, onions and celery
Hard durum wheat flour
Soak the chick peas overnight. Change the water. Rinse. Add the vegetables, and salt and simmer until tender, from 2 to 10 hours, depending on the date of harvest (you won’t like know that, so plan to cook ahead a few hours). Meanwhile, make the pasta, by adding roughly 30% barley flour to the 70% hard durum wheat flour and water until you reach pasta consistency. Roll out into thin ribbons, several times thicker than egg pasta allows. Think bandage shapes, like 3 inch snips of parppadelle. Or Narrow little sticks of gum. Dry a few hours.
Take a third of the pasta and fry in small batches, in extra virgin olive oil. Regulate water and bring the chick peas to a boil again and add the raw pasta. Cook until tender, around 3 minutes. Decide whether or not to fish out the vegetables from the broth. Add fried pasta, the diced parsley and a good glug of raw oil. Serve in bowls. Supply helmets if making this for your Salentine friends: Once they start to swoon, things get out of hand fast.