Much is made of the worth and special distinction of the truffle – the roundish, lumpy “fungus” found under the roots of trees and sometimes hunted using very special pigs and dogs, with a sense of smell known only to the divine. However, the White Truffle, in particular, draws the oohs and ahs of most chefs and gourmands. Even the French expert, Savarin, called them the “diamonds of the kitchen.”The White Truffle is considered one of the most revered of cooking delicacies. Of very special note is its use in the dishes of Northern Italy where the much valued White Truffle is found. Here, the use of this treasured ingredient in the form of oil, in the dish, WILD MUSHROOM PASTA WITH WHITE TRUFFLE OIL, is representative of many of the dishes of the Langhe area of the Piedmont region.
As with many prized ingredients, the White Truffle is not for everyone. It has a very “funky” and earthy smell and taste which is pronounced. It is often lightly grated on dishes, and it doesn’t take much of it to make its presence known once added. As much as it is valued, not all savvy foodies appreciate it. Sometimes I think it is because they experienced too much of it at once. A very small amount is sufficient. It is extremely expensive and puts it out of the price range of most food shoppers.
Along with wild mushrooms, the fall season usually heralds the arrival of the White Truffle in the finer Italian restaurants, it often makes a much touted entrance. I remember dining in a fine regional Italian restaurant and thought I almost heard trumpets sound the introduction of the White Truffle to the dining room. Well – maybe not trumpets – but the chef did emerge from the kitchen with an assistant in tow, pushing a cart clothed in white, featuring a tall glass dome with a tiny lump of a musty gray substance under it. They scurried over to one of the tables and proceeded to lightly grate the tiniest amount over some risotto–followed by an audible OOOOO and AHHHH. Quickly, they hastened back to the kitchen with the cart and domed prize only to disappear behind closed doors. This little fanfare bore a tidy price tag!
Well – so why would we want to mortgage the farm for this tiny bit of grated ecstasy? We wouldn’t! There is another way that we can appreciate the joys of the White Truffle – and that is using White Truffle Oil.
It is sold in most specialty markets most often in small bottles. Yes, it is more expensive than Extra Virgin Olive Oil usually – but the idea is to use it in very small amounts. Less is indeed more! The very tiny amount is not only sufficient but also just enough to give the dish a sensational essence of earth without making you run for the exit. Tiny is all you need!
The fact is – when you use the oil properly and sparingly, as we will in this dish, it is quite lovely and transforms the mushroom pasta to something quite desirable. The combination of the White Truffle Oil and the wild mushrooms, is one of those marriages heavenly inspired. They join well with the butter, used so often in the dishes of the Piedmont to produce a very rich, serious, and quite beautiful fall dish you will love to serve in the presence of a roaring fire and a fine bold vino rosso.
WILD MUSHROOM PASTA WITH WHITE TRUFFLE OIL
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 10-15 minutes
5 Tbsp. Butter
3 Tbsp. Olive Oil
1/3 C. Pancetta chopped
3 Cloves Fresh Garlic finely chopped
1/4 C. Finely chopped Shallot
3/4 Cup Dry Vermouth or Dry White Wine
1 lb. Assorted Cleaned and Sliced Wild Mushrooms such as Crimini, Porcini, Shitake, Oyster etc.
2 Tsp. White Truffle Oil + more for drizzle before serving
1 Tbsp. Fresh Thyme Leaves
2 Tbsp. Chopped Fresh Parsley
Grated Asiago or Montasio Cheese (Both of these cheeses are from Northern Italy and are perfect for the dish. Parmigiano may be substituted.)
Melt butter with the olive oil in a pan. Add pancetta and cook 2-3 minutes.
Add garlic and shallot and cook 2 minutes more.
Then add the mushrooms, White Truffle Oil, and herbs. Cook a couple of minutes more at medium high.
Pour in the vermouth and cook at medium high until it reduces down by 1/2.
Add salt and pepper to taste.
Add the 2 Tbsp. butter to finish.
Add to the pasta and toss well to coat. (Fresh made Tagliatelle was used for the photo. Fettucine or Spaghetti are also fine for this dish.)
Salt and Pepper to taste
Add the additional 2 Tbsp. Butter and toss into the pasta.
Drizzle with a small amount of White Truffle Oil. Do NOT over pour with this oil. Just a small amount is sufficient. It is quite powerful.
Serve with the grated cheese.
Because I most often like to serve wines from the region of origin for a particular dish, I would pair WILD MUSHROOM PASTA WITH WHITE TRUFFLE OIL with a more serious choice of wine from the north, perhaps from the Langhe where the White Truffle is found, such as Barolo or even Barbera d’Alba. I like a high tannin presence with this dish to stand up to that funky quality of the truffle and the earthy nature of the wild mushrooms. Neither of these choices, I don’t think, would disappoint!
PARLA COME MANGI!
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Food Photos By Tommy Hanks Photography