My love affair with Italy began on our honeymoon. I really don’t think that I was prepared for the raw beauty that would await us. Our short, post-wedding getaway turned into six weeks of raw exploration, taking us on a journey from southern Italy all the way through to Milan in the north.
We started our trip in the Puglia region (Apulia), right at the heel of Italy’s boot. Landing in Napoli at dusk, we made our way to the town of Ostuni. After driving for what seemed like forever, we arrived at midnight and were welcomed by a glowing fortress on top of a mountain. It was a truly spectacular sight!
Renowned for it’s architecture and pristine whitewashed buildings, Ostuni is known as the “Citta Bianca” (the White City). It’s hard not to notice the unscathed beaches, massive canopy and wild fig trees that pave the roadside – not to mention historical monuments rooted within the city’s core. Ostuni is nothing short of a revelation and a charming place to visit.
We were fortunate to stay with friends who showed us the ins and outs of the region. It was a great start to our holiday, and we were certainly getting a taste of la dolce vita!
When it comes to food and perfecting the art of simplicity, Italians know how get it right! It was in Ostuni that I was first introduced to Buratta – a soft, Italian cheese originally from Puglia. Made from fresh mozzarella and cream, Buratta’s buttery and rich flavor make it an ideal partner for tomatoes picked at the height of their ripeness.
With the right ingredients, this buratta salad is very easy to put together. Find great tomatoes, use good olive oil, fresh basil, and sea salt. Adding pesto underneath the cheese before plating all the ingredients gives you an amazing burst of flavor when you break into the buratta. If you don’t want to use the pesto, feel free to make the salad without it.
Buratta can be found in most specialty food stores. It is sold either in a small bag or plastic container filled with liquid. It has a relatively short shelf life, and must be consumed soon after buying it. If you happen to come across Buratta from Puglia, you’re in serious luck!
Ingredients for the Salad:
- 300 grams tomatoes (cherry, heirloom, or beef-steak – or a combination of all three)
- 1 Buratta ball (250- 300 gm)
- Olive oil
- Sea salt
- Fresh basil
- Pesto (recipe below)
Ingredients for the Pesto:
* You will need a hand blender for the pesto
- 2 bunches of fresh basil leaves or 2 to 3 basil plants (washed and dried well, large stems removed)
- Half a clove to one clove of garlic
- 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (Parmegianno Regianno)
- A pinch of sea salt
- Good extra-virgin olive oil (about half a cup – use more or less as needed)
- A small handful of pine nuts (optional)
Directions for the Pesto:
Put the basil, garlic clove, salt, and pine nuts (if using) in a container (use the cylinder bowl that comes with the hand blender if you have it).
Start blending the basil with your hand blender while slowly adding your olive oil. Blend until all the ingredients have been emulsified. Add the Parmesan cheese and blend until incorporated. Have a taste. If the pesto is bitter, you can add a bit more olive oil and/or cheese to even out the flavors.
To store the pesto, put in a container and cover the entire surface with olive oil. This will prevent it from browning. The pesto can be stored covered in the refrigerator for several weeks. Let come to room temperature before using.
Directions – plating the salad:
Wash and dry the tomatoes well. If using cherry tomatoes, cut in half. If using larger varieties such as heirloom or beefsteak, cut into quarters.
Sprinkle the tomatoes generously with sea salt (I use Maldon salt, any flake salt will do wonders). Let them sit for at least 10 minutes and let their juices flow.
Spoon a generous amount of pesto into the center of a large plate. Place the buratta gently on top of the pesto, and scatter the tomatoes around it. Splash some olive oil over the tomatoes and the cheese. Add fresh basil leaves.
Use a spoon to break into the Buratta. You’ll know you’ve hit the jackpot when the creaminess leaks out of the cheese – it’s amazing! If you have some good, crusty bread lying around, use it to soak up any of the oil and juices left on the plate.
Buratta and tomatoes, a seriously delicious dish!
Copyright © 2016 Lidija’s Kitchen, including personal images taken by the author.