I am writing this close to midday, and I am telling you: the idea of having a nice tomato salad with a burrata on the side, dressed with just a hint of oregano and extra virgin olive oil on top is driving me nuts. Thinking about it, a good, fresh fiordilatte, or mozzarella would do just fine, too.
Burrata, mozzarella, fiordilatte: iconic products of Italy’s dairy industry, but what’s the difference between them? Well, let’s start from what’s probably making you wonder whether I lost it or not: the difference between mozzarella and fiordilatte.
Mozzarella, as many of you know, is a traditional Italian fresh cheese, made using the pasta filata method. Its name comes from the dialectal verb mozza, cut, or mozzare, to cut off, which is the gesture made by the well-trained hands that make these delicious balls of fresh, creamy cheese. In the current language, we use the word “mozzarella” for every type of cheese made with fresh milk, following the pasta filata procedure, regardless of the type of milk used. But, in fact, the only mozzarella, the one that truly owns the name, is that made with latte di bufala. Since 1996, there has been a legal difference between mozzarella (made with buffalo milk) and fiordilatte, (flower of milk, literally, or the best part of the milk), made exclusively with cow milk. But, in the same year, mozzarella di bufala Campana became a DOP product (a product with protected origin denomination), which means that only cheese made with milk from Mediterranean buffalos can be called so. So, while mozzarella remains, in common lingo, a term for both mozzarella di bufala and fiordilatte, officially, it should only be used for cheese made with buffalo milk.
Don’t worry too much though, no one will get offended if you ask for mozzarella when you want fiordilatte! In fact, most of us just specify “di bufala” when they want the “real” mozzarella, to mark the difference.
Mozzarella and fiordilatte are made with different milk, but using, as we said, the same method, that of pasta filata. And what about burrata? Its name recalls quite clearly the most decadent of dairy products, butter, which we call burro in Italian, but it doesn’t really have anything to do with it.
Burrata has some things in common with its cousins, mozzarella and fiordilatte because it, too, is made with the pasta filata method, but not entirely. Burrata, which is a typical product of Puglia, has an outer part made entirely of pasta filata, that works like a container, so to speak, for a creamy interior, made with a mix of pulled pasta filata and cream. This is commonly called stracciatella. Burrata can also be made with buffalo milk, in case you were wondering. In 2016, burrata di Andria (Andria is a town in the Murgia area of Puglia) obtained an IGP denomination (or PGI, protected geographical indication).
Stracciatella deserves some attention, too. It is, as you can imagine, very fresh and creamy, and should be eaten straight away after buying it. It has a distinct milky taste, because of the mix between pasta filata (so, fiordilatte), and fresh cream. While in the past stracciatella was usually only an ingredient of burrata, today is more and more common to find it to buy on its own but, as we said, make sure you eat it within 24 hours if you want to enjoy it at its best.
While we are all well used to mozzarella and fiordilatte, you may not be as familiar with burrata. The best way to have it is dressed with a bit of extra virgin olive oil, salt, and pepper, just as a said at the beginning: delicious.
In Italy, it has also become a popular pizza topping, often paired with cherry tomatoes, prosciutto, and arugula: not a light choice, perhaps, but oh-so-good!