In the Apennine areas of Central Italy, from Umbria to Marche, from Lazio to Abruzzo, local cuisine has always included truffles, subterranean fungi with a penetrating smell and a unique flavour.
Truffles, which live in symbiosis with trees like oaks and holm oaks, can be found in the woods of Rieti’s province near the border with Umbria, and especially near Colli sul Velino, Morro Reatino (for instance, along the path leading to the Cave-Hermitage of St. Michael) and Leonessa, which is a member of the National Association of the Città del Tartufo (Truffle Towns).
Shaped like a tuber, the truffle is particularly prized and sought-after. In order to find some, people use the help of animals, like dogs and, until a few years ago, pigs. Truffles can have a black (more common) or white external peridium, and a round or knobby shape depending on the soil where they are born. The pulp is rich in water, fibres and mineral salts, which the truffle acquires from the tree it is in symbiosis with.
In ancient times, truffles were thought to be the result of lightning sent by god Jupiter and, being Jupiter a renowned seducer, truffles were considered to be aphrodisiac. An idea that must have been corroborated by the truffle’s rarity and great flavour.
Whereas in Leonessa truffles are usually employed in recipes involving hulled wheat or gnocchi (potato dumplings), which are other local delicacies, in Colli sul Velino a family-run business, the Azienda Agricola Statuti Samantha, has a wide range of preparations made with this extraordinary fungus, mixing old traditions with skillful creativity. Truffle and mushroom cream and truffle butter are only some of the things they offer, as well as compotes made of local fruit - from blackberries to quinces - and tasty soups with legumes, vegetables and mushrooms. Website: www.tartufidellasabina.it