Everyone knows about mozzarella, the fresh cheese from southern Italy.
By JASPER J. MIRABILE JR.
Traditionally made outside of Naples, Italy, the fresh cheese was produced with buffalo milk but today in America we produce it with cows milk or pasta filata.
As tradition goes, fresh cheese was discovered more than 4,000 years ago by when milk reached temperatures of greater than 90 degrees and rennet was added accidentally added to the milk.
When I say accidentally, I really mean that milk was actually put into the cows stomach which contained the natural enzyme that we call rennet.
But how did that milk it inside the cows stomach? After the cow was slaughtered they would use the stomach to store milk and while walking through the desert. The milk would get hot and anything that was left over usually looked like what we would call curds today.
Fresh mozzarella is usually eaten within the first or second day after production. In Italy, the buffalo producing milk and on the same farm the cheese is made and delivered to the local markets within hours.
The cheese can be refrigerated up to a week in the brine, or if it is low moisture can be held for a longer time and also shredded for pizza.
Fresh mozzarella can also be smoked for a different style of cheese used not only to eats sliced but also to be cooked in certain pasta and protein dishes
When making fresh mozzarella, anything left over in the bowl is can be made into ricotta. Ricotta means to re-cook in Italian and that’s just what you do, you
re-cook the leftover whey. The result is a very creamy cheese that can be used in lasagna, ravioli, the sacred cannoli …
The creamy white texture of ricotta is much lighter but also much more creamier and of course tastest great. Ricotta that is salted and left to age is called Ricotta Salata and is delicious eaten alone or in pasta recipes.
And then there is burrata, what I like to call mozzarella’s dreamy creamy little cousin. Burrata is a fresh cheese made from mozzarella but with a unique
The outer shell is solid mozzarella while the inside contains mozzarella and cream. The texture is very soft and it’s usually served at room temperature the name burrata literally means butter.
When burrata was first discovered in the 1920s, it was made in the region of Puglia by the Bianchini family farm in the city of Andria.
The little scraps or rags that were left over when making mozzarella was actually encased inside the mozzarella for a creamy center. The little pouch is then topped off with a little cream and then wrapped in the leaves of asphodel, tied in a little knot and moistened with whey.
When it is time to serve the burrata, it is sliced open and the cream that flows out the cheese has a rich buttery flavor and is delicious when served with salami, crusty bread, fresh tomatoes, extra-virgin olive oil, sea salt, cracked pepper or even pasta. The list is really endless.
So there you have it my friends, a little history about mozzarella, ricotta and burrata cheese. As a chef, I love to cook all three.
I make fresh mozzarella table side every day at my restaurants, we use fresh ricotta in many of our recipes and when we make burrata, it is not only a best seller but also a cheese that we receive so many great comments about, just a simple buttery cheese that is wonderful to eat.
As Russ Parsons from the Los Angeles Times claims, “Burrata is to mozzarella as foie gras is to chicken liver.”
Ha, I just like to think of it as one of life’s simple pleasures.
I do hope you enjoy my mother’s recipe below for a great baked pasta. As we say in my family, Bête Mangiare e Bene. Eat & Drink Well!
Nana Mirabile’s Baked Ziti
1 pound Italan sausage
1 pound ziti
1 28-ounce jar Jasper’s Pasta Sauce
4 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese
4 ounces fresh ricotta cheese
2 ounces Romano cheese
1 tablespoon butter
4 ounces ounces burrata
In a large pan, sauté Italian sausage until cooked. Cook ziti according to package directions. Drain and place in mixing bowl. Add Jasper’s Pasta Sauce with cooked sausage and toss with pasta. Shred mozzarella and mix with ricotta. Toss with pasta mixture. Add more sauce if desired.
Grease a large casserole or lasagna pan with butter. Add pasta mixture. Sprinkle with grated Romano and bake at 375 degrees for 25-30 minutes. Remove from oven and serve with pieces of burrata on top.
Source: Jasper J. Mirabile Jr.
Chef Jasper J. Mirabile Jr. of Jasper’s commands the helm of his family’s 59-year-old restaurant, consistently rated one of Kansas City’s best Italian restaurants. In addition to running the restaurant with his brother, Mirabile is a culinary instructor, founding member of Slow Food Kansas City and a national board member of the American Institute of Wine and Food. He hosts many famous chefs on his weekly radio show Live! From Jasper’s Kitchen on KCMO 710 AM and 103.7 FM and sells a line of dressings and sauces.