Black Truffle Pilaf
25 Min

Black Truffle Pilaf

The fragrant edible delight of a prized wild truffle, the fruiting body of a subterranean fungus, was discovered around the third century BC. It became the secret pleasure of Roman peasants for many centuries. Pigs, or truffle hogs, have a great sense of smell and were used to identify truffles as deep as 3 feet underground. Truffles gained popularity among the elite toward the end of the Renaissance when Europeans were abandoning their penchant for Eastern spices in favor of local flavors. The 17th-century French gastronome Jean Brillat-Savarin called truffles the “diamonds of the kitchen." He noted that black Perigord truffles started appearing in Parisian markets to be consumed only at dinner tables of great nobles.


Though I had heard of truffles, I had never actually seen or tasted them until I traveled to Italy. It happened to be peak truffle season that late November, and one evening, my kids and I accidentally walked into a truffle festival in the middle of Rome. Three hours later, after inhaling, tasting and exploring all there was to be known about this aromatic tartufi, my kids dragged me away. This was after I surreptitiously haggled with truffle traders for a few jars to carry back. Two weeks later, they appeared on the menu at my then-restaurant Indika as a stuffing for a potato samosa. I can still remember standing in the back kitchen being ensconced in the earthy, oaky and nutty aroma when we broke into a hot samosa.


A few years later, the son of a good friend, barely at driving age walked into our door at Indika. He excitedly popped open a beautiful wooden box and showed me some beautiful truffles. Of course, I bought some, and Ian went on to open a successful specialty import company in New York with big-name chefs clamoring for his curated goods. These days, celebrations have taken on a whole new meaning, and indulging in a small “black diamond” straight from the earth may be just the thing to do. There are so many ways to enjoy it, but the key is to guard the integrity of the truffle's heady fragrance. Grate one on buttered pasta, stir into rice pilaf or fold into an omelet. In this pilaf, the saffron and mace add a sweet note to the earthy truffle.

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Cook Time

25 Minutes



Step 1
Rinse the basmati rice and lentils 2 to 3 times in cold water. Soak for an hour and drain.
Step 2
Combine with 3 cups of fresh water, saffron, mace, butter, and salt and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, cover, and simmer for 10 to 12 minutes or until the water has evaporated.
Step 3
Just before serving, grate truffle to top the pilaf and served with more butter if desired.
1 cup long-grain basmati rice
1/4 cup moong lentils (optional)
Generous pinch of saffron
1 teaspoon ground mace
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for serving
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
Generous shavings of a 2 to 3-ounce fresh black truffle

Notes & Variations

  • Regalis Foods sells some of the best truffles and other imported goods on the market. DR Delicacy is a local brand that also sells specialty foods.
  • The pilaf is quite delicious on its own or with herbs on top; the truffles just add a crowning glory.
  • The moong lentils are delicate enough to not let the truffles overpower them — avoid replacing them with a larger or more wholesome bean.
25 Min

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