top of page

Italian Truffles: Types, Curiosities, and How to Value Them

What Are Truffles?

truffles chef

A truffle is a type of edible fungus that grows underground, usually in close association with the roots of certain trees such as oaks and hazelnuts. Truffles are highly prized in the culinary world for their unique and intense flavor. They are considered a delicacy and are often used in small amounts to enhance the taste of various dishes. There are several varieties of truffles, including the highly sought-after black truffle and white truffle.

Composed mainly of water, fiber, and mineral salts, truffles derive these nutrients from their host trees.

The truffle's shape is influenced by the soil in which it grows. Softer soil yields spherical truffles, while harder, rockier soil produces more irregularly shaped ones. The habitat, soil and environmental conditions in which truffles grow also affect their color.

Why are truffles so expensive?

Truffles are expensive due to their rarity, difficulty in cultivation, and labor-intensive harvesting process. They grow in specific regions under particular conditions, often near the roots of certain trees. Today, only a few of truffle farms exist. Farmers grow truffles by inoculating the roots of saplings with truffle spores, and then it takes about 6 to 7 years for the truffles to grow. It's a complex process that also requires the right weather, soil, and a little bit of luck for truffles to grow successfully. Also, truffles need specially trained dogs or pigs to sniff out their strong aroma and find them. In addition, their limited growing season, variable quality, and short shelf life add to their cost. High demand from chefs and food enthusiasts worldwide further drives up prices, making truffles a gourmet delicacy at a premium price.

Italian truffles

What do truffles taste like?

Truffles are known for their earthy, umami-rich taste and strong, musky scent. Umami, known as the fifth taste, is savory and often associated with the flavors of meat, broth, and aged cheese. The flavor can be linked to mushrooms, but truffles offer a more intense and intricate taste with a much stronger fragrance. The specific flavor profile can vary depending on the type of truffle, the season, and the quality, often including hints of nuttiness, garlic, or floral notes.This unique combination of flavors makes truffles highly prized in culinary applications, adding depth and a luxurious touch to various dishes.

Main Varieties of Italian Truffles

white truffle

Alba White Truffle (Tuber magnatum Pico)

  • Harvest Season: October to December

  • Characteristics: Distinguished by its pale color, the Alba White Truffle is known for its intense aroma and delicious taste. It is rarer and more expensive than black truffles. The scent is strong and unique, making it highly prized in gourmet cuisine.

black truffle

Prized Black Truffle (Tuber melanosporum)

  • Harvest Season: November to March

  • Characteristics: The most expensive among black truffles, it has a distinctive sweetish flavor, earning it the nickname "sweet truffle." It is less costly than the White Truffle but still highly valued for its culinary versatility.

black truffle

Summer Black Truffle (Tuber aestivum Vittadini)

  • Harvest Season: May to December

  • Characteristics: Known as the "Scorzone Truffle," it has a less intense aroma and flavor compared to the Prized Black Truffle. Its taste is reminiscent of porcini mushrooms, making it popular in sauces and summer dishes.

black truffle

The Black Fall Truffle (Uncinato/Burgundy)

  • Harvest Season: October to December

  • Characteristics: Similar to Tuber Aestivum (summer Black truffle) with more pleasing and intense odor The name of this truffle is derived from its hook shaped spores. Its odor resembles that of a hazelnut. In Italy, it is found most frequently in central and northern zones. Wooden and humid areas, not exposed to the sun.

Fascinating Facts About Truffles:

  • Truffles, one of the most coveted delicacies, only grow or "ripen" during specific times of the year under ideal environmental conditions, including the right elevation, temperature, and humidity. As truffles mature, they develop their unique aroma, designed to attract animals to dig them up.

  • A common misconception is that truffles should be stored in rice, but this dries them out, ruining their taste. Instead, truffles should be stored in the fridge and eaten within four days for optimal freshness.

  • In Italy, truffle hunting is a regulated profession requiring a test on environmental conservation and an annual license fee of 140 euros.

  • For centuries, humans have used pigs and dogs to locate truffles. However, dogs have become preferred due to their obedience and lesser inclination to eat the truffles they find.

  • Truffles are among the most expensive foods globally, with white truffles, known as "the king of truffles," being the rarest and most prized. White truffle prices can range from $3,500 to $6,000 per pound, depending on quality and seasonal availability. These truffles are primarily found in Piedmont from October to December, where the cold, moist ground provides ideal growing conditions.

How to Choose Truffles:

Selecting a quality truffle is crucial for ensuring your dishes turn out perfect. Here are some tips to help you choose the best truffles:

  • Ripeness: Avoid truffles that are not ripe or show signs of rotting.

  • Texture: A fresh truffle should be firm to the touch. Softness indicates over-ripeness and potential spoilage.

  • Smell: The aroma can reveal a truffle's quality. For white truffles, a balanced scent of garlic, hay, and honey indicates perfection. An ammonia smell suggests spoilage.

  • Weight: Insist on accurate weighing, as even slight weight variations can significantly affect the price.

  • Market Prices: Familiarize yourself with current market prices to avoid being overcharged.

  • Cleanliness: Ensure the truffle is clean and free from soil, as dirt can hide imperfections.

white truffle oil

Tips to find a good quality truffle oil or truffled products?

  • To find good truffle oil and truffle products, look for items made with real truffles rather than synthetic flavorings, which often appear as "truffle aroma" or "truffle essence" on labels.

  • Opt for products from reputable brands or regions known for truffles, such as Italy or France.

  • Check for certifications and read reviews to ensure quality.

  • High-quality truffle oil should have a robust, earthy aroma and flavor.

  • For truffle products, choose those with the minimal artificial ingredients to ensure authenticity and rich taste.

If you are looking for a great quality truffle oil, check our Principe Pignatelli White Truffle Oil, since 1669, from Molise. on our website.

natura & Sapori truffle products

Natura & Sapori

If you want to get high quality truffle products, Natura & Sapori deliver greatness and freshness in all their products. Natura & Sapori is a young, skilled Italian company specializing in truffle products, located in the truffle-rich Molise region, recently recognized as a UNESCO MAB Reserve. The company sources truffles directly from hunters every evening, ensuring fresh truffles, including white and black summer varieties, and are shipped according to customer needs. Their enthusiastic team, combining academic knowledge with traditional methods, ensures high-quality standards through HACCP management and compliance with USA FDA-FCE regulations. For more info on Natura & Sapori products (truffle carpaccio, truffle sauces, etc), you can go online to:

truffle pasta

Classic Truffle Dishes

  1. Truffle Pasta (Tajarin or Tagliolini): This simple yet elegant dish highlights the truffle's flavor.

  2. Truffle Risotto: A creamy risotto with truffles transforms a basic dish into a gourmet experience.

  3. Truffle Omelette: Eggs pair perfectly with truffles, making for a luxurious breakfast or brunch option.

  4. Fillet Steak with Truffles: Enhance a steak with the rich flavors of truffles and porcini mushrooms for a decadent main course.

Storage Tips:

Just remember to store truffle products in a cool, dark place to preserve their quality and flavor. For truffle oil, keep it in a tightly sealed container, away from direct sunlight and heat. Refrigerate truffle-based items like truffle butter, salt, and sauces, ensuring they are well-sealed to maintain freshness. Use truffle products within their recommended shelf life to enjoy their optimal taste and aroma.

Final Tips

Truffles can inspire endless culinary possibilities. Don't hesitate to experiment and create unique dishes that showcase the truffle's exquisite flavor. With proper knowledge and a bit of creativity, you can introduce exceptional truffle dishes that will delight your diners with family, your loved one and friends.


bottom of page