Sunday 14 January 2007

tartufi estivi

Today my focus is on the black summer truffle or the Tuber aestivum vitt. It has a healthy presence in northern Italy, central Europe, the UK, Turkey and North Africa. It has a tough, gritty skin but this helps to preserve it longer than other truffles.

It has a lighter, more delicate flavour than a winter truffle so it’s important not to cook them but rather heat them through or serve them fresh and thinly shaved.

Black Summer Truffle Penne

Anna’s very own recipe. Serves 4.
300g penne
100ml pouring cream
6g black truffle, thinly sliced (or 1 tablespoon black truffle paste)
Garlic clove, whole
Grated Grana Padano cheese
Salt and pepper

1. Melt the butter with the garlic clove in a large pan.
2. Remove garlic clove then add cream and truffle.
3. Add salt and pepper then leave to simmer for approx. 5 minutes.
4. Cook pasta al dente, according to packet instructions.
5. Add pasta to pan and mix well, coating in sauce. Serve sprinkled with grated Grana Padano.

Wikipedia has a very interesting article about truffles and claims that truffles entered the European diet around the second half of the 1700s.

Contrary to popular belief they can indeed be cultivated. In fact in the 1800s, trufficulture was a busy industry in France where people knew that truffles were symbiotic with host trees, such as oaks.

Horticulturalists planted groves of acorns from truffle affected oaks and created truffle ‘farms’. Some 17 acres were planted in 1847 and ten years later significant amounts of truffles were harvested. By 1890 there were 750 km² (185,000 acres) of truffle trees.

Unfortunately WWI decimated the groves, the land and the population of truffle farmers with cultivation skills. It seems that once upon a time truffles were available to most people but after WWII they were became delicacies for only the rich.

There are now truffle-growing areas in Spain, Sweden, New Zealand, Australia, the USA and the UK, although naturally farmers don’t want to flood the market and see a reduction in price.

It always made me giggle to think that pigs are used to sniff out truffles. Dogs are used too, but since dogs often have these kinds of jobs it doesn’t seem that strange. For some reason I giggle at the thought of a pig on a leash rummaging through the forest looking for tubers.

I shouldn’t laugh too much because apparently dogs need training to recognise the scent whereas sows don’t at all – truffles smell very much like the sex pheromone of boars!!! In fact some people even credit the pig with introducing truffles to humans.

My particular jar of truffles hailed from Umbria in Italy. Yum!

Now be sure to visit Coffee & Cornbread for this week's Weekend Herb Blogging recap hosted by Sue.



  1. What a decadent and delicious pasta dish! I never bought truffles. They are so expensive and soooo good. In the German TV there was a report about truffles in France. I wish I had a truffle dog :-)

  2. This looks delicious! Sadly, I've never eaten truffles...

  3. I saw truffles at the market in Sicily and was surprised to find out that truffles are cultivated there...especially the black summer truffle you're writing about. Even more suprising is the distinct influence that truffles have on the aroma of some Sicilian wines.
    I find more and more reasons to love it there. :)

  4. Anna, it sounds fantastic. I've never had truffles at all except in restaurants so I had no idea what they looked like.


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