The truffle is the real king of Piedmontese cuisine.
As rare as it is pungent, this small tuber is capable of sparking off a real gold rush, which is not only metaphorical in view of its cost. Every Autumn, in the Langhe, Monferrato and Roero hills, the "trifôlaô", or truffle hunters, and their dogs (the real hunters) take to the paths between poplars and lime trees, and along slopes covered with oak and willow trees looking for the underground nugget will then reign on the dining table, in recipes that exalt its aroma and taste.
and most valuable is certainly the white
truffle from Alba, but several types can be found in the hills of
The discovery of the truffle can be dated: the first written records that mention its use and sale date back two thousand years, to Roman times. Gioacchino Rossini called it the “Mozart of mushrooms” and Byron kept one on his desk because it fed his imagination.
What is it?
It is a hypogean or underground mushroom that belongs to the Ascomycetes class, order tuberales, family tuberacee, genus tuber. There are numerous species: the Magnatum Pico (white truffle), Melanosporum Vit (black truffle), Albidum, Aestivum and Brumale (Winter truffle).
Like all mushrooms, the truffle's roots are a voluminous and very ramified mass of white filaments (known as hyphas). The fruit, in the form of a tuber, is a fleshy mass, known as a "glebe", covered with a tough skin known as the "peridium". The structural and chromatic characteristics of these parts make identifying the type of truffle very easy.
The white Alba truffle can vary in color, depending on the plant on whose roots it grows: from white with occasional pink veining, to grey tending to brown.
After its formation, the truffle becomes a true parasite, sucking the sap that the plant's roots extract from the ground, the source of its perfume, taste and color. The truffles with the most persistent odor which keep best are those that grow in contact with oak trees, while the most aromatic and lightest in color grow on lime trees.
The soil obviously has to be suitable: the best is limestone or clay with some silica. Altitude is also important: they are very rare above 600-700 metres.
The season extends from late August to January and a root usually produces only one truffle per year.
In the Monferrato and Langhe hills, truffles are used raw, cut into thin slices to decorate certain recipes: from a salad of "ovuli" or porcini mushrooms embellished with truffles, to a "parmigiana" with alternate layers of truffle, celery and thin slices of Parmesan.
But there are plenty of other dishes in which the truffle reigns supreme, setting free its unique aroma: a salad of minced raw veal, "tajarin" fresh pasta, fondue, a fried egg, prosciutto, grilled fillet, veal cutlets in butter, or tagliata (minute steak) with herbs, on delicate or perfectly ripened cheese, or alone, with a drizzle of extravirgin olive oil.