Food & Culture

Anatomy of a dish: cicera e tria

This chickpea and pasta dish may be born from poverty but it's full of richness. Take a look inside.

By Madeleine Bentley
Cicera e tria
Characterised as cucina povera, ciceri e tria is a masterclass in transforming humble ingredients. Stewed chickpeas are combined with a double-whammy of pasta – supple ribbons of fresh tagliatelle and crisp fried strands cut from the same dough – in a union of grains and pulses.
Today the dish, whose name is in part a legacy of Arab rule over Apulia, stands as a symbol of Salento, the region that forms the heel of Italy's boot. In true Italian style, the recipe varies according to regional differences and family traditions, but however you cut it, it's the play of textures and the savoury depth that are the most important. It's a si from us.
What's in a cicera e tria? Photo: Will Horner

1. Fresh pasta

Three quarters of the golden durum-wheat pasta dough is rolled out and cut into wide, noodle-like strips before it's boiled. Purists will cook the pasta in the chickpea broth, but for a less starchy result, it can be cooked separately.

2. Fried pasta

Fried pasta was originally added to mimic the texture of meat during times of scarcity. To make it, thin strips are hand-cut from the remaining quarter of dough, and fried in olive oil. They're then piled onto the finished dish for textural contrast. A final flourish of grated parmesan will take it up a notch.

3. Chickpeas

Dried chickpeas are soaked overnight and simmered until tender over a low heat in a soffritto-based broth flavoured with garlic and bay leaves. We've also added pancetta to up the savoury goodness.

Where to find cicera e tria

Don Peppino's in Sydney keep this dish in their back pocket as a special. Their take features pasta shells made with a dough of semolina and chickpea flour, which are topped with a soffritto and crisp-fried pasta.