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Truffles, a Whole Fish, & Barolo #ItalianFWT

This month the Italian Food, Wine & Travel - #ItalianFWT - blogging group is celebrating Fall in Italy. Jill at L’occasion invited us to gather around the harvest table and share thoughts of autumn, food, wine, and traditions.

You can follow along the journey with my fellow #ItalianFWT bloggers.  You can also chat with us live this Saturday morning at 11am EST on Twitter at #ItalianFWT.  Hope to see you there!

The #ItalianFWT Line-Up

I Tartufi
Nothing says autumn in Italy more, to me, than truffles. I tartufi. In gourmet circles, they are a treasure and - both literally and figuratively - worth their weight in gold. But in many parts of Italy, come autumn, they are just a culinary tradition that has nothing to do with gourmet sophistication. They are a seasonal food just like any other.

I am fortunate enough to have good friends who own two Italian restaurants here in town. So, I headed to one of the restaurants, spent twenty minutes with Emanuele, and learned more about truffles than hours of research would have taught me.

Actually, hours of research would not have been able to let me smell the truffles for that distinctive earthy scent or let me gently squeeze the truffles for that desirable sponginess or listen to Emanuele explain how his friend harvests these lovelies in Alba. Then he gave me a couple of ideas on what to do with my truffles.

If you are unfamiliar, you might be wondering: What are truffles?

Truffles are a fungi and, therefore, related to mushrooms. But, unlike their mushroom relatives, truffles form beneath the surface of the soil and can only thrive in the conditions around stands of oaks, willow, and linden trees. All over northern and central Italy, they are celebrated with fairs in the fall. And when they aren't in season, you can find them preserved in jars and cans.

There is a restaurant in Rome that made a unique gelato al tartufo. I was tempted to recreate that, but the weather has turned cold and gelato was not high on my list of to-dos.

A Whole Fish
Instead I was inspired to create a dish with some wild, musky flavors that showcased the truffles' earthiness...and I wanted to use a whole fish.

  • 1-1/2 to 2 pounds fresh whole fish (I used two whole Bee Line Snappers)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed and minced
  • shaved fresh black truffles (for 2 whole fish, I used 24 slices)
  • fronds from 2 fennel bulbs
  • 1 onion, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 t truffle oil, divided (you can use olive oil if you don't have any truffle oil available)
  • 1/4 C fish stock
  • 1/4 C red wine
  • 1 C fresh shiitake mushrooms (or porcini mushrooms if you can find them)
  • freshly ground salt
  • freshly ground pepper 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Slice the fish and sprinkle the inside with salt and pepper. Place 1 t minced garlic and some fresh fennel fronds in the cavity. Place fresh truffle slices inside - I used 5 or 6 per fish. Set aside.

Line a Dutch oven or braiser - or any pot with a tight-fitting lid - with fresh fennel fronds. Place sliced onions on top. Place the pan over medium heat until the fennel begins to smell more aromatic.

Place the stuffed fish on top of the fennel fronds and pour in the fish stock and red wine. Drizzle with 1 t (save the other teaspoon for serving) truffle oil. Bring the liquids to a boil, Scatter the mushrooms on top and cover.

Place in the oven and braise for 25 to 30 minutes.

Uncover and sprinkle with freshly ground salt and freshly ground pepper. Place fresh truffle slices on top of the fish - I used 5 or 6 per fish. Drizzle with remaining truffle oil and cover again. Let the truffles steam with the residual heat for 1 to 2 minutes. Serve immediately.

A Barolo
When I was thinking about what wine to pair with my truffle dishes (yes, I planned more than one), I settled on Barolo. Anna, Emanuele's wife, had recommended I watch Barolo Boys. The Story of a Revolution. I haven't gotten around to it, but I will. Soon.

In any case, I thought that the spice notes, dried fruits, and earthy aromas in Barolo would pair well with the black truffles.

I got ahold of a 2010 Barolo - Rocche di Castiglione - by Giovanni Sordo. From my reading 2010 was almost a perfect year for Nebbiolo grapes and the 2010 vintage produced Barolos that were a clean, pure example of the varietal at its best.

I was stunned by the color in my glass; it was shockingly red. Not like a deep garnet, no hint of purple, nothing like what I expected. It was just red - an extraordinarily stunning red.

On the nose, I smelled leather, spice, and roses. On the tongue, it was straightforward in its vibrancy. It was balanced but with firm tannins.

And it was delicious with our braised fish with truffles. And, after the kids were in bed, Jake and I continued to enjoy the Barolo with some dark chocolate from Madagascar.

And that's a wrap on our October #ItalianFWT event. I hope you'll join us next month when Danielle of Feast on History has us virtually visiting a unique town in Italy. Until then, I will be posting more recipes showcasing my booty of black truffles. Stay tuned.


  1. Lovely meal! I am a HUGE fan of truffles. They are so hard to find in the US, I am so glad your friend gave you some. In certain parts of northern Italy there are lots of Hazelnut trees. The trees were planted because truffles love to grow under them! The wine sounds delicious as well. I too was moved by the color.

  2. What a great event and what wonderful looking and sounding dishes! The CTB post is up, Camilla. Thanks for reading The Secret Life Of Frida Kahlo and playing along! Happy Saturday!

  3. Wowzer! Your dish sounds and looks amazing Cam. A Barolo would not have been top of mind to pair with fish, but the red wine bridge and the truffles? Yum.

  4. Love truffles! I love when you say that they aren't about gourmet sophistication and are just a seasonal food like any other. This is what is so awesome about Italy and all of its amazing foods.

    1. Definitely. I love the way Italians view and prepare foods. So different than an American mentality.

  5. Cam, I love the fact that if you live in those regions of Italy, truffles are possible for any budget, you just need to hunt them out. I'd have a truffle dog for sure!

  6. Camilla --- I can't visit your blog without full immersion inspiration! You do such lovely and inventive things in the kitchen and I'm so pleased to have you as a friendly resource and creative guide. Thanks for participating this month. Lovely stuff here!

    1. Thanks, Jill. And thanks, too, for hosting such a FUN theme. It made me homesick for Rome. ;)


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