My daughter is 10 years old and has never been in a McDonald’s. Please don’t tell me she is missing out. She first ate at a Michelin starred restaurant at age five. She’s been Southeast Asia five times, elephant riding three times, takes medieval music classes, and has a dog named Google.
My daughter’s favorite food is truffles.
She’s a lucky girl because we live in Umbria where it’s not unheard of to find the fanciest mushroom in your very own garden. I personally know a woman who has them under her lettuce bed. She only collects them after the lettuce season. Questionable priorities, I know.
Google (the dog, not the search engine) is supposed to be a truffle hunter but she’s only found two in her life, a few fewer than the engine (if you count virtual truffles). She uncovered both in my father’s garden. She also ate both. That act ended her modest career.
Using truffles the Italian way means hardly needing a recipe. You get some, slice it paper thin with the appropriate tool, and generously spread it on any food that has no leaves or tomatoes. The result is creating heaven. Pasta, risotto, eggs, cheese, lightly seared meat, they all benefit from the treatment.
If you don’t live in rural Italy, it’s time to pull out that jar of truffle paste, that package of artisan bronze-drawn pasta, and the bottle of olive oil you bought while on holidays. It’s not the same, but Google can’t help.
Pasta con tartufo (Serves 4)
- 240 gr (3 oz) Umbrian stringozzi, strozzapreti or egg noodles.
- 1 truffle weighing approx. 10 gr (3 oz).
- 4 teaspoons butter.
- 4 teaspoons freshly pressed extra virgin olive oil.
This is the secret recipe of my friends Claudio and Ornella, owners of Ristorante la Basilica, our favorite truffle haunt in Assisi (Via Protomartiri Francescani, 11. Tel 075.804.4491). Truffle purists won’t use Parmesan, but I won’t stop you if you keep the quantities modest.
— Prepare a stir fry pan, which must be large enough to hold all the pasta comfortably. Melt the butter, and when it’s warm grate half of the truffle into the melted butter. Switch off the heat.
— Cook the pasta in plenty salted boiling water. As soon as it’s cooked, drain and transfer to the saucepan. You’ll need to drain it a good half-a-minute before it’s cooked since you’ll need to finish it while saucing.
— Increase the heat and stir the pasta into the truffle and butter mixture. Add a few tablespoons of pasta water — up to one tablespoon per person — and 3-4 teaspoons of grated cheese, if you’re using it.
— Stir some more until the excess liquid is absorbed. Drizzle with your good olive oil and plate. Frantically shave or grate the rest of the truffle over the pasta so it doesn’t cool off and serve to high acclaim. (If you’re using truffle paste, add one teaspoon per person to the butter and proceed as above.)