Ciceri are chickpeas. Tria are tagliatelle, in the dialect of Puglia. Combined, they make Ciceri e tria a distinctive dish from the baroque city of Lecce.
“The recipes are the real traditional ones from Lecce,” Cinzia says in a recent e-mail. “We inherited them from my nonna and we teach them at our school.” Nonna ‘Nzina, short for Vincenza turned 95 in May, looks like she’s 70, and cooks every day.
“She is super well,” says Cinzia. “For her, the most important thing is food. She gets mad if my mother does not buy her the best ingredients. She spends the whole day cooking-maybe just four hours for a minestrone!”
Cinzia, who holds an MBA from Harvard University and Marika, a practicing cardiologist, are passionate about passing on their nonna’s culinary legacy and the culture that it represents. “Our cooking is based on which town you are in, which season it is, and peoples’ taste. In general, we never cover ingredients’ flavors,” Cinzia says.
In preparing Ciceri e tria, the first ingredient required is time. Dried chickpeas are soaked overnight and then simmered until tender with aromatic vegetables. The tagliatelle noodles are prepared from scratch by combining water and salt into golden durum wheat, the hardest type of wheat, which is also high in gluten. Durum is a major agricultural product of the Tavoliere plain in northern Puglia.
After the noodles are rolled and cut, a portion, about one-quarter, of them are deep-fried in olive oil. (These fried noodles make an irresistible pre-dinner nosh sprinkled with salt and Parmesan cheese!)
The remaining tagliatelle are cooked with the chickpeas. (When I tested the recipe, my first batch of tagliatelle turned gummy when I added them to the chickpeas. I had better luck boiling the noodles separately and then draining them before adding them to the chickpeas but this is NOT Nonna “Nzina’s method.) The three elements are stirred together just before serving and garnished with fresh parsley and hot red pepper to taste.