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What Is Tartufo?

M. Chambers
M. Chambers

Tartufo is an Italian dessert made with ice cream and frozen fruit. Typically, at least two flavors of ice cream are filled with a frozen fruit or fruit syrup filling. The ice cream is covered in chocolate, nuts, or cinnamon. It is a popular dessert menu item in Italy, but can occasionally be found in gourmet restaurants in the United States.

It is common to use both vanilla and chocolate ice cream in a tartufo; however, flavors such as strawberry, pistachio, or butter pecan can also be used. The ice cream is sculpted around a frozen fruit or syrup filling and covered in a shell of chocolate, cookies, cinnamon, or nuts. The fruits that are normally used in the middle of the ice cream are cherry, raspberry, and strawberry. If frozen fruit is not used, a berry-flavored syrup is a common replacement. Nuts and chocolate chips can also be added to the filling, if desired.

Woman baking cookies
Woman baking cookies

Tartufo is usually shaped like a ball, and the use of a hard chocolate shell helps keep the shape of the dessert. Homemade ice cream can be used in the dessert, but will take a considerably longer time to prepare. In addition, pre-made ice cream is often easier to sculpt around the fruit or syrup filling. Tartufo can be served with only a chocolate or nut shell, or garnished with mint sprigs, caramel sauce, and maraschino cherries.

Sometimes referred to as ice cream truffles, tartufo dishes are commonly found in European restaurants as a dessert item. They are considered a gourmet food in most parts of America, and are usually only found in high-quality restaurants. Depending on the size of the tartufo, the dessert may be served whole or sliced into smaller portions. It is also common to be served the dessert with chocolate sauce drizzled on the plate for adornment.

Originally, the tartufo was created by the French who enjoyed making desserts and confections in the shape of truffle mushrooms. Truffle-shaped chocolates, fruit, and cakes were commonly given as gifts during holidays and celebrations. As the Victorian era approached, it became a common practice to mold ice cream and frozen confections into different shapes and designs. Eventually, the idea of the decadent dessert spread to other European countries and became more popular as time went on. Tartufo ice cream dishes have become very popular in Italy, and can be made in a variety of different ways.

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