Ah, summer. It’s in full swing in the markets, where we can see berries, stone fruit, and tomatoes. What goes well with all of that? Burrata. This creamy, pillowy puff of goodness accompanies summer produce like nothing else! What is this sweet, milky cheese, you ask?
Given its beloved place in the hearts of many, I think it’s funny that this cheese got its start some time in the 1920s in the southeast part of Italy (the “heel”) as a way to use up leftover mozzarella remnants from mozzarella production. Like mozzarella, it’s considered a pasta filata cheese, as the curds are stretched. To make it, after curds and whey are separated, curds are dipped in hot water, which scalds them. Next, they are gently stretched like mozzarella. However, in the case of burrata, the curds are shaped into pouches into which go bits of mozzarella, extra cream, and sometimes ricotta. The result is, well, very much a creamy version of mozzarella. Traditionally, burrata is sold wrapped in a green leaf, which indicates freshness. When the leaf is not longer green and fresh, you can guess that neither is the cheese. Traditionally, like mozzarella, the cheese is made with buffalo milk, but nowadays, you see primarily cow’s milk burrata.
What does it taste like? It’s got a milky, ultra-mild smell, and comes in smooth, pillowy, white balls of differing sizes. On the tongue, you can feel the stringy curds only slightly before they dissolve and the cream comes through. It tastes milky and fresh, just about as close to fresh milk as you can get in cheese form.
This day, since I had some heirloom tomatoes and fresh basil on hand, I decided to make a burrata caprese salad for dinner. I love serving it simply like this, but you can put it on pizza, in salads, in pasta, or on anything else that suits your fancy. You can even grill some stone fruit and serve it with the cheese. It’s also delicious on its own, or dressed with just a little olive oil, sea salt, and pepper.
I’m a horrible recipe writer, as I eyeball everything, but here you go if you need an idea for what to do with that ball of burrata sitting in your fridge!
Simple Burrata Caprese Salad
*8 oz. burrata (but hey, if you want to add more, go ahead and add it!)
*8 medium heirloom tomatoes (about the size of roma tomatoes);
*olive oil to drizzle
*balsamic vinegar (or another vinegar of your choice)
*handful of basil leaves
Cut the tomatoes into wedges. Taking a tablespoon, spoon chunks of burrata over them. Add olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper to taste. Toss the basil leaves into the mix (or if you want to chiffonade them, you can do that, too!). Serve with crusty bread, and you’ve got enough for 4 people, or a hungry 3. Happiness!
You can find burrata at specialty cheese and food shops, and some grocery stores. If you’re really in a pinch, I know Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s carries it. As much as I would love to have Italian burrata, looking for domestic producers is your best bet, as the cheese is highly perishable and fragile.
Happy summer, friends! How do you enjoy your burrata? Let me know! I’d love to hear what folks do with this highly versatile cheese.