I have yet to meet an Italian dish which I haven’t liked. But there is one thing that has stood out over the years: burrata cheese.
Invented in Southern Italy in the early 1900’s, this cheese’s name means “buttered” in Italian… and I couldn’t think of a more appropriate word: I have never had a cheese that was so creamy and so delicious. Its simplicity—mozzarella cheese with a cream center—is part of its appeal: it allows you to taste the fresh milk and its delicious clean flavors. Cheese lovers: beware. You will become addicted.
Eating burrata makes you feel like you have just picked it up from the farm, and in most cases, you probably have: it should be served within 24 hours of being made and is too old to serve after 48 hours, so most burratas are shipped in from very local farms on the day that they are produced. Burrata just might be the closest that you can get to fresh farm flavors without owning a dairy farm yourself.
The first time I had burrata was at the downtown location of Venissimo Cheese shop (see my article about this wonderful boutique cheese store and the outstanding cheeses coming from California here). To give homage to the delicious and fresh flavors of the burrata, the cheese monger served it as simply as possible: on fresh bread and with a sprinkle of truffle sea salt. This is how burrata is served best: in a simple manner to let the fresh and mild creamy flavors show through.
Another burrata experience which was a highlight for me was at Suite and Tender located in Downtown San Diego. A simple appetizer of burrata stuffed tomatoes with olive oil crustini and pesto was an excellent way to showcase the delicious creamy texture of the cheese: it worked well with the crunch of the crustini and was great alongside the flavors of the bright tomatoes and the savory pesto.
I recently had burrata again at 1884 Francis Mallmann in Mendoza, Argentina. Chef Mallmann paired the burrata with a roasted pear and a simple salad which, like the other meals I have had with this cheese, allowed the cheese to be the center of the dish, and permitted the burrata to work with the other components of the dish to make truly beautiful texture combinations.
After three delicious dining experiences with this cheese, I have concluded that burrata is somewhat of a hidden gem in Italian cuisine. True, we are all past the place where we think that pasta is the only component of Italian cooking. But finds like this delicious cheese prove that Italian cuisine still has much more to offer than what we consider to be typical of their delicious fare.