This week’s Sunday Pasta recipe calls for burrata. Many may ask, “What is burrata?’ You have come to the right place. This cheese hails from Puglia. It is luxurious raw cow’s milk cheese is really mozzarella plus – it has a creamy filling that gives the cheese its name, “buttery.” The outer layer of the cheese is stretched more than regular mozzarella, making its texture smoother. Shaped into an envelope, the center is left hollow, then filled with cream from the whey mixed with strings of mozzarella. As the center portion ferments slightly inside its mozzarella cave, its taste becomes more complex. And the cheese weeps this creamy deliciousness when cut. Since it is a fresh cheese, burrata has a very short shelf life, however traditionally the cheese was wrapped in asphodel leaves, a relative of the leek, to indicate freshness; if the leaves were still green and pliable, the cheese was still good. It also imparted a bit of herbal flavor to the cheese. Now, the leaves are more likely to be artificial, or the sac of the cheese is tied with a blade of grass. Burrata was the invention of a 1920’s Andrian farmer wanting to use his leftover bits (stracciatelle or little rags) of mozzarella, rather than letting them go to waste. This exercise in frugality grew so popular that burrata production eventually became the farm’s sole focus. (The late Shah of Iran is reported to have been a fan – he had the cheese flown to him regularly.) Although a raw milk cheese, because of government regulations, the burrata we eat in this country is made from pasteurized milk, and so lacks the un-imported version’s dimension of flavor.
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