Burrata The Rich and Creamy Cheese of Puglia
The region of Puglia is a stunning land, rich in artistic, cultural and culinary treasures. Among them is burrata, one of its best-known products and appreciated by all lovers of fine Italian cuisine.
The name resembles the Italian word for buttered, “imburrato,” which is exactly what the inner texture of this creamy cheese resembles. When burrata is sliced open, the luxuriously thickened panna flows out. The cheese is a true masterpiece that should be enjoyed to its maximum freshness, accompanied by fresh salad, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, seasonal vegetables and freshly baked Italian bread.
This decadent cheese was first hand-crafted around 1920 on the Bianchini farm in the town of Andria, situated about two-thirds of the way up Italy’s heel to the spur of Puglia. In the 1950s, a number of local cheese factories began producing it, making burrata somewhat more widely available. At least one native of the region suspects that factories were interested in it because it was a way to utilize the ritagli, meaning scraps or rags, which refers to the bits that are left over when cheeses are trimmed to uniform size. Burrata production spread along an 80-mile stretch of Puglia from Andria to Bari, Gioia del Colle, Modugno, and all the way to Martina Franca. The decadent cheese then spread throughout Italy and eventually, the world.
Burrata starts out much like mozzarella, with rennet used to curdle the warm milk. But then, unlike other cheeses, fresh mozzarella curds are plunged into hot whey or lightly salted water, kneaded and pulled to develop the familiar stretchy strings, then shaped in whatever form is desired.
When making burrata, the still-hot cheese is formed into a pouch, which is then filled with scraps of leftover mozzarella and topped off with fresh cream before closing. The finished burrata is traditionally wrapped in the leaves of asphodel, tied to form a little brioche-like topknot, and moistened with a little whey. The asphodel leaves should still be green when the cheese is served to indicate the cheese’s freshness. More recently, the cheese is often sold in a plastic bag or container.
The Apulians describe burrata as a “cloud” whose outer bag of snow-white color, very smooth, has the form of a pouch. Inside, there is the “stracciatella,” juicy and flavorful. To truly enjoy burrata, one must join the outer layer and the stracciatella, mixing the texture and flavor of the outside with the softness and juiciness of the inside.
Enjoy the taste of burrata with our delicious recipes below.
Grilled Eggplant with Fresh Burrata
||Place eggplant in one layer on a baking sheet and generously salt. Let it sit at least 30 min to remove the bitterness. After 30 min, with a paper towel, dab off all the excess moisture.
Preheat oven to 250 degrees and heat grill pan. Drizzle olive oil on eggplant and season with salt. In batches, begin to grill eggplant until there are grill marks on both sides, but be sure not to overcook them or they will become mushy. As you are grilling, remove the done eggplants and place on a baking sheet in the oven to keep warm.
To arrange the salad, slice burrata as best you can. Layer alternating eggplant and burrata. Top with a drizzle of olive oil, salt and fresh basil.
Roasted Squash with Burrata, Hazelnuts and Arugula
||Preheat the oven to 360°F. Spread hazelnuts in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake for about 15 min to toast. Stir often to make sure that they toast evenly. Remove from the oven when they are fragrant and golden, and allow them to cool at room temperature. Once hazelnuts have cooled completely, rub them to remove the skin. Cut in half and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Slice the stem off of the top of the squash and remove the bottom. With a vegetable peeler remove the skin. Cut the squash in half lengthwise, and remove the seeds. Slice the flesh into 3/4-inch dice. Drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and toss to combine. Place the cubes on a baking sheet lined with foil and bake for about 25 min. You want the cubes to be golden and slightly charred, yet still firm. Remove from the oven and let cool.
In a small skillet or saucepan, bring the balsamic vinegar to boil over medium-high heat. Lower the heat and simmer until reduced to about a third of its original volume.
In a small bowl, mix olive oil, hazelnut oil and white balsamic vinegar. Season with salt and whisk until well blended and creamy. In a large bowl toss the arugula with the half of the vinaigrette. Arrange the arugula on a large platter. Top with the butternut squash cubes and burrata. Drizzle with the remaining vinaigrette and sprinkle with pepper. Spoon the balsamic reduction generously on top, finish with the hazelnuts and serve.
Creamy Cauliflower Pesto Shells with Burrata
||Preheat oven to 425. Place cauliflower on a baking sheet, and drizzle with oil. Roast 15-20 min, until golden brown and tender. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees.
Combine roasted cauliflower, vegetable broth and milk in a high powered blender and blend until completely smooth. Cook pasta according to package directions until al dente. Drain and set aside.
Melt butter in a large oven-safe skillet. Add the shallot and cook over medium heat until softened, about 2 minutes. Sprinkle in the flour and stir for 30 seconds. Pour in the cauliflower mixture and remaining salt, and cook for 2-3 min. Add the pesto and stir until everything is incorporated.
Fold in the tomatoes and the cooked pasta. Top with burrata slices. Cover with foil, and bake for 15 min. Remove foil, and bake for another 5 min. Garnish with basil and serve.