Luscious, voluptuous, silky, oozy, creamy butteriness. If you aren’t already turned on to Burrata, you should be.
Hailing from the region of Puglia, Italy, this gorgeous little cheese’s name means “butter.”[i]
Burrata is a member of the pasta filata family of cheeses: those stretched-curd cheeses related to Mozzarella, Oaxaca, and Provolone. Yet in a twist, Burrata is made up of a sheet of Mozzarella that seals in a scoop of Stracciatella: a mixture of shredded Mozzarella curds and cream.[ii] The ball is tied up around the yummy filling with a little knot at the top: a bundle of joy. It’s like the best fresh Mozzarella times 1,000.
I wrote an ode to Burrata back in 2017, and reading it reminded me of one of my favorite cases of cheese counter confusion. I was running the cheese department at a specialty grocer in Kirkland, Washington, when a customer walked up, slapped a container on my counter, and informed me that the cheese wasn’t done all the way.
“I’m sorry?” I probably asked with a look of supreme confusion because I didn’t know what she was talking about.
“This is the second time I’ve returned your Mozzarella because it isn’t done all the way.”
Done all the way? Done? Like cooked? You don’t “cook” cheese—although you can’t blame someone off the street for not knowing how cheese is made. I believe I just stared at her, unsure how to respond.
“I cut it open and it was all gooey inside like it hadn’t been cooked all the way,” she said.
That did it. “ohhh, you got Burrata,” I said.
“That is Burrata. It’s mozzarella filled with cream, so it’s meant to be very soft and gooey on the inside.”
At that point she was both annoyed and embarrassed, so I showed her to the Ovoline Mozzarella balls[iii] and sent her on her way.
For all intents and purposes, Burrata does look like a ball of Mozzarella when it is floating in water. You can be excused for not realizing you are about to have a mess on your hands if you think you’re going to be cutting slices of Mozzarella for your Caprese skewers when you accidentally buy the Burrata.
In fact, we routinely have to watch people at the Mozzarella section to make sure they aren’t grabbing Burrata when they don’t want it, and that they aren’t grabbing Mozzarella di Bufala when they do want Burrata. It’s a hard life, that of a cheesemonger.
Cutting into a ball of Burrata is an experience: the smooth skin gives way to creamy heaven that spills out onto whatever it is you are serving it on. You have to use a spoon or bread to scoop it up.
The “dumpling of cheeses,” Burrata is a mainstay on summer cheese boards. My customers snatch up multiple 8-ounce balls at once—despite the necessity to eat the whole Burrata in one sitting. You cannot have leftovers of this cheese.
After all, once the Burrata’s delicate skin has been pierced and the filling oozed out, there is no putting it away.
My favorite way to consume this cheese on a lazy evening is with good olive oil, salt and pepper, and a loaf of fresh, hearty bread. Even though I’m trying to avoid gluten because it makes me very uncomfortable and unhappy, I will sacrifice my well-being for a freshly baked loaf of kalamata olive fougasse or a local miche to sop up Burrata.
But Burrata is also good with muffuletta salad or olive tapenade. It’s good with honey and cocoa nibs. It’s good by itself on a crusty baguette (or on a spoon). With your favorite tomato sauce, truffle oil, balsamic, or coarse sea salt, you name it: Burrata is always just plain good.
And while people really get down with Burrata during high tomato season, there’s no reason not to go hog wild for this succulent cheese year-round if it is available.
You can split open a ball of Burrata on top of a steaming pile of spaghetti and meatballs, or onto Fettucine dressed with olive oil, salt and pepper. You can toast a sourdough boule, cut a hole into the center of it, drop in a Burrata ball with some herbs and spices, bake it gently for a few minutes, and then dig in, tearing off hunks of bread around the Burrata and dipping into the cheesy center—think bread bowl soup, but better.
Or you can just bake eggplant or squash, dress it as you like, and then top it with Burrata to allow the cheese’s cream to tie everything together—like Ryan Campbell of Toronto’s Il Covo restaurant exhibited in a beauteous Instagram post:
You can put Burrata on soup. You can put it on chili. You can smash it onto cornbread or polenta or inside of a baked yam.
Or there’s one of my all-time-favorite concoctions, the BBT: bacon, Burrata, and tomato sandwich. The tomato is optional—or rather, optimal when tomatoes are in season only—as you can use roasted red peppers, roasted squash, or some other warm vegetable that suits your heart’s desire during non-tomato seasons.
There are also a few cheese cookbooks that have come out in recent years with scintillating Burrata recipes in them.
My friend Polina Chesnakova just came out with her first book, “Hot Cheese,” which contains a recipe for “Butternut Squash, Ricotta, and Pancetta Stuffed Shells with Baked Burrata.”[iv] Are you drooling yet? I am. (Please buy a copy of Polina’s book! I’m so proud of her, and her recipes are accessible and not too ingredient-heavy.)
Another gorgeous cheese cookbook is Tia Keenan’s “Melt, Stretch, & Sizzle: The Art of Cooking Cheese.” She has two recipes for Burrata: “Fried Burrata with Roasted Tomatoes”[v] and “Burrata Mac & Cheese”.[vi]
If you are less interested in improvising your way to Burrata nirvana, these recipes are a good place to get cooking.
Whether you follow a recipe or let the ball take you where it wants to go, know this: It is glorious autumn, and I am here to make sure you know Burrata is so much more than a summer partner for tomatoes.
Anywhere you need a little cream or something to dip a food vessel in, luxuriously milky-smooth Burrata can do the trick. I dare you to give it an out-of-season try.
[i] Gibbons, David. “Burrata.” Oxford Companion to Cheese. 95.
[iii] “Ovoline,” or egg-sized. According to Elena Santogade, Ovoline are “4-ounce [113-gram] balls” of Mozzarella. See: Santogade, “Mozzarella.” The Oxford Companion to Cheese. Ed. Catherine Donnelly. New York: Oxford University Press, 499.
[iv] Chesnakova, Polina. Hot Cheese. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2020. 111-13.
[v] Keenan, Tia. Melt, Stretch, & Sizzle. New York: Rizzoli, 2018. 62-4.
[vi] Ibid., 138-9.