Whenever I see scraps of food, I think of burrata. The soft, creamy cheese was created in southern Italy as a way to use bits of leftover mozzarella. Mozzarella is pretty elastic and cheese makers stretch and knead the cheese curd to get it that way. So the extra pieces stretched easily to form small sacs, which were then filled with cream and dipped into brine briefly. The cream thickened a touch, but not too much. When they cut into the mozzarella, the gooey, oozy center ran onto the cheese board and burrata was born.
That crafty moment of recycling that gave rise to one of my favorite fresh cheeses. Burrata means “buttered” in Italian, which should give you a good clue what you’re in for. Creamy and rich, the cheese makes a perfect accompaniment to heirloom tomatoes, asparagus, roasted beets, peaches or just a bit of bread. While most burrata comes from Italy (usually wrapped in asphodel leaves for freshness), a few US cheese makers are getting into the spirit too.
So the question is, who needs mozzarella anymore? We all do.
Once strictly made from the milk of buffalos, mozzarella now can be found made from cow’s milk as well. Like burrata, mozzarella is a white, mildly flavored fresh cheese that pairs beautifully with stone fruits and root vegetables and other fresh vegetables. But the stringy cheese has one serious advantage burrata doesn’t—you can cook with it. Without that soft, runny center, mozzarella can be shredded or cut, torn, baked, melted, you name it. It’s an incredibly versatile cheese that suits so many recipes from pizza to pasta to paninis.
At the end of the day, you’ll find both kinds of cheese in my fridge. When I’m pulling together a late-night snack, I might reach for the burrata with farmer’s market peaches. When I’m having friends around for a bite to eat, I may top a homemade tomato-pesto pizza with delicious mozzarella.
Curious which is your favorite? Have a taste test by making two versions Salad of Heirloom Tomatoes with Mozzarella with each cheese.