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 foreger 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.


 

 

Balsamic-Basil Penne

1 lb. penne pasta
1 fresh sliced truffle (or favorite mushrooms sauteed)
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. Stir in basil. Add salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with slices of the raw, white truffles.

 

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