The rich history of white truffle

Truffles have been eaten for thousands of years throughout the Middle East and Europe. It is believed that ancient Sumerians were the first to discover and eat the delicacy. The white truffle became popular in Italy in the 14th century, when an appreciation of good food was re-established during the Renaissance. Truffle hunting became entertainment for heads of state, popes, and overseas dignitaries.

What is the white truffle?

Truffles are a fungus that grow underground at the base of certain trees. Truffles have been described as the diamond of the kitchen, lauded throughout history for the delicious taste and rich aroma. White truffles vary in colour depending on which tree they grow next to. Oak trees give the truffle a darker hazelnut colour, while willows create the lightest shade of white, and linden trees will add red spots to the truffle. The white truffle requires a unique climate and soil to grow, hence they only grow in a certain part of northern Italy.

How are truffles found in nature?

Dogs use their keen sense of smell to detect the truffles as they are specially trained to find the truffles. Once they’ve made a discovery, their handler will extract the truffles from the ground by hand. This labour-intensive method of finding the truffle lends to their high value and esteem. The fact that the truffles must be hunted out also adds to the mystery surrounding them and makes us want them even more.

Urbani, real Italian truffles

What makes white truffles better than black truffles?

Black truffles are not as highly thought of as white truffles. Black truffles are found in Central Italy, as Marche, Umbria and Toscana, at the base of oak and hazelnut trees. They are not as aromatic or flavourful as the white variety: white truffles ask the highest value and grow almost exclusively in Piedmont and their rich flavour and delicious aroma give them a stronger presence in a meal. Black truffles require some cooking to enhance their flavour, however white truffles are often used raw.

Tagliolini al tartufo

White truffles in Italian cuisine

Hundreds of years ago, white truffles became part of Italian tradition and cuisine. The versatile fungus is used in various ways in cooking: truffles are infused into oil or butter and used to prepare creamy truffle sauces with cheese or with mushrooms. But in the most traditional dishes, thinly sliced truffles are needed: for example in the risotto ai porcini e tartufo bianco, in the tagliolini al tartufo bianco – a very simple pasta seasoned with butter and raw truffle shavings – and in the filetto di manzo (beef fillet) con tartufo bianco: you can find these three dishes and many other truffle-based specialties in the restaurants of Eataly Arabia.

Come and discover the magic of truffle in our stores!