My mother spoke to me of this sauce a few years ago, a friend of hers told her all about it and she wondered whether I might be interested. I didn’t know how to answer, I felt very awkward. I tend to be all about “real” food, you see, whether I can afford it or not, and therefore look down upon “ersatz” — I’d rather do without altogether unless the context is one of hardship (the war, black markets, that kind of thing, such as when pretend coffee was made out of chicory).
I do love truffles, in scrambled eggs as in a pasta sauce, and have been fortunate to have eaten quite a lot of the stuff especially in Spoleto, in Umbria, during the twenty years or so that my husband was involved in a cultural programme called “Spoleto-Scienza” set against the annual backdrop of the Spoleto Festival of arts and culture. Our favourite restaurant was the Pentagramma and its chef, Alberto Massarini, even catered the wedding breakfast (well, dinner actually) of my sister when she married there in 1999. Here is a link:
All this to say that yes, I do of course love truffles … but … I would not go to any great lengths in order to forage about for a substitute. That said, this home-made truffle sauce I am writing about in this post is a lot of fun to make … and, why not? … to play about with when you have friends over for dinner. “I spy something with my little eye beginning with T …” and you can start a guessing game to see who comes up with the closest, right answer.
The ingredients are: ordinary button mushrooms (“champignons”), a few black olives, some raw garlic, and anchovy fillet – the kind that is packed in olive oil (i.e. not salty).
Plonk all the ingredients in the food processor and pour a little bit of olive oil (1 large serving spoon?) … and 1 pinch of salt. Brooooom broooom goes the food processor as you pulse all the ingredients into a pulp. And this is what it looks like. Not exactly prepossessing. However, the scent is already … truffle-like? shall we say … at this point. Plonk the stuff inside a glass jar and cover with a drizzle of olive oil and put it in the fridge until you want to use it. You can make a pasta sauce with it, for instance. We used some of this paste for a bruschetta topping … (toast). Amazing. Very peculiar. One can tell, obviously, that this is not truffle and yet … and yet … it is surprisingly very very very very similar to truffle. Who cares! It’s good. Try it!