The true White truffle or Alba Truffle (Tuber magnatum) is generally found in the countryside around the city of Alba and in the Langhe area of the Piedmont region in northern Italy.
Unlike their name suggests, truffles are not tubers, but underground fungi (mushrooms) that grow symbiotically with the roots of oak trees, hazels, willows, walnuts, poplars and beeches. They can reach 12cm in diameter and 500g, though are usually much smaller. Like the French black truffles, Italian white truffles are very sought after and, as a consequence, very expensive.
Italian White Truffle (White Alba Truffle, Tuber magnatum pico)
Actually, white truffles are considered even more refined than black truffles by connoisseurs. The white truffle market in Alba is busiest in the months of October and November. The Tuber magnatum truffles sell between 200€ and 400€ per 100g ($1000 - $2000 per pound). Another famous market is the one of San Miniato, see: white truffle record.
Whitye truffle prices
Photo by Patricia Hofmeester
The authentic white truffle (Tuber magnatum pico) or Alba truffle
Despite their name, the Alba truffle does not necessarily come from Alba in the Italian Piedmont. The same quality can be found in a few other areas, including San Miniato. There are other truffle-producing regions as well, but their quality can vary greatly. Its season lasts from October to the end of December.
The true Alba-truffle has a smooth, pale ochre or slightly yellowish surface, and the flesh is light brown or pale cream in color with fine white marbling. Because of their smooth surface, truffles lose their humidity very quickly which causes a weight-loss and a price-loss. Reversely, truffles exposed to humidity lose their aroma. White truffles are very sensitive to heat, too, and lose their aroma when cooked. This is the reason why they are mostly used fresh, grated over warm dishes such as risotto, pasta or in salads like salad with ovoli mushrooms (See als: Most expensive and luxurious pasta recipes >>), and even in deserts. White truffle also mixes well sliced over raw fish or raw meat, such as beef carpaccio, or in creative (cold and hot) pasta sauces made with raw meat ragù.
The bianchetto truffle (Tuber borchii vittadini or Tuber albidum vittadini)
The exterior of the bianchetto truffle, also known as marzuolo, is confusingly similar to that of the authentic white truffle. Fortunately, their production season differ. It is collected from mid January to the end of April, hence why it is often called the white spring truffle.
The surface of the bianchetto truffle is smooth and pale-white and the flesh is brown with roughly designed veins. It has a very distinct (but not so intense) aroma; rather sharp and not as rounded as that of the the authentic white truffle.
White Truffle Festivals
The most famous white truffle fair is undoubtedly the White Truffle Fair and Market in Alba (Piedmont) from beginning October through mid November. Other important truffle fairs include:
San Miniato Truffle Fair, in the lower Arno Valley, Tuscany, which takes place during the last three weekends of November,
Truffle Fair in Moncalvo (last week of October),
Truffle market in San Giovanni d'Asso (South east of Sienna)