When I was in Verona awhile back I visited a fantastic shop selling all sorts of salume and cheeses; I found a beautiful cotechino which we had for New Year’s as is the tradition (with Castelluccio lentils I brought back as well) but something else we bought were white and black truffle slices in oil. And you don’t have to go Italy to locate them either, my dad got me some whole preserved ones in Sainsbury’s up North last week.
Now, Antonio Carluccio says not to bother with these, something only a person who is rich enough to afford the fresh versions would say. Unlike him, I can’t justify such an extravagance and even if I could I doubt I’d have access to all the amazing produce his contacts give him so unfortunately this will have to do. Another option is to use truffle oil instead but for me it’s a complete rip off: I don’t understand how it can be that expensive to infuse something with a one dimensional chemical recreation of the aroma.
Given the paucity of truffles in the recipe, I’ve added some wild mushrooms to help bulk out the sauce and I’ve also cooked them in an unusual way. Conventional advice is to never crowd the pan because you’ll end up stewing the mushrooms rather than sautéing them but the guys at Cooking Issues discovered doing it the ‘wrong’ way actually gives a better result: the non-crowded batch ended up absorbing far more oil and had a worse appearance. I now add a little bit of water to the pan just to stop anything catching and liberally sprinkle with salt to help draw the moisture out; only when the released water has nearly evaporated do I add any fat to start browning. Occasionally, I add too much liquid at the start but I just strain it off using a sieve (if you’re making, say, a soup or a stew you can put it back at a later stage).
For the pasta, I would normally make this myself with a large amount of eggs given truffle’s affinity for them; there are lots of recipes online but the one I use is from Jamie’s Italy and the great thing about tagliatelle is that you can use a rolling pin rather than a machine. Just get the dough reasonably thin and into a few long pieces, roll them up like a scroll and the cut into 1-2cm wide strips. Another option is to buy the Italian fresh pasta from Marks & Spencer which is the best one I’ve found in the supermarkets although there’s some great dried stuff from De Cecco too.
200g wild mushrooms
1 large garlic clove, minced
100ml white wine
200ml double cream
Nutmeg, pinch of
Fish sauce, splash of
10g preserved black truffles
250g fresh egg tagliatelle
Lemon half, juice of
- Heat a pan over a high heat and then add the mushrooms and 2.5g of salt. (Add a splash of water to stop any from sticking to the pan)
- Let the mushrooms release their water and allow it to boil off. If there’s a large amount of liquid released that’s difficult to evaporate, strain the contents of the pan through a sieve and reserve it.
- When the pan is nearly dry, add the grapeseed oil and fry the mushrooms until golden brown.
- Move the pan to a low heat and add the butter.
- When it has melted add the garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes being careful not to colour it.
- Deglaze the pan with the white wine until nearly all boiled off.
- Add the double cream, nutmeg, pepper, fish sauce and if any, the reserved water.
- Simmer the sauce for around five minutes until slightly reduced.
- When reduced, add the lemon juice and check the seasoning to see if it needs adjusting.
- Stir in the preserved in truffles.
- While the sauce is reducing, boil a large pot of heavily salted water and cook the tagliatelle. (It should only take 3-4 minutes but won’t be as al dente as dried pasta.)
- Strain the pasta and combine with the sauce, mixing thoroughly.
- Divide between two plates and top with the Parmigiano-Reggiano.