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Mozzarella and burrata, the pasta filata queens

Mozzarella and burrata are among the best-loved fresh cheeses in Italy and worldwide; they have so much in common, but so much that is different

They are the picture of summer, of caprese salads and lunches on the terrace. And they are among the fresh cheeses most associated with Italy, all around the world. We discover together the interesting facts about mozzarella and burrata: similar, but not the same!

The origins: recovery that becomes noble

Mozzarella and burrata are both cheeses with origins in southern Italy. Apparently, mozzarella was already produced in Campania in the 12th century, while burrata is a creation that only goes back to the last century! 

We are in the town of Andria, Apulia, in 1956, when a heavy snowfall blocked transport links to the city. But fresh milk always needs to be used fast and, above all, the cream rising to the top can’t be wasted, then and now. So, the brothers Vincenzo and Lorenzo Bianchino conceived a product similar to mantéche (seasoned spun curd – pasta filata – casings in which butter is kept). They decided to mix leftovers from the processing of pasta filata with cream (which would otherwise have gone to waste) and wrapped everything in a casing that was made of pasta filata too. Thus, the much-loved burrata was born.

The origins of mozzarella also derive, in some way, from the need to recover. In this case, it seems to have been milk that was no longer in prime condition, and which was recovered thanks to hot spinning, which reduces acidity. The curd, brought to a high temperature, becomes ‘plastic’ (that is, easily moulded) and can be stretched into filaments, which are then moulded and separated. And it is precisely from the gesture of ‘mozzare’ that means ‘to cut off’ that the term ‘mozzarella’ originates!

Mozzarella: knowing PDO and PGI

There is no doubt that mozzarella is a traditional Italian product, yet we are aware that it is also produced outside Italy.

There are, in fact, two Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) mozzarellas that encompass two very specific products: Mozzarella di Bufala Campana PDO and Mozzarella di Gioia del Colle PDO. 

The first one, Mozzarella di Bufala Campana DOP, as you might expect, is produced using only buffalo milk from certain provinces of the regions established by the regulations: in addition to Campania, there are Molise, Lazio, and Apulia. This does not mean that mozzarella ‘from buffalo milk’ produced in any territory cannot be marketed, but they are not certified according to these important criteria. 

Mozzarella di Gioia del Colle PDO, instead, is produced only in the provinces of Bari, Taranto, and Matera with cow’s milk.

And what about the rest of Italy? And Europe? We can still be sure of eating a mozzarella ‘according to tradition’ when we see the SGT mark, which stands for Specialità Tradizionale Garantita (Traditional Speciality Guaranteed). This mark defines a product whose raw materials, composition or recipe, production method or processing are traditional. And can be produced throughout Europe. 

When buying, it is crucial to pay great attention to the designation and the area of production if you would like to enjoy a certified and authentic product.

As far as burrata is concerned, the only one with a quality mark is Burrata d’Andria IGP, produced from cow’s milk in Apulia, in the provinces of Bari, Barletta-Andria-Trani, Brindisi, Foggia, Lecce and Taranto. Unlike the PDO specification, the Protected Geographical Indication means that the burrata originates in Apulia, but some processing phases may take place elsewhere.

On the table!

Mozzarella, good like wine 

Mozzarella is one of the specialities we enjoy most, especially in the warmer months. Perfect on its own, accompanied by raw vegetables, but so versatile that it is often found as an ingredient in pasta dishes, white meat recipes and delicacies.  For example, try adding it, fresh and in chunks, for an extra touch and a tricolour look to a dish of Gnocchi with fresh tomato and basil sauce.

Usually paired with fresh, light white wines that give a pleasant acidic sensation to contrast its decidedly sweet tinge. 

Some examples are Greco di Tufo, Fiano di Avellino, Asprinio di Aversa and Falanghina. Buffalo mozzarella also goes well with certain red wines, provided they are young, slightly warm and not matured in barriques.

Burrata and its one cheese show

Burrata is enjoyed often on its own and is at its best when combining, in the same mouthful, the inner part of the stracciatella with the soft outer part.  

There are some tasty preparations and combinations to try, like our Burrata with cherry tomatoes in a glass, with burrata, basil and confit cherry tomatoes creating an irresistible harmony, but it is good to remind the main rule: burrata should never be cooked!

The ideal pairing, in the glass, is with young, fresh white wines.

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