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Truffle Hunting in Umbria

Truffle Hunting in Umbria

Today, Eataly Magazine Editor Caitlin Addlesperger remembers going truffle hunting in the Umbrian countryside.

Bravo, Sole! Hai trovato il tartufo (Well done, Sun! You found the truffle)!” Matteo Bartolini called to his dog, feeding him cubes of Parmigiano Reggiano, his reward.

Picking my way carefully over the uneven ground, I followed Bartolini – and the bounding Sole – as the farmer showed me around the woods and meadows of his agriturismo, nestled in the Tiber River Valley in northern Umbria, on a bright autumn afternoon.

As Sole sniffed out truffle after truffle, Bartolini carefully dug the tuber from the ground with a shovel that recalled more medieval times. Without ceremony, he stuffed each one in a rucksack, and we headed back to the agriturismo.

white-alba-truffles-basket-urbani-web

“We think of truffles as an elite product,” said Bartolini, scrubbing a truffle with a toothbrush after the hunt. “But it was the hungry farmer who first tried the food on his pasta centuries ago.”

This kind of dish is typical to la cucina povera, a traditional style of Italian cuisine that literally translates to "poor cooking." Cucina povera was developed by frugal Italian cooks who made the most with what they had. Centuries of transforming simple, readily-available ingredients into products that will last through a long winter resulted in iconic products like prosciutto; I can only imagine the hunger of the first person who dug deep enough to find the truffle, a gnarly little tuber that cannot be planted or tamed.

I’m not complaining, though. Fresh shavings from aromatic truffles add the perfect earthy kick to so many of my favorite foods (bruschetta, omelets, pasta, risotto – okay, I clearly love truffles with a lot of dishes).

Thank you, hungry Italian, for discovering that first truffle. And thank you to the truffle hunters today, who continue to carefully train their dogs from puppies, spend days wandering the woods, and even brave snakes (I sidestepped three vipers in as many hours) to bring fresh Italian truffles to my table.

risotto truffle tartufo farrotto dish

 

Experience fresh truffles for yourself at your local Eataly

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