Hooked On Cheese: Burrata

If you ever wanted to know some key Italian cheesemaking terms, today's your lucky day. The cheese I'm discussing this week is the melt-in-your-mouth delicacy known as burrata ("buttered" in Italian), and there are plenty of terms in italiano that will help you talk about this formaggio (cheese) like a pro!

If you like fresh mozzarella (from mozzare, "to cut off"), you will love burrata. Burrata is comprised of an interior pouch of fresh cream (panna) and mozzarella curds, or ritagli, the "rags" or "scraps" that are leftover from mozzarella production, that have been wrapped in a layer of pasta filata, the "spun paste" strings that are pulled to make solid mozzarella. When it is cut open, particularly fresh burrata will ooze out the unpulled curds and cream. Burrata was originally produced in the Apulia region in southern Italy and, like mozzarella, was traditionally made using the milk of water buffalo (bufala) but is now predominantly made from cow's milk (known as fior di latte). As with fresh mozzarella, it's always best to seek the freshest and softest burrata available. In Europe, burrata is often served wrapped in a green leaf of the Italian asphodel (asfodelo) plant to indicate supreme freshness.

Now that you know some of the terms for burrata production, only one question remains: how do you serve it? Honestly, you can serve burrata pretty much exactly the way you would serve fresh mozzarella. The most popular way to enjoy it: mixed with seasonal tomatoes, fresh basil, and great quality olive oil as a variation on insalata caprese. Another method: my favorite New York pizza place makes a pie with a blistered crust, light tomato sauce, garlic, and olive oil, then shreds burrata over the cooked pie, allowing it to melt only slightly, thus retaining its creamy goodness. At the end of the day though, I must admit my absolute favorite way to serve burrata is as simple as can be: taken fresh from the cheesemaker's hands and accompanied by warm, rustic baked bread.

While it is not always easy to find fresh burrata in America, the packed varieties that can be found at specialty cheese shops are still a tasty treat (BelGioioso is the most commonly found brand). You can also order some delicious burrate online from specialty cheesemakers such as Murray's Cheese, but if at all possible I recommend seeking a cheesemaker you can visit in person for the freshest burrata available. Buon appetito!

You can follow Raymond's cheese adventures on Facebook, Twitter and his website. Additional reporting by Madeleine James.