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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
Barley flour
Hard durum wheat flour
Chilli peppers
Parsley, diced

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.




Silvestro Silvestori
Sommelier / Owner / Director of The Awaiting Table Cookery School, Lecce, Italy

Silvestro Silvestori, the owner, founder and director of The Awaiting Table Cookery School, Lecce, Italy has been teaching the food and wine of Puglia and particular- Italy’s Salentine peninsula since 2003. In addition to his knowledge of Pugliese food and culture, Silvestro is a nationally-certified sommelier in Italy, and a staff writer for Wine & Spirits magazine, covering all their Southern Italian food and wine content. He has also appeared on American, Australian, Belgian, British, Chinese, Dutch and Italian television, and Italy’s most respected newspaper called him, ‘A national treasure’, and ‘THE anthropologist of the traditional cuisine of the Salento’ for his work in preservation and promotion of Salentine’s food and wine.


  • Jeff Denno
    July 28, 2010 at 8:10 pm

    Ciao Silvestro,

    When Betty and I took your cooking class, we made some really good sausages. I want to make some at home and I would like to have your recipe.


  • Katherine Copsey Riordan
    August 5, 2010 at 8:10 am

    Hi Silvestro, I am a mature student, studying fine art in a place called Wicklow, I have just found your website and have decided to save like mad, to visit your school for cookery lessons. I have already learned a lot from reading your comments on wine, food and olive oil, I am passionate about art, music and Italian food and your recipes and insights, are giving me great pleasure.

    Thank you.

    Katherine Riordan

  • susan
    August 11, 2011 at 10:25 am


    The first time I had this dish, having made it with you and a wonderful group of students and assistants, I cried it was so good and so “right”. The ingenuity of this recipe is astounding – oh, to have that celery from Lecce, as it made the sublime difference.

  • LivedinItaly
    March 12, 2012 at 3:31 pm

    Amazing how many “poor” dishes have found favor with those better off. Baccala is one that comes to mind, as cod was not seen as a ‘wealthy persons’ food and today you can find it in almost every ristorante.

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