It is one of Italy’s jewels in the crown, but very few people know that 40% of Italian truffles are produced in Abruzzo.
A few years ago, a large truffle – weighing nearly two pounds – had the privilege to be served at Buckingham Palace. However, it is difficult to believe that the Royals knew the Tuber melanosporum Vittadini, had been unearthed in Sulmona, at the heart of Peligna Valley, province of L’Aquila. Indeed, Abruzzo accounts for the largest share in truffle production in Italy, over a 500,000 ha area comprising three national parks and one regional. 15% of the product is white truffle, one third is black truffle, whereas the rest is scorzone truffle, also known as “summer truffle”. The white truffle grows in the hills on marno-argillaceous soils and it is harvested from early October to late November. The black diamond of the kitchen, that is the black truffle, prefers loose calcareous soils. Finally, the scorzone truffle can be found at the foot of broad-leaved trees, also on the coast, and it is harvested from late May to late October. The 10,000 licenced harvesters can rely on the keen sense of smell of a specifically trained dog, known as Lagotto.
In recent years, the spontaneous truffle production has been supplemented by truffle farms. Abruzzo’s productive potential is 3,000-4,000 kg per year. However, Abruzzo’s truffle is often overlooked and very little known. The aim of the Tuber Consortium is to reinforce the identity of Abruzzo and Peligna Valley in particular and to promote a gem of the regional food culture. As it happens, truffles has been incorporated into a number of caciotta and pecorino cheeses as well as into traditional recipes, such as lamb and legume soups. Abruzzo’s truffle is undergoing a major change in terms of image: from an unlabelled product to high-quality certified vehicle for local trade and tourism.
How to use truffle – The first thing to do is to gently scrub the truffle with a soft toothbrush and a clean cloth. Water should be avoided in order to preserve the consistency and the fragrance. The truffle should be stored as it is, and sliced very thinly only when needed. Since truffle has a very intense aroma, strong flavours are not the best match. It goes perfectly with pasta or risotto courses and it beautifully enriches very simple dishes such as fried eggs or even veal tartare, season with just a pinch of salt and a tiny drizzle of oil.