Is truffle a mushroom, why is it so expensive, what is the difference between black and white ones? Get this supreme guide on what is a truffle, where to buy, and recipes!
What is a Truffle Mushroom
A truffle is a round, hard, edible sponge-looking fungi, with a unique "truffle" aroma that is a mushroom delicacy. Truffles are considered the "diamond of the kitchen" and most commonly used in French and Italian cuisine. They are consumed in culinary using white truffles, black truffles, and burgundy truffles.
They come from the genus Tuber or Tuberaceae family that are species of truffles that are highly valued as delicacies. Truffles are one of the most expensive and ultimate foods that are popular for their rarity, smell, and having high nutritional values such as antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, hepatoprotective, anti-mutagenic, antituberculoid immunomodulatory, antitumor, antimicrobial, and aphrodisiac.
How to use truffles
Shave, slice, grate, or turn into truffle oil! When wondering what is a truffle and how to use them, use them as a garnish. Truffles make a delicious addition to slice shave or turn into truffle oil and serve over pizza, pasta, roasted vegetables, scrambled eggs, risotto, and mix an oil into macaroni and cheese (our favorite)!
What do truffles look like and taste like
The shape and look of a truffle comes from animals that surround the natural environment they grow in. They are circular balls that look like hard sponges. It is a root fungus (ectomycorrhiza) filled with spores that are developed from fungivores, which are animals that eat fungi. Since it is a root fungus, it is most commonly found growing near tree roots.
The taste of white truffles is an earthy, musky aroma with a taste similar to subtle garlic flavor (like a shallot), mushroom, and nuttiness. While black truffles have a potent aroma of earthy wet, strawberries, and cocoa and turn peppery and bitter when warmed. Burgundy truffles are a bit more nutty in flavor and have a hazelnut-taste. Think about combining this fragrant fungus in European dishes with other flavors that work well with this taste.
Hunting: Where do they come from
Some of the best truffles in the world come from European countries of Italy, France, and Spain. The summer truffle (Tuber aestivum) or burgundy truffle (Tuber uncinatum) is a species of truffle, found in almost all European countries. They are typically found in woods, wet, meadows, and forests close to trees.
Bartolomeo Platina used to write about truffle hunting in the Middle Ages. Dogs sniff out the tuber mushroom and had to be muzzled in order to prevent them from eating the prize!
White Truffle vs Black Truffle
What is a White Truffle
Fresh white truffles, also known as Tuber magnatum or "Truffle of the White Madonna", is commonly found in southern Europe around northern Italy. It is a species of truffle in the order Pezizales and family Tuberaceae.
White truffles are fruiting bodies that are characterized as round with a light white or cream flesh and marbling. They grow as big as 12 cm in diameter and 500 grams, although many do grow much smaller. White truffles are softer than a black truffle and have a smoother flesh.
What is a Black Truffle
Fresh black truffles, also known as Tuber melanosporum, Périgord truffle or French black truffle is one of the most expensive truffles in the world. Urbani Black Winter Truffles are one of the most luxurious of them all.
Black truffles are classified as round, bumpy, with a brown-black dark skin and grow up to 10 cm. The inside flesh is white with veins that over time turn brown with age.
Pricing and why are truffles so expensive
They are considered highly expensive because they are rare to find, have a unique aroma, and contain high nutritional values, making them greatly sought after. Pricing depends on the time of year they are grown and how much aroma a truffle has in comparison to others.
According to CNBC "truffle prices range on average from $250 per pound for summer black truffles; $350 per pound for Burgundy, $800 per pound for winter black, and $2,000 to $4,000 for Alba (a town in Italy) or white truffles." They are quite the diamond in the rough!
What is the most expensive truffle? Italian white truffles are the most valued in the market. In 2010, an auction was held in Macau and a two-pound white truffle sold for $330,000!
Seasonal Shopping and Where To Buy
If you are not out hunting in Tuscany or Europe, these aromatic fungi are found seasonally in stores, online, and taste best fresh!
- Black truffle oil, burgundy and white truffles are found September to December
- Winter black truffles are found from December to early March
- Bianchetti truffles are found February and March
- Summer black and white truffles are found from May to August
Black truffle oil is one of my favorite oils that I can usually find when its truffle season at Trader Joe's and other specialty stores during certain months. You can purchase whole ones online during the year and my favorites, Truffle Zest and Truffle Powders, Truffle Oil, and Shaved Truffles in Olive Oil online at Amazon.
How to cook with truffles
Truffles are a type of fungus like a mushroom so they are best only to be raw or cooked lightly and not fried or boiled. Cooking on high heat causes them to lose their unique characteristics such as aroma, taste, and smell. White and black truffles are best to be used fresh either shaved, sliced or add to extra virgin olive oil and make infused truffle oil and are beautiful with wild garlic.
- Use truffle oil on salads with a splash of lemon.
- Drizzle truffle oil over pizza, pasta, and toast.
- Use a truffle shaver and add truffles to dishes like this restaurant-style Italian pizza, arugula prosciutto pizza, healthy mac and cheese, and Italian cold pasta salad.
What is a Truffle?
It is one of the world's most beautiful delicacies. This expensive fragrant fungi to top on favorite Italian and European cuisines. Serve shaved, grated, or sliced and enjoy all the antioxidant, antiviral, and beautiful fragrance it beholds.
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Truffle Pasta Recipe
- 6 tablespoons organic butter or ghee or vegan butter
- 12 ounces gluten-free fettuccine
- ½ cup mascarpone cheese room temperature
- ½ cup parmesan cheese
- salt and black pepper
- 1 white or black truffle medium fresh white or black truffle, peeled and shaved into thin slices
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the noodles according to package directions until al dente.
- Meanwhile in a small saucepan, melt the butter. Cook over moderate heat until the butter melts and slightly browns, about 5 minutes. Pour the butter into a bowl and mix in the mascarpone cheese to melt slightly.
- Drain the pasta, and reserve ½ cup of the cooking water then return the pasta to the pot. Add the reserved water and the browned butter, parmesan cheese, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Using two forks toss to coat the noodles until the cheese starts to melt. Season with more salt and pepper to taste if needed. Serve right away with shaved truffles on top.
Recipe adapted from Food&Wine. Photos courtesy of iStock by Getty Images with permission.
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