People living in Puglia – the southern Italian region set right at the heel of the boot – are very lucky. They have a wonderful land surrounded by an almost tropical ocean, with plenty of sun-soaked ingredients such as intense extra virgin olive oil and delicious tomatoes. But, best of all, they have been eating burrata pretty much daily for almost a century. In the rest of the world and in many other Italian regions, this lavish fresh cheese only became available over the last few years, getting more and more popular and showing up in trendy restaurants as a staple ingredient for pizzas and fine dining dishes.
Its birth, though, is pretty recent: some date it back to the 1920s, others claim it was ‘invented’ in 1956 in a farm near Andria – a small town in the Bari province, still today considered the heart of the burrata production – by Lorenzo Bianchino Chieppa, a farmer and cheesemaker who was not able to go and sell the cream he had made with his cows' milk due to a blizzard. He had the idea to create a sort of thin ‘pouch’ out of stretched cheese (similar to mozzarella) as a shell to hold and preserve the cream and some shredded pieces called stracciatella (little rags), probably left-over from the mozzarella making. Today, this is the most longed-for part of burrata, also used to add creaminess to risotto and other recipes, and it is frequently sold on its own, too.
Burrata is traditionally wrapped with tiny grass stems or larger asphodel leaves as a sign of freshness – if the leaves were still green then people know the cheese is freshly made.The thing that makes the cheese so appealing is cutting the small bulging ‘head’ where the pouch has been sealed, which lets the irresistible filling ooze out with all its delicious fresh milk aromas and buttery flavour.