David Arias, Executive Chef at NYC Italian bistro Abboccato Italian Kitchen, has one of those great coming-up stories that starts at the dishwashing sink at 14 years old and stops at every kitchen position along the way before ending up mastering Italian cuisine with Todd English. Suffice it to say, Arias knows his Italian cheeses, and he learned how to make fresh burrata every day out of necessity. If you've never had it, it's just heaven: soft mozzarella shreds in heavy cream stuffed into a tender mozzarella shell. Break the shell and the filling oozes out.
"The burrata we were getting from Italy started down in quality a little and was hard to get for a while, so we started making it ourselves," he says. "Traditionally, nobody puts ricotta in burrata filling. We add it because the cream in Italy has a lot more fat than the cream you get here, so by adding ricotta you get that extra creaminess."
Besides being fresher and more delicious, making it yourself is also a lot more cost-effective.
"It's $10 per pound in a shop — if you get really good quality you'll pay up to $12 — but when you make it yourself, the whole process costs about $3 for the same amount," says Arias. "It's a big difference."
So we jotted down and photographed the process, step-by-step. You'll probably need to make it a few times before you get the rhythm right, but that's the hardest part. Sourcing the mozzarella curd is as easy as hitting your specialty Italian grocery store — and yes, Polly-O is the one everyone uses.
"Knowing when to add the filling can be tricky. If it's too early and you put the filling in, it'll stretch too much, the outer shell will be too thin and it could break," says Arias. So practice as much as you can. And either way, you'll still have something delicious to smear on crusty bread.
Here's what you'll need for 5-7 servings:
- 1 large pot to hold 5 quarts of water
- 1 small pot to hold milk and butter (do not use cast-iron or aluminum for any pot)
- 1 medium bowl for curd
- 2 medium bowls for ice bath to cool cheese when it is done and to cool your hands while stretching the curds
- A pair of scissors and rubber gloves
- 1 large pot to hold 3 quarts of water (again, no cast-iron or aluminum)
- 1 medium bowl for curd
- Bowl or container for ice water bath to cool cheese
- 1 medium bowl for ice bath to protect your hands while stretching the curds
- a 6-ounce ladle
- a small soup bowl for molding
- 5-7 nylon strings or plastic wrap string for tying the burrata
- 2 ½ lbs. Polly-O mozzarella curd, diced small
- 1 ½ cups heavy cream
- 1 cup ricotta
- 1/3 cup whey (see step 3)
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 5 quarts water
- ½ cup Kosher salt
- 1 ½ lbs. Polly-O mozzarella curd, diced small
- 3 quarts water
- 1/3 cup Kosher salt
Photos by Gabi Porter (click to enlarge)