Truffle Crazy

Truffle Crazy
By Helen Donegan

Truffles are the things, I think, that illustrate more than most how much Italians love their food. I had never really heard of them before I came to live in Italy. Then I only ate them when some one else was paying.

One day ten years ago my husband came home with enough “truffle” to do two plates of pasta (a very tiny piece). He was all pleased with himself and had paid $40 – I nearly throttled him! I couldn’t believe someone would pay so much for a plate of pasta! Now I know better – people go crazy for them! So I would just like to take you through a fact-finding tour and let you know of the various truffles festivals that are held in Italy during the Autumn/Winter.

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Walnut Sauce

  • 200 grams walnuts
  • 1/2 glove of garlic
  • the soft part of two bread rolls
  • whole milk
  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil 
  • salt

Shell walnuts; soak in water in order to remove the bitter inside skin. Place nuts in the mortar with the garlic, bread soaked in milk, and salt. Blend with pestle until smooth and creamy.

When serving with pasta, I suggest that you dilute it with a little bit of the hot water used to cook the pasta and toss with butter and Parmesan cheese.

Pesto Sauce

  • 4 bunches of basil  40 gr Parmesan
  • 20 gr pecorino cheese
  • a handful of pine nuts
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • Salt
  • Ligurian olive oil

Wash and dry with paper towels the small basil leaves. (Be careful not to mash them when you dry them.) While the leaves are drying, chop 2 cloves of garlic with a bit of salt. After chopping garlic and salt, add the basil leaves, pine nuts, Parmesan cheese and pecorino cheese, and mix it all with a mortar and pestle, gradually adding the olive oil. The pesto sauce should not be too liquid.


Serves 4 people

  1. 250 gr of flour
  2. a pinch of salt
  3. water

Mix flour and salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the center and pour in the water. Start mixing the ingredients until all the flour is incorporated and the dough looks cohesive. (If the dough is too sticky, add a bit more flour).

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Oranges all’italiana

This is even better if you can find Sicilian blood oranges! –Jackie Capurro

  • 4 large oranges
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1 tablespoon grappa or other liqueur 
  • 2 tablespoons high-quality balsamic vinegar
  • mint leaves for garnish
  1. Peel the oranges, and cut them into large rounds about 1/2-inch thick
  2. Place each slice in a large frying pan, sprinkle with the sugar, and add the raisins. (You may have to do this in two batches.)
  3. Add 2 tablespoons water, and cook over high heat for the first 3 minutes.
  4. Lower the heat, and cook for 4 more minutes, flipping the oranges halfway through.
  5. Pour in the grappa, and let it evaporate.
  6. Arrange the oranges on a plate, add the sauce from the pan, and let cool to room temperature (do not put in the refrigerator)
  7. Drizzle with the balsamic vinegar, and serve, garnished with mint. Serves 4.

Amaretto Cake


  • 3/4 c butter
  • 3 eggs
  • 1-1/2 c all-purpose flour
  • 1 t baking powder
  • 1/4 t ground nutmeg
  • 3/4 c sugar
  • 1/4 c amaretto liqueur
  • 1 t finely shredded lemon peel
  • 1/2 t vanilla

  • Syrup / Glaze

  • 1/3 c sugar
  • 1/4 c water
  • 2 T brown sugar
  • 2 T light corn syrup
  • [1/2 c amaretto liqueur – optional]

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Italian Anise Cookies

These are the cookies that I shared at the 2008 IFAFA Conference in Sacramento. -Linda Coda Brigante


  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 tsp anise extract
  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • Decoration: multicolored nonpareils

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Penne alla Vodka

Tasted this for the first time in Toronto, prior to driving to Buffalo , NY, for the 1997 IFAFA Conference. Got the recipe from the restaurant owner! -Jackie Capurro

  • 1 lb. penne pasta
  • 1/2 lb smoked pancetta* in one piece
  • 1 stick of butter
  • 4 oz brandy
  • 8 oz vodka
  • 1/2 pt. heavy cream
  • 1/4 lb parmesan cheese, freshly grated or shredded
  • 1 can of 28 oz peeled tomatoes
  • salt and pepper to taste

Cut up the pancetta in small cubes and sauté in butter till crispy.
Pour the brandy over the pancetta; let simmer a couple of minutes, then flame CAREFULLY.  (Use a LONG fireplace match!)
Add the cream, then the tomatoes crushed with a fork.  Add the vodka, salt & pepper and cook for 20 minutes.
Pour over cooked pasta and add parmesan cheese.  Serve hot.

* Pancetta is Italian bacon, sometimes found at a good deli.  It is almost like unsliced bacon, but smokier. If pancetta is not available, thick-sliced smoked bacon makes an OK substitute.