Arriving at Slow Food’s Salone del Gusto (a 4 day food fair in Turin) on Thursday was essentially my idea of what arriving in heaven would be like; a combination of travel adventure and food voyage- a Disney’s Small World of food. Although I thought I knew most foods in the world as I am fairly well travelled, I suddenly saw the world with new eyes. Our food universe is actually a tiny percentage of what actually exists. I found interesting things like the kola nuts, tiger paw potatoes, kalakukko (bread stuffed with fish), cocoyams, rings of peanut biscuits, timba, tiger nuts, mimis corn coffee and maruku.
This was only the first pavilion which was dedicated to world foods. Then there were three pavilions of just Italian food, each divided into regions. Upon arriving at one of the Italian pavilions, I was fairly confident I would know pretty much all the products. Wrong again. I found cheeses with whole oranges inside, chinotto, hunchback cardoons, wild boar salami the circumference of my head, onions the size of two hands, cheese stacked like a wedding cake (Montebore), cocomerina pears, pocio and black celery.
A friend once advised me before I married that whatever I most liked about my husband-to-be would be what most annoyed me about him later. Similarly, Italy’s biggest asset is also its biggest enemy. It has a huge range of diversity in food products. So much so that to try to distill it down to something manageable to convey to other people is an insurmountable task. It seems impossible that Italy has boiled down to pizza and pasta in the world’s eyes and yet this is strangely fortunate. Attracted by pizza and pasta, travellers to Italy begin to unravel its layers like an onion. The more one learns the less you feel you know. Salone del Gusto‘s Italian pavilions were the perfect illustration of this. If you want to get to get a bite-sized flavour of Italian regional food in a day (or 4) then Salone del Gusto is for you.
What is truly touching is the pride of the farmers and food producers exhibiting their products, many of the businesses have been family owned for generations. Each region’s section gave a true flavour (literally and figuratively): the Calabrians with all their chillies, nduja salami, bergamots, cherimoya, casarecci (hard biscuits), sopressata, sausages, Tropea onions, honey, black pig products, torrone, pitta San Martino, Pitta mpgiliata and citrons. The Sardinians with their array of biscuits, intricately decorative breads, bottarga, cheeses, many types of torrone, different types of honey, pompias and various pastas.
If you think you know everything about food there is to know, visit the arc of taste where countries around the world log their foods to be preserved. There were taste workshops, conferences on everything from sustainable seafood to , cooking lessons, demonstrations and more.
Salone del Gusto takes place during the perfect season to be in Torino, in the autumn during white truffle season. I bought a small stash on my way to the airport to bring my husband a taste of home. We prefer to buy our truffles and eat them at home as most classic white truffle dishes are simply prepared and we get the amount of white truffle that we paid for. The perfect accompaniments to white truffle are butter, eggs, fresh egg pasta and cheese.
Here is our recipe for white truffle with tagliolini pasta:
Tajarin al tartufo bianco (tagliolini with white truffle)
Primo (First Course)
A very simple, but extremely decadent, dish. Truffles are the most delicate while simultaneously profumatic ingredient I know. They need a subtly flavoured, slightly fatty, base to allow their flavour to shine through. Tajarin is a fresh egg pasta similar to tagliolini but thinner.
20 grams Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, finely grated
1 pinch freshly ground black pepper
1 small pinch nutmeg, finely grated
75 grams unsalted butter
75 ml chicken broth
250 grams tajarin, bought fresh or made using the fresh egg pasta recipe (roll to the second thinnest thickness on the pasta machine and cut into 3-4 mm strips)
15-20 grams white truffle, brushed with a damp cloth
Bring a large pot of 6 litres of water to boil and add 30 grams sea salt.
Mix the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese with the black pepper and the nutmeg. In a sauté pan over low heat, melt the butter (do not cook out the butter solids or allow the butter to change colour). The butter should just melt and not become “oily”.
Once the butter has melted, add the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese mixture and a small pinch of salt, stirring with a whisk or fork to keep the mixture emulsified as the cheese melts. Once melted, stir in the chicken stock. Let cook over low heat for 10 minutes.
Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook for 2 minutes.
Remove and strain the pasta when done. Add the pasta to the butter sauce, tossing to coat the pasta. Divide the pasta between two bowls and shave the truffle evenly over the two bowls. Serve immediately.