Tagliolini with white truffle is a delicacy that will leave you speechless! During autumn in Piedmont, in the middle of the harvesting season of the prized white truffle, you can taste this dish in almost every restaurant in the Langhe of Piedmont. But how about making them at home?
If you have a grandmother from Alba, good for you - you could have even invited me to her home -, but otherwise you'll have to make them yourself. This recipe is for you.
My grandmother is not from Alba, and she doesn't even want to cook anymore, but when I want something to turn out really well, something that highlights the flavours of a particular ingredient, I always ask myself how my grandmother would make it. This is not the real traditional recipe, but a loose homemade (and hopefully good) interpretation of how she would cook the precious Piedmontese fungus.
- fresh pasta 400 g
- butter 100 g
- white truffle 30-40 g
- salt to taste
- sage, 2-3 leaves if you want to exaggerate
- grated Parmesan cheese, a handful, for the more daring
Tagliatelle or tagliolini?
My grandmother would say: «I couldn’t care less, as long as it's fresh pasta. You spent so much on the fine white truffle, and then you throw Barilla at me?» I think she's absolutely right, but then it's up to you.
However, I recommend tagliolini, because they are thinner and I think they behave better once they are sautéed. In fact, if you are in the Langhe, I recommend buying "tajarin", the very thin traditional ones, which are even better with all those egg yolks, and perfect for the white truffle. But my grandmother can't travel that far, so what's available will do. Just be careful with the cooking.
A simple recipe for white truffle tagliolini
- First you need to clean the truffle. I could dedicate a separate chapter to the cleaning of truffles, but at this point I will just recommend to take a soft bristled brush (some say hard, but I prefer to brush that truffle carefully, given what I paid for it), and rinse it under running water. Then dry it well with a soft cloth. And clean, mind you.
- Now you have to prepare the truffle butter that we will be putting magically on top of the finished dish. Sorry to anticipate, but Grandma doesn't like surprises. Take half the butter and melt it in the microwave without boiling it, otherwise you'll fry the truffle. Then take the truffle (possibly the smaller parts or scraps) and slice a few flakes directly into the butter. Mix well, cover with a bit of foil and place in the fridge to rest. This way it will turn solid and will be ready for the grand finale.
- Put the water on the cooker and bring it to boil, add salt to taste and throw in the pasta.
- In the meantime, take half of the remaining butter and melt it in a pan with just a tiny bit of olive oil, then turn off the heat and wait for the pasta to be cooked.
- Before draining the pasta, remember to put some of the cooking water aside, otherwise you will later fry the pasta, blimey!
- optional: take 2 or 3 sage leaves and put them in the pan as soon as the heat is off. Then remove them shortly after you turn it back on, just before you add the pasta. Some people will turn their noses up at this, but I'm sure my grandmother would have done it this way. I have tried it and I can assure you that, if you don't overdo the amount of sage, the flavours and aromas blend very well with those of the truffle.
- Drain the pasta while it is still very al dente, let's say a minute or so before it is perfectly cooked (and here it is all up to your senses, your grandmother tastes the pasta, she doesn't do things by chance).
- In the meantime, put the frying pan back on the heat and simultaneously add the pasta, the remaining butter and a ladle full of the cooking water you put aside before. Sauté for about a minute, until the starches in the pasta have formed a nice creamy texture. Then serve.
- optional: if you want an even creamier and tastier pasta, when you sauté the pasta, add a sprinkling of grated Parmesan cheese. I know that with white truffle, perhaps, it's a bit of a stretch. But my grandmother would definitely go for it.
- Now for the grand finale: take the truffle butter from the fridge and spread some on all the plates (a spoon will do) just before topping them with truffle flakes.
A little trick: if you don't have a truffle cutter, you can also use a potato peeler, with a little bit of caution.
Yes, my grandmother would do it exactly like that, I can feel it. And if I told her there was too much butter, she would hit me on the head with the ladle: "You asked me for white truffle tagliolini, not a diet dish."