What are white truffles? How do you buy them? Let’s talk about how to cook white truffles.
White truffles, a.k.a. tartufo bianco, are a highly prized, fragrant type of wild fungus that are only in season a few months a year, from October to December.
They’re not cheap by a long shot, but they’re the perfect, earthy and luxurious splurge for a special holiday meal or celebration.
Luckily, a little white truffle goes a long way.
This post will explore how to cook white truffles, how to store and clean them, and also teach you how to make sumptuous white truffle butter.
How are white truffles gathered?
White truffles grow a few inches below the surface of the earth, around hardwood trees like oak and elm trees, in symbiosis with their roots.
They rely on wild animals to spread their spores (and hence make more truffles), which makes them rare and drives their price up.
White truffles need to be collected by hand.
Truffle hunters go around on foot in the Piemonte region of Italy with their trained truffle-hunting dogs, who help to sniff them out.
Dogs are actually preferred over pigs nowadays, because hunters found that the pigs would eat too much of the treasure they found.
Once you pull a white truffle out of the ground, the clock starts ticking and it doesn’t keep very long.
Where to buy white truffles
You can usually find fresh white truffles in season at local speciality and Italian food stores.
In Boston, I found mine at Eataly.
You can also order them online. D’artagnan is a super reputable source, check them out here.
Check out this massive white truffle at Eataly.
(No, I didn’t buy it, but they graciously took it out and let me creep on it a little…)
The secret to truffle storage
Moisture is the white truffle’s biggest enemy. You need to keep them dry and cool.
These little babies are expensive, so proper storage will protect your investment until you can get them on the table.
White truffles are highly perishable, so buy yours no more than 3-4 days before you want to use them.
How to store white truffles
To store, gently wrap your white truffle in a paper towel or a small brown paper bag.
The key is to use absorbent paper, which will pull any moisture away from your truffle.
Change the paper towel or brown paper bag every day to help ensure a dry environment.
Then, place it in a dry, sealed container, preferably made of glass. A small jar with a tight lid works great.
Place your jar in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator, avoiding the coldest parts of your fridge.
How to clean a truffle
When you’re ready to use your white truffle, pull it out of the fridge and unwrap it.
Gently brush any dirt that may be sticking to it off with a paper towel.
If there is dirt stuck in any deeper cracks, softly scrape it out with the tip of a sharp knife or a toothpick.
How to cook white truffles (Hint: Don’t.)
White truffles have a pungent, aromatic flavor that can be damaged or destroyed by heating it.
So, use your white truffle to garnish finished dishes, right before serving.
How to serve white truffles
Like I said, white truffles are pretty much only served fresh, and are almost exclusively used as a garnish, or as a flavor embellishment to something like compound butter or olive oil.
They’re a fragrant accent most often served over pasta, risotto, cooked veggies or eggs.
To serve, slice, shave, or grate them over your finished dish right before serving.
The heat will be enough to release your truffle’s aroma and flavor.
You can use a hand grater, or buy a special little truffle shaver made specially for the job:
How to make white truffle butter
Making flavored butter is a great way to preserve and extend your white truffle.
To make white truffle butter, melt some high-quality butter in a small pot on the stove.
Take it off the heat, then grate your fresh white truffle into the butter.
If you like, add a little good sea salt, to taste.
Pour your butter into a ramekin or small dish.
Cool completely, then cover and store in the fridge.
Use this butter as a garnish.
For example, drop a little on top of fluffy scrambled eggs, mashed potatoes, or a pan-seared steak.
How much white truffle do you need?
Like I said, they’re pricey, but a little does go a long way.
As a super loose rule, a white truffle that’s about 2 oz. is enough to garnish pasta for roughly 8 people.
Do you use white truffles?
Have you cooked with them before?
Where did you buy yours?
What’s your favorite way to enjoy them? If you haven’t, what would you like to try?
Drop us a comment below, we’d love it if you shared!