Truffles were pretty popular several years ago. I started seeing truffle fries and truffle macaroni and cheese. I hadn’t had a truffle before because they’re so expensive and I don’t really see them in the grocery stores where I shop. So I didn’t really know what kind of flavor they had or what the hype was all about.
This February we took a trip to Paris and basically just ate our way through the city. One day for lunch we stopped in a truffle café. We ordered a cheese plate, salad, and pasta dish. Everything featured the Périgord truffle, or black truffle that is found in France. I found after tasting the truffle, that it is more aromatic than anything, which I didn’t realize beforehand. After lunch we purchased a truffle salt the café uses in their dishes. This salt is what gives this pasta recipe its truffle flavor.
After reading a New York Times article on truffles, I found that the truffle flavored products (like truffle salt) have some added flavor preservatives so the product retains the truffle aroma and flavor. Without them, the product would lose its aroma. It’s also best to use these products as a garnish because adding heat cooks out the flavor.
If you are looking to buy fresh truffle, you must get it very fresh, within a couple days of harvesting. Fresh truffles begin to lose their aroma after about four days, depending on the variety. I’m guessing that’s why I don’t see fresh truffles in the markets in Chicago, because truffles don’t grow nearby. Therefore, we have to make due with salts and jarred truffles.
P.S. With Easter later this week, this is a great recipe to use up some of the leftover ham!
Carbonara Truffle Pasta – Serves 4, Total Time: 30 minutes
1 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
¼ lb. ham, chopped
1/3 cup peas
1 handful fresh baby spinach
2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons cream
8 oz. dried penne pasta
Grated Parmesan cheese
Salt & Pepper
Truffle salt to garnish
Bring six cups of salted water to a boil over high heat in a medium saucepan. Add the penne and cook for about eight minutes. Reserve a 1/3 cup of the pasta water and then drain the pasta.
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add a couple tablespoon of olive oil. Add the onions and garlic and some salt and pepper. Sauté for five to seven minutes until the onions are caramelized. Add the ham, peas, spinach, and a pinch more salt and cook an additional three minutes. Stir in the pasta water and simmer for a minute. Add the butter to the pan and once it’s melted, add the pasta. Take off the heat and stir in the cream and some grated Parmesan. Taste for seasoning.
To serve, garnish with the truffle salt and a bit more grated Parmesan. This dish is lovely with a nice chilled glass of white wine.