Italy has many food excellences. Among them there certainly are truffles. But where exactly can you find them and what’s their history? Swide tells you everything about these little gourmet luxuries.
Italy is a gifted land. Not only we speak a musical language and are
surrounded by beautiful landscapes, we also have one of the best cuisines
worldwide. What raises the bar even higher? Truffles.
For the few unlucky ones who still don't know about it, the truffle is a (underground) mushroom. There are many kinds of truffles, but the ones held in high esteem are the white ones. Only secondary to those, the black ones.
The white ones have a pale cream or brown with white marbling color. The most
valuable (Tuber magnatum Pico) comes from the Langhe area of Piedmont and
particularly in Alba, which is the most important kind. You can find them also
in Slovenia, Croazia and Romania, but only in minor quantities and quality:
Italian white truffles are the most valuable on the market.
If you are planning to buy some, squeeze in your agenda the 89th White Truffle Festival in Alba, where in 2009 a 1.6-pound white truffle was sold for $150,000. This year the Fair, on from October 9th till November 13th, is even more about gourmet experience, with a focus on the pairing truffle-pasta (whether truffle with fresh pasta is a classical must, this year chefs are going to try it with dry pasta).
But why are white truffles so expensive? Because - as for everything else on Earth - their value is strictly related to the quantity available. Truffles are rare to find in the first place (and have become even more rare in last years) and they can't be faked or formulated. So the only way to get them, at least up to today, is to train pigs - yes, pigs - and some breed of dogs to find truffles, to not eat them (an important passage) and to bring them back.
An ancestral hunt that treasures mystery, anticipation, longing. Three things rare to find, too, since today almost everything is obtainable with no or little effort. Set this happening in one of the most beautiful landscape on earth, the hills of Langhe in Piedmont, and you'll get the poetry of truffles.
Among the different kinds, there is also the whitish truffle (Tuber borchii), less valuable, which can be found in Lombardy, Tuscany, Romagna, Marche and Molise, but it's not even close to the aroma of the white truffles you find in Piedmont.
The black truffle (Tuber melanosporum) or Périgord black truffle has been named after the Region of Périgord in France and grows with oak trees. It is less noble than the white one, but still tasty. It's found mostly in Europe, with a distribution of 45% circa in France, 35% Spain, 20% Italy. This kind can be found in Asia (China), America and Africa.
One of the best ways to taste truffles is to use them with risotto. White truffles would be best, but if you have black ones only this recipe will work too. You need 2 1/2 cups (500 g) of short grained rice (Carnaroli or Arborio but also Vialone Nano, if you can find it); 1 /2 cup (100 g) of butter; 1 tablespoon of minced onion; 1/2 cup dry white wine; 4 cups freshly grated Parmigiano, 1 quart (1 liter) simmering beef broth; 6 ounces (150 g) fresh white truffles, brushed clean. Sauté the onions with some butter until they golden, then add some wine and cook over low heat until the wine evaporates. Add the rice, mix well, and start to add very slowly some meat broth as it gets absorbed by the rice, stirring at the same time. Once the rice is ready (it should be al dente), remove the pot from the hob and add some butter and the Parmigiano. Slice half the truffe into it.
Another yummy recipe to enjoy is fried eggs with white truffles. You need a couple of eggs, 1 cup of unsalted butter, one small truffle. Heat the butter in a non-sticky pan (we don't want it to sizzle), break the eggs in a bowl and then pour them in the pan. Cook the eggs gently, until the yolks gradually thicken (for sunny side eggs cook up to 3-4 minutes, otherwise more). Place each egg on a plate and grate the truffle over them. Serve with crispy bread.
In both options you will be overwhelmed by the earthy, fall-like aroma of truffles.
Don’t tell me you are not eager to have them, no matter how much they cost. Because diamonds are a girl’s bestfriend, but truffles are a foodie’s ones.
Written by: Elisa della Barba