The King of Truffles.
White Italian Truffle
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White Italian Truffles, (Tuber magnatum pico), also known as Italian White Truffles, White Alba Truffles, White Truffles, Bianco Pregiato (Italian for “precious white”), Truffe Blanche (French for White Truffle), Winter White Truffles, Alba Madonna, Piedmont Truffle and White Piedmont Truffles, are most famously grown around the cities of Alba and Asti in the Piedmont region of Northern Italy where the Fiera del Tartufo takes place in October and November. Though they may be found in other regions, (see below) they rarely grow in conjunction with other Truffles.

These White Truffles are the top of the market and are the most prized ($2000/Lb and more) with the most expensive being the $330,000 monster bought by a Macau tycoon in 2007.  The excitement is because of the scarcity and their shallot-like, garlicky flavor with an intense Umami aroma.

Typically, Alba White Truffles are pea-sized up to the size of a large potato. The largest known White Truffle, the one in the Guinness Book of Records, weighed 3 pounds. Alba White Truffles have a bulbous, spherical look with many irregular depressions on the smooth, pale yellow/cream colored rind.  Sometimes they can have brown cracked areas or bright red spots.

The interior flesh or “Glebe” is blond to chestnut yellow (depending on the type of host tree) laced with thin white veins. It has a unique, pleasantly aromatic scent that sets it apart from other truffles.

Fresh White Italian Truffles don’t really taste like much. They are more a story of a strong scent and aroma (think of an Umami blend of Garlic/Shallots & Cheese) which in turn is a product of fungal evolution. Because Truffles are a fungi without a root system, they must attract fungivores to reproduce. Truffles use the fungi eating animals, to spread their spores and their species. The animal smells the goods, eats the Truffles, and consequently sows the Truffle spores elsewhere in the forest through natural means. Because Truffles grow underground, the aroma must be strong and spot-on. In fact, the fungus has done its reproductive job so well, producing 30 pungent gasses, (one of which is naturally occurring 2,4-dithiapentane, the gas synthesized to make many Truffle Oils) that the scent of White Italian Truffles closely resembles the musk of certain pheromones found in the mouths of boars which drive the sows (girls)crazy. Not surprisingly, sows are used to hunt wild Truffles.

The evolved and abundant aroma is the reason for the hype surrounding White Italian Truffles. They have more of the pungent gasses than other Truffles. It is also the reason that they are most often used raw; to showcase their flavor and scent. As the White Italian Truffle is cut or shaved open, it releases its cocktail of 30 gasses which evaporate the longer it is cooked. Grating or shaving raw White Italian Truffles over prepared dishes, salads, pastas or rice is the most common preparation. A close second is using the shaved Truffles to flavor butter (but not oil), broth or cheeses to create a basic sauce. 1 oz. of product is recommended for 2 or 3 portions. A lingering aftertaste is also one of the attributes of the Truffles.

The main drawback of working with White Italian Truffles is their shelf life. When fresh they are musky and fragrant but as they age their scented gasses escape and the joy fades fairly quickly. They are best used fresh from the earth and ten days is the most to expect for them, even refrigerated, to retain a semblance of their best quality. Black Périgord Truffles last longer but have a more subtle aroma.

Though they are more expensive, shop for White Italian Truffles at a reputable merchant like Urbani to make sure that you get what you pay for. 

Season

White Alba Truffles are harvested from September to December.

Cultivation

The White Alba Truffles needs special terrain with soil that is soft and wet for most of the year and is rich in calcium with good air circulation. They grow primarily in Northern and Central Italy (Piedmont & Emilia Romagna) but have been found in other Italian areas (Molise, San Miniato in Tuscany, occasionally Lombardia and Veneto) and in Croatia on the Istria peninsula where the largest White Truffle (almost 3 lbs) was found.

Gluten Free

Yes

Low Fat

Yes

Low Calorie

Yes