In the UK, truffles are often seen as a bit of a gastronomic delicacy. However, in truffle growing regions such as Italy, truffles are an essential, indeed traditional, element of local cuisine, particularly in northern regions like Tuscany.
Cue the San Miniato Truffle Festival, an annual event held in the small, hilltop town of San Miniato near Pisa. The origins of the festival date back to 1969 and it’s evolved over the years to become internationally renowned as a showcase for gastronomy in Italy. The traditional white truffle has been joined by local wines, cheeses and other artisan products from across the region to highlight the delights of Italian food to a wider audience, from culinary experts and restaurateurs to tourists and locals who simply enjoy good food.
But what exactly is a truffle, and how do you use it in the kitchen?
You might be surprised to know that it’s actually a kind of mushroom that grows underground, hence the need for highly trained dogs or pigs that help farmers harvest the fungus. While the star of the show at the San Miniato Truffle Festival is the white truffle, this is just one of a wide range of truffle species, including black and summer, or burgundy varieties.
As you’d expect, the truffle flavour varies according to the exact species. However, in general, truffles are buttery and pungent with a touch of sweetness, meaning that you need only use them sparingly. They’re usually shaved or sliced raw and served over steaming bowls of pasta or fresh salads in Italy. You may also see truffle oil available, which is an alternative for adding truffle flavour to dishes.
Modern chefs have delighted taste buds by developing a wide range of fresh, innovative dishes using the truffle. Ever tried fettuccine with sea bream tartare and black truffle? Or how about egg yolk ravioli with truffle and parmesan? The world is your oyster (or truffle, to be exact!)
As truffles are a bit of a delicacy, we don’t tend to include them on our regular menu here at Sanzio restaurant in Willesden Green, the best Italian restaurant in North West London. However, they are available by special order if any customers would like to try out these delicious little gems! If not, don’t worry – we use only the finest Italian products in all our dishes to ensure authentic flavours made to traditional Italian recipes. We like to think that we offer our customers the best of Italy in London.
Buon Appetito! 🙂