Rare White Truffles from Italy are Reminiscent of Morels

Andria surprised me for my birthday with a trip to an Italian village known for rare white truffles. It felt almost like a secret mission where we were shown the goods in a very clandestine fashion-truffles wrapped in a piece of suspicious looking cloth with bits of dirt still clinging to the fresh truffle. It was dusk and the shop keeper talked to us in hushed voices once we told him our mission was to buy one of the rarest of all foods, the elusive white truffle found in the countryside near his shop.  It was all so exciting and a little secretive on the part of the merchant and the truffle hunter who shared with us a peek at the truffles. He would have searched for the truffles in the moist compost-like soil with hand digging following the discovery of a truffle.

Rare white truffles were pulled out of the purveyors pocket wrapped in a cloth. I picked one and it was carefully transferred to paper toweling as a way of packaging this beautiful specimen.

We handed over a huge sum of money for the truffle the size of a walnut. The merchant carefully secreted away the rest of the truffles in a cloth stuffed in an old fashioned looking container that resembled the base of a drip coffee maker. I am not even sure if we got the truffle we pointed out because it was like the shop keeper and forager used some fast hand work to confuse us as to which white truffle we were actually getting. Nonetheless, they secreted away the other truffles for another buyer to admire and we headed for Andria’s Italian villa to cook fresh pasta and truffles.

As soon as I sliced the truffle I could smell the wonderful aroma that took me back to my childhood. The famous white truffle from Italy smelled exactly like the morel mushrooms we scavenged for every spring in Van Buren County. I was shocked. I was speechless. I was honestly so surprised I could hardly contain my excitement. We would always jump with joy at finding each morel when I was a child and here I was again, just as excited. We prepared the truffle several ways and our discovery was that the white truffles from Italy are best eaten simply shaved thin and served raw almost as a garnish on fresh pasta. When we sauteed the truffle, the flavor dissipated and the aroma was a distant memory. Raw, thinly shaved and served impeccably fresh was the only way to enjoy the wonderful, white truffles of Italy.

Below is a photo of morels which are related to truffles. Both are technically an edible fungi sac and not actually a mushroom.  Pasta and simple ingredients inspired by Italy itself made the truffle taste like the amazing gourmet condiment it is.

Morels hidden by grasses are really hard to find but my family make it their mission to find them. One of our theories is that the spores are blown by the wind so they are sometimes found in straight lines and in the direction the wind blows.

Mushrooms, Asparagus and Micro Greens with an Egg Foam

1 cup truffles, morels or other mushrooms (Thinly slice truffles. If using mushrooms, slice in half)
1 tablespoon butter or oil
8 oz asparagus
1 egg for each serving, poached (4 or 5 eggs)
Rosemary-Flavored Croutons

Egg Foam Sauce

1/4 cup chicken broth, boiling hot and preferably homemade
2 eggs, beaten to create a foam
1/8 teaspoon salt
Dash white pepper

Thinly slice truffles or cut mushrooms in half. Use truffles raw but if using mushrooms, saute in butter 2 to 3 minutes or until tender. Set aside. Microwave asparagus that has been rinsed with water for about 3 minutes or until tender in a microwave-safe dish. Place poached egg in serving dish. Top with mushrooms and asparagus.

Combine chicken broth, eggs, salt and pepper for the sauce in a blender. Whip until foamy. Spoon sauce over each serving and garnish with micro-greens and croutons.

My favorite way to eat morels is to lightly sauté in butter and serve with fresh spring ingredients. I liked the rare white truffles best when thinly sliced and served raw on fresh pasta just like the recipe below which we created for our fresh white truffles.
Fresh pasta is found in the market on the corner, cheese from the city centre and truffles from the earth, dug just the same as century’s ago.

Truffles and Basil Penne

1 lb. penne pasta
1 fresh sliced truffle (or favorite mushrooms sautéed)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon oil
1 bunch basil, cut into strips
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

Prepare pasta according to package directions. While pasta is cooking, saute garlic in oil for about 30 seconds.  Drain pasta. Add garlic and freshly grated Parmesan cheese to the pasta. Stir in basil. Add salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with slices of the raw, white truffles or sautéed mushrooms.

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