Stracciatella: Everything you need to know

Creamy stracciatella and basil-tinged zucchini at Carlton Wine Room in Melbourne.
Creamy stracciatella and basil-tinged zucchini at Carlton Wine Room in Melbourne. Photo: Kristoffer Paulsen

What is it?

Pronounced strutch-yah-tella, the luscious, creamy, super-fresh cow's milk cheese is made of shreds of mozzarella mixed with cream. It's also used as the filling for burrata, where it's encased in a layer of fresh mozzarella and sealed with a brioche-shaped knot.

While we make excellent stracciatella in Australia, the mother of all shredded cheese is stracciatella di bufala from Puglia in Italy. It came about as a way to use the leftover mozzarella and cream extracted from the whey.

Originally a way to use up leftover mozzarella, stracciatella now stars on menus all over the land.
Originally a way to use up leftover mozzarella, stracciatella now stars on menus all over the land. Photo: iStock

The cheese stracciatella should not be confused with the egg-enriched Italian soup or the chocolate-flecked milky ice-cream of the same name. The name for all three derives from the verb stracciare, which means "little rag" or "shred".

Why do we love it?

Fine, malleable threads of bright white, slightly springy cheese sit in a rich bath of smooth savoury cream. It is a cheese in which the quality of the milk shines through and where no yeasts and moulds have had time to work, giving cheesemakers no place to hide any faults.

Stracciatella's fresh lactic flavours are pure and mild, making it a cheese chefs love to pair with vibrant vegetables and fruit.

Stracciatella with tomatoes and beetroot at Kindred in Darlinghurst.
Stracciatella with tomatoes and beetroot at Kindred in Darlinghurst. Photo: Christopher Pearce

Who uses it?

"It is the greatest byproduct of all time," says chef Adrian Li from La Madonna at Next Hotel Melbourne and Rina's Cucina. "What was a mozzarella leftover has been turned into a delicacy with the most wonderful mouthfeel and texture."

At La Madonna, he and co-chef Danny Natoli compress whole tomatoes in white soy and extra virgin olive oil, peel the tomatoes, hollow them out and stuff them with stracciatella then serve them in glass bowls with koshu (yuzu and green chilli condiment).

At Rina's, they roast grapes and chunks of fennel, which are served warm with the stracciatella.

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"At home I eat it with a spoon straight from the container," says Li.

Joey Ingram, head chef at Margan Winery Restaurant in the Hunter Valley, makes his own stracciatella fresh for each service from Hunter Belle Milk.

"I am waiting for the zucchinis to start in the next few weeks and I'll serve them raw, with preserved lemon, mint and stracciatella, a dish that goes really well with the aged semillon."

How do you use it?

  • Keep it simple and spoon some stracciatella onto a plate, add a sprinkling of sea salt and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and serve with crusty bread.
  • Grill a slice of sourdough and top with diced tomato, chopped black olives, basil leaves and a spoonful of stracciatella.
  • Grill asparagus and serve with some romesco sauce and stracciatella, or grill peaches, sprinkle with salt and spoon over some stracciatella and lick of light honey.
  • Mix the cheese through finely sliced pear with olive oil, lemon juice and rind, pecans and lots of rocket for a delicious salad.

Where do you get it?

This is not a cheese that keeps well, so the stock on the shelves is locally made. Head to cheesemongers and high-end delis. In NSW, look for Vannella brand and in Victoria try That's Amore and Azzurri brands.

If you can't find stracciatella, you can buy the more commonly available burrata and spoon out the creamy interior. Use the mozzarella "skin" on pizza or a tomato salad. Keep refrigerated and use within a few days of purchase.

Suggest an ingredient via email to brainfood@richardcornish.com.au or tweet to @foodcornish