A Definitive Guide To Truffles
A Definitive Guide To Truffles
Truffles are a culinary treasure. They are extremely sought-after all over the globe, but especially in Italy where they are known as ‘tartufo’.
In Piedmont and Umbria, harvest season is a time for celebration and the towns even hold popular truffle festivals! A visit to these regions during this time will offer the traveller edible gold in the form of fresh truffles, harvested that very morning.
What are truffles?
Truffles are grown in soil near the roots of trees. They are commonly produced in Italy where they're always richly aromatic.
People often mistake them as a type of mushroom. Although they both have an earthy taste, mushrooms grow above ground, whereas truffles grow underneath.
Truffle flavours are often far more punchy, with a fragrant smell.
They also have a lot of nutritional value and offer some serious health benefits. They are high in micronutrients such as calcium, iron, magnesium and even vitamin C. They also provide antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. So make an all-round great addition to any meal.
Where do they come from?
Truffles grow best in colder, humid climates and are commonly found in forests throughout Piedmont, Tuscany, Le Marche and Umbria. They are still harvested using traditional methods and growing them can take anywhere between three to four years.
They grow by attaching themselves to the roots of trees and are usually found between 5 to 30cm under the ground.
The areas where truffles grow are often kept a closely guarded secret by the locals. Only they know where to find this naturally grown delicacy and they like to keep it that way!
When it comes to harvesting, expertly trained dogs are usually the best for the job. Pigs were once used, however they were known for eating them after discovery... You can usually trust dogs to hand them over in exchange for a treat or two.
Italy grows and exports truffles for around 7 months of the year and if you are planning on visiting, we recommend November. This is peak time for harvest season, so you will be able to sample the freshest truffles around.
Truffle festivals are held over multiple regions. These events are used to showcase prized finds and are usually dedicated to one variety. Visitors can sample and purchase delicious truffles, as well as talk to the locals and watch chef demonstrations.
The difference between black and white truffles
There are 9 different types of edible truffle, the main ones being black and white. These are the most common types that you will find in Italian cooking and recipes using this ingredient date back to Roman times.
White truffles (known as the king of truffles or white diamonds) are flavourful and fragrant. They are pale cream or light brown in colour, with a smooth skin and a marbled interior. They are almost always eaten raw and can be seen shaved on top of dishes as a finishing touch - like on the dish ‘tajarin alla artufo’ from Piedmont.
Black ones are slightly more versatile and are often used in cooking because they are easy to store and stay fresher for longer. Although, it is recommended that they are eaten within a fortnight.
They have a dark, rough exterior and are more affordable. This prestigious variety is often described as having an aroma of dried fruit and chocolate. As they have a strong taste, they benefit from being cooked on a gentle heat to enhance the flavours.
This treasured ingredient is also often used to flavour ingredients such as oil, butter and even salt. Both black and white truffles make extra virgin olive oil even more delicate and delicious. In Italy, truffle oil is used to drizzle over dishes, and never cooked with.
Ready to try Italian truffle dishes?
There are multiple ways to incorporate them into recipes and the most common pairing is with pasta. Hence why Italians love this ingredient so much!
We love using black truffles in our dishes. Some of our popular ones include Mushroom & Truffle Tagliatelle, Beef & Truffle Ravioli and Artichoke and Truffle Ravioli.
You can shop our pasta meal kits here.