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A Last Fling from Umbria – Tortellini al Tartufo July 26, 2013

Posted by Bravado Cooking for Men in Classic Italian Dishes, Diary of a Wandering Foodie.

I Due Cuoci e Degustatori di Vini

Stewart and Bill: I Due Cuoci e Degustatori di Vini

This is my final post from Italy.  You can see my friend and Bravado chef, Stewart, enjoying a glass of wine with me outside the villa.  Note the beautiful hills in the background.  Rural Umbria is a real kick.

I convinced the owner of Ristorante Fontana in our village of Macerino to give me the recipe for Tortellini al Tartufo.  This was one of my favorites dishes in Italy, so I figured we better learn to make it.  It is a very easy recipe and will be a big hit.

The Kitchen at Ristorante Fontana

The Kitchen at Ristorante Fontana

Tartufi or Truffles:  

Although France is famous for truffles, Italy is a close second.  The eastern part of Umbria near the village of Norcia is one of the two big producing regions in the country.   (The other is in the north in the Piedmonte where you find the very rare white truffle – la Alba madonna.)  In Umbria they produce black truffles similar to those found in France.  

Truffles are incredibly aromatic fungi that grow underground on the roots of trees.  They need very precise microclimate and soil.  They prefer the roots of young trees, which are closer to the surface, and they like a heavy cover of mulch or leaf material.   Although there is still the idyllic search for truffles in lush forests, most are grown in special “truffle groves”.  

Female pigs were often used to find the truffles in the past, because the truffle has a compound almost identical to the sex pheromone of a male pig’s saliva, to which the female pig is very attracted.  Fearing a potential lover was buried in the ground, they would quickly uncover the truffle.  The problem with the pigs is that they make a big mess and tend to eat half the crop – maybe the frustration of unrequited love.  Today, there are special breeds of dogs that do the truffle sniffing without all the disturbance.   You still need this helper even in the truffle groves because only the dog (or the pig) can find a mature truffle. 

Truffles are very expensive.  Black ones are about $25 per ounce.   For those of you who struggle with math, that is $400 a pound or almost $1,000 per kilo.  You can see why you’d get upset if the pigs ate them.  The Alba madonna white truffle is five times more expensive.

You have to carefully store, grate, slice and chop truffles.  Unless you are very good at handling them, we suggest Truffle Gatherers Sauce available at Amazon or fungusamongus.com – the 3.5 oz. jar is about $20.  This is really a type of olive and black truffle tapanade that works well in this and other recipes like Risotto with Black Truffles, which we have posted in the past.

This dish is best served as primi piatti and in relatively small portions because it is very rich.  However, it is so good that you must try it.


Tortellini al Tartufo

Serves:  8

Time Required:  30 minutes

Level of Difficulty:  3.0 on a scale of 10


  • 1 lb. of Tortelli:  In Italy you can readily find high quality fresh tortelli.  Usually they will have a spinach filling although sometimes it is meat.  In the U.S. we may have to settle for the dry plain variety.
  • 4 tbsp. of butter (1/2 stick)
  • 1 pint of heavy cream.  My friend in Umbria actually makes the dish with Panna da Cuchina.  This product has 20% butterfat and is made using a centrifuge process, and has the consistency of yogurt.  It is difficult to find in the U.S.  The heavy cream is a reasonable substitute.  If you do find Panna da Cuchina, use only one-half pint.
  • 1/2 tsp. of salt
  • 1/4 tsp. of pepper
  • 1.5 – 2 oz. of Truffle Gatherers Sauce or about half of the 3.5 oz. jar.  If you are using whole truffle, grate 1 tbsp. very finely, preferably using a microplane or zester.
  • 1/4 cup of grated Parmesan cheese.  Don’t use too much so as not to drown the truffles.


1.  Cook the tortellini in salted water to which you have added 1 tbsp. of olive oil.

2.  While the tortellini is cooking, mix and warm the remaining ingredients in a saucepan.

3.  Drain (do not rinse) the tortellini and put in a large serving bowl.  Immediately add the sauce and toss well.

4.  Serve and enjoy.

As you can see, the only hard part of this recipe is getting your hands on the Truffle Gatherers Sauce.  The rest is easy and you will love it.




1. FungusAmongUs® (@FAU_Mushrooms) - November 13, 2013

We are currently running a special price on the Truffle Gatherers Sauce! And a recipe contest! http://conta.cc/16ZopKl

2. 10 Best Wine Travel Destinations 2014 – Top Regions to Visit | MyWine Channel - January 19, 2014

[…] A Last Fling from Umbria – Tortellini al Tartufo (bravadocooking.com) […]

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