Truffles: A Delicacy That’s Not Just For the Food Connoisseurs


Published: December 11, 2008

During freshman year I started cultivating my obsession with the proper way to eat sushi and sashimi, reading books by food writer Ruth Reichl and spending way too much money at restaurants. One new delicacy I learned to appreciate and eventually covet is truffles.

Truffles are a fungus related to mushrooms, but their shape is more like a small, misshapen rock. They grow buried in the earth in specific regions of Italy and France. Truffles are harvested during their season (late October to early March for the winter variety) by specially trained pigs and dogs, two species that can detect their smell while still underground.

The two most prominent types of truffles are black and white. Land can be primed for them to grow, but it takes about seven years and they cannot be grown like other foods. All of these factors make the truffle rare and thus, expensive.

“I didn’t even know what a truffle was when I came to New York,” said Lindsay Novis, FCLC ’10, a former Jean Georges hostess and self-described “trufflette.” Novis used to sell these delicacies for D’Artagnan, a specialty foods purveyor founded by Ariane Daguin, the mother of former Fordham student Alix Daguin.

The D’Artagnan trufflettes sell to the “best restaurants in New York,” Novis said, including David, Asiate, BLT Prime and BLT Steak to name a few. Novis has been invited into their kitchens to meet chefs like “Adam at Gotham” and “Domingo at The Waverly Inn,” whom she cites as two of the nicest.

The time of day the trufflettes make their appointments with these chefs is crucial.

“We must be strategic,” Novis said. Anytime between 2 and 4 p.m. is best, avoiding the lunch rush and dinner prep. If the restaurant is consistently busy, the chef will buy about 1.5lbs each week. At $2,350/lb for white and $475/lb for black, that’s quite a sale!

The taste of truffles is distinctive, and while you have probably encountered it, it is nearly impossible to describe. When I asked which kind of truffle Novis preferred, she couldn’t commit.

“The black [truffles] taste more earthy,” she said, and go well with pasta, potatoes and eggs. The white truffles are a “cool, sensory thing.” They smell so strongly, Novis said, that they create a “whole sensation” in your nose and throat.

Although Novis doesn’t consider herself a foodie, (that’s “a level you reach, I’m not quite there yet,”) her passion for food is clear.

“Nothing brings people together like food,” Novis said. “I enjoy food. It’s a simple, humanistic thing” with the power to bring people together like no other; “I think it’s pretty amazing.”

Truffles, though expensive, aren’t off-limits to college students. You can find truffles in the macaroni and cheese entrée at Puttanesca… for a whopping $13! Fortunately, I have recreated this amazing dish for less, right in my dorm kitchen. Make enough, and you’ll have lunch for a few days.

Urbani Italian white truffle oil (1.8oz) goes for $16.49 and Winter White French truffle oil (1.7oz) for $12.60 on Fairway has great prices if you’re looking to invest in a large quantity: 8.8oz goes for $28.99.

Remember, a little bit goes a long way. Try truffle olive oil for a cheaper option and more subtle truffle flavor, or skip the truffle oil altogether! Also, try experimenting with other cheeses like blue or brie.


Truffle Macaroni and Cheese

Estimated time:

10 min prep, 10 min cooking


8 oz. elbow macaroni

1 tsp white truffle oil or to taste

1 cup pepper jack cheese,* shredded

1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded

1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

¼ cup milk

1 egg, beaten

1 pat of butter, to coat pan


1) Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.

2) Cook the macaroni until al dente (slightly undercooked). Strain. Run under cool water to stop cooking and transfer back to pot. Add truffle oil and toss.

3) Put one cup of cheese in a thin layer along a buttered baking dish. Layer some macaroni on top. Alternate cheese and macaroni until finished, with layer of cheese on top. Drizzle milk and beaten egg over all.

4) Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes or until all cheese has melted.


*Don’t assume that Morton Williams is cheaper—the Whole Foods brand block fresh cheddar, jack and mozzarella cheeses are cheaper per ounce than Cabot and other pre-packaged brands. They taste better too!