Having a 22g West Australian black truffle at my fingertips recently caused me to become very nervous about cooking. Why? Because truffles are so expensive and so pungently exquisite that the thought of making something and not executing it perfectly was all at once frightening and debilitating.
Endless research on what to make, how to do it justice, how to show it off in the best light was undertaken. A determination to not resort to pasta which was firmly resolute to start with, all of a sudden became wavering, which became an avalanche of giving in when, after staring at it for so long, photographing it at macro length and opening the container to sniff it every now and again, I realised that I shouldn’t fight it. My ethnic brethren put it on pasta because it is simply spectacular. I am instantly reminded of the creamy truffle gnocchi we ate at the Antica Cascina Brandimarte in the delightful 13th century village called Castellucio in Umbria last year, and the fear subsides.
The decision to make pasta instantly alleviated my ‘Truffle Stress’ and I could finally get on with planning the dish.
A spectacular trait of the truffle is that it infuses almost everything it is near with its truffly goodness. Put it in a container with rice, and when you cook the rice it is truffle flavoured. Similarly, because the shells of eggs are porous, put a truffle in a sealed container with them for a few days and you have truffle flavoured eggs. Which then means you can use those eggs to make pasta and a subtle flavour of truffle shines through.
When it came to deciding on the sauce to accompany the truffle pasta, simple is always best. A few shallots, some chopped ham, a glug of wine and a pour of cream all topped shavings of fresh truffle, and despite its simplicity you feel you could be eating dinner in the dining room of a duke.
Truffle Fettuccine with Cream and White Wine
- 1 small black truffle
- 4 eggs
- 400 g '00' pasta flour
- pinch sea salt
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 4 spring onions, finely sliced
- 1 large garlic clove, halved
- 125 g thickly cut ham, chopped
- 1 cup cream
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- Few continental parsley sprigs, finely chopped
- 1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
- Salt and Pepper to taste
NB: The best ratio for pasta is as follows: 100g flour + 1 egg = 1 serve (so for 4 people, the above ingredients are sufficient).
Two days before you are ready to make the pasta, wrap the truffle in a layer of paper towel and place in a sealed container with the 4 eggs (in two days the eggs will have taken on the flavour of the truffle).
Place the flour on a clean bench and sprinkle in sea salt. Make a well in the centre and crack the truffle flavoured eggs into it. Beat the eggs with a fork until smooth. Using the tips of your fingers, mix the eggs with the flour, incorporating a little at a time, until everything is combined. Then add the olive oil.
Knead the pieces of dough together until one large lump of dough forms. Work it until the dough become smooth and silky. Once you have worked the dough sufficiently wrap it in glad wrap and put in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Remove dough from fridge and cut a lump about the size of a small orange. Flatten it out with the palm of your hand, set your pasta machine at the widest setting and roll the lump through. Set the machine down a level and roll the dough through again. Continue this process going down a level each time until you get it as thin as you desire (the second thinnest setting is better for fettuccine). Repeat with all of the dough until you are left with fresh lasagna sheets.
Add the fettuccine attachment and roll the lasagna sheets through. Be sure to hang the fettuccine to dry, or keep the fettuccine well floured until you need to cook it.
Heat a large pot of salted water over medium heat until it is boiling.
Meanwhile, Heat olive oil in a large fry pan over medium heat, then add spring onions and garlic and fry till fragrant (2-3 minutes). Remove the two garlic halves and dispose, then add the ham and fry for another 3 minutes.Add the white wine and bring to the boil, then simmer for 2-3 minutes. Add in the cream, reduce the heat to medium low and simmer for 3-4 minutes.
Add fresh pasta to the boiling water and cook until al dente (this will only take a couple of minutes as fresh pasta cooks quickly). Once cooked, drain the pasta in a colander and add to the frypan with the creamy white wine sauce. Remove the frypan from the heat, stir in the Parmegiano-Reggiano cheese and chopped parsley, and season with salt and pepper. Mix well with tongs till the pasta is coated with the cream sauce.
Serve the pasta into four bowls, and top with shavings of fresh truffle.