PIEMONTE CONTADINO & TRUFFLE for 2 DECEMBER - STEP BY STEP INSTRUCTIONS

If you were to hop on a plane to Turin, jump in a car, and head south, and slightly east, you might eventually come across the town of Alba. Here, truffles are celebrated like no other place on earth. The local cuisine has evolved to elevate this already most esteemed of foodstuffs; pasta enriched with more egg yolks than is proper, fatty cheeses and butter melted to fonduta or whipped with mountain greens to form chubby little dumplings. The food here shares little with the south, and much more with the alpine traditions of neighbouring countries - France in particular - but it is nevertheless distinctively Italian, and all the better for it. 

 

This is a very rich and indulgent menu: loosen your top button…

 

Castelfranco & Tardivo Salad
Malfatti
Tonnarelli al tartufo
Tiramisù

 

 

Castelfranco & Tardivo Salad

These are, to my mind, the two most beautiful radicchio of the Veneto. Castelfranco is a pale yellow, with leaves brilliantly mottled with flecks of pink, while tardivo, a forced variety of Treviso, has long thin stalks that curl like a roosters tail. Here we dress them with olive oil and with aged balsamic, and scatter them with the wonderful hazelnuts of nearby Piedmonte.

 

Your pack serves two as a starter and contains:

  • Some leaves of castelfranco and tardivo
  • Some roasted and roughly chopped hazelnuts
  • a mix of fine balsamic and olive oil

 

Directions:

  • Decant the leaves and nuts into a bowl
  • Give the dressing a shake, then pour onto the leaves
  • Season with a pinch of salt, and dress delicately but thoroughly (all manner of implements work for this, but nothing beats using your hands)
  • Place on a plate 

 

Malfatti

Malfatti – aka gnudi – are basically ricotta dumplings, these ones with chopped spinach, and a little nutmeg. They are gloriously comforting – the bland, homely side of Italian cooking that becomes more and more inviting, and prevalent, the further north you are in the country.

 

They are a breeze to make – but we’ve made them for you – all that you need do is warm them, and prepare the simplest of sauces (perhaps the very best): butter and sage

 

Your pack serves two as a starter and contains:

  • Sheep’s milk ricotta & spinach gnudi (these contain also parmesan, a cow’s milk cheese)
  • A little tub of butter and sage leaves
  • A little tub of parmesan

 

Directions:

Have ready a medium pot of boiling, well-salted (10g/litre) water

 

  • Put the malfatti on to simmer – they are already cooked, and need only warm through: about 5 minutes
  • Heat the butter and sage in the frying pan, until the butter just foams. You can cook it longer, until the sage goes crispy, but I prefer the bright, greener flavour of wilted sage, to that which has been properly fried
  • I never know if I prefer this sauce emulsified (i.e. with water added) or not (i.e. just melted sagey butter). To emulsify it, add a decent ladle of pasta water to the butter and boil vigorously, shaking the pan, until the texture of single cream
  • When the malfatti are warm drain them, and toss into the butter and sage
  • Serve with the grated parmesan on top

 

Tonnarelli  al tartufo

The classic pasta from Alba is tajarin –rich, wafer-thin noodles made only with egg yolks & flour. Tonnarelli are still rather fine, but a little fatter; easier to cook and with a pleasing bite. Here, we toss them with a fonduta of butter, parmesan, and yet more egg yolks. Sometimes too much is just right. *We will send you a whole truffle for 4, to be enjoyed by 2, for which this dish is a perfect vehicle

 

Your pack serves two as a starter and contains:

  • Enough tonnarelli for two
  • A truffle for four, to be eaten by two
  • A pack of fonduta

 

Directions:

  • Bring a large pan of well-salted (10g/lt) water to the boil
  • Empty the fonduta into a heatproof bowl
  • Drop the tonnarelli into the water, and stir vigorously to prevent sticking
  • Sit the bowl of fonduta on top, and stir gently to warm through a little
  • When the tonnarelli are ready (3-4 minutes) drain them, and add to the sauce along with a little of their cooking water
  • If the sauce seems a bit loose, sit the bowl back on top of the pan, and cook in the steam for a minute or two
  • Put the pasta on plates, and shave/grate vast quantities of truffle on top

 

 

Tiramisu

There is something insanely satisfying about retro foods, and tiramisù is no exception. It is almost the definition of a cliché dessert – very safe… and very vanilla, to couch it in a bedroom term. It is hard to describe my delight when I learned its origins are not so salubrious as one might imagine. Tira-mi-sù means ‘pick me up’ – a rather charming name for a cheery pudding, spiked as it is with espresso. The academy of tiramisù (yes, there is such a thing – Italy treats its culinary heritage with due import, and every dish of note has its own guild or knighthood or foundation) tells a different story: ‘… this dessert was invented by a clever “maitresse” of a house of pleasure in the centre of Treviso. The “Siora” who ran the premises developed this aphrodisiac dessert to offer to customers at the end of the evening in order to reinvigorate them and solve the problems they may have had with their conjugal duties on their return to their wives.’ Not such a frumpy dessert after all...

 

Your pack serves two as a starter and contains:

  • A tiramisù, to share

 

Directions:

  • Remove from the fridge 10-15 minutes before eating, to take the edge off
  • Spoon gently onto plates, then eat