THE NEXT LEVEL The delectable burrata at Rosso: much more than super-fresh mozzarella.
Saturday morning at 10am: Leon and I are drunk.
Don't get me wrong. We're often quite sober at 10am, no matter the day of the week, but this Saturday was different. Instead of completing some marvelous health-giving exercise like running or yoga, we were sitting in Rosso Pizzeria in Santa Rosa tasting five different types of Sauvignon Blanc while John Franchetti, the man in front of us, taught us how to make cheese.
Each bolstered by the nutritious breakfast splendor of exactly one half of one fresh pear, we had arrived 30 minutes earlier, eager to learn about the mysteries of fresh mozzarella and, particularly, that of burrata. We had forgotten about the wine. Imagine our delight.
We were no burrata virgins, having often ordered it at Rosso. It arrives, gleaming and white on a plate, kissed with excellent olive oil and just a grind of salt. It gives to the knife like an indulgent lover and spreads in a glistening ribbon onto a hot, fresh pizzete.
But we had always thought that burrata was merely super-fresh mozzarella. And it kind of is. Except that it's super-fresh mozzarella stuffed with three kinds of cheese—including mozzarella. Continue to imagine our delight.
We tasted through our Sauv Blancs, dutifully noting grass and citrus, apples and lemon, asparagus and passion fruit. We chose not to spit.
Chef finally got the cheese part started. Placing a pound of fresh mozzarella curds in a metal bowl, he had his sous add two quarts of boiling, heavily salted water. The curds immediately began to wilt as he stirred until they formed a large gluey ball in the water. Wearing gloves, he began to twist small balloons off the ball, placing them on a plate. He invited the group to come up, put on gloves and twist their own balloons of mozzarella. Leon and I sipped our wine patiently.
And then the burrata began. To make burrata, you first make the stuffing, taking a quarter pound each of ricotta and mascarpone cheese and mixing them together in a large, nonreactive bowl. Then you add a half a pound of mozzarella cheese curds, enough heavy cream to smooth the mixture, olive oil to further the smooth, and salt and pepper to taste. It takes a lot of salt and pepper to make all of this white stuff pop.
Once thoroughly mixed, you make more fresh mozzarella. Only this time, chef pulled out a rolling pin and flattened the gluey ball into a sheet thin enough to see his stainless-steel table through. Cutting the sheet into fours, he mounded the cheese mixture onto each square and rolled them like egg rolls. Molti bene! Burrata.
The apple and grass notes faded miraculously when paired with all the lovely fat that a slice of burrata provides. We sipped and tasted. Leon held my hand. I leaned against his shoulder. The room grew louder as the rest of the group got drunk on a Saturday morning. The class was done.
We walked unsteadily home at 11am, clutching each other against fall's foul morning light. We sat briefly in the backyard. Leon disappeared into the house and reemerged clutching an excellent bottle of Pinot Noir. He smiled. His teeth glinted sharply in autumn's sloping yellow glow.
Imagine my delight.
Rosso Pizzeria, 53 Montgomery Drive, Santa Rosa (707.544.3221) and
151 Petaluma Blvd. S. (707.772.5177). To learn of upcoming cheese classes at Rosso, sign up for the email newsletter at www.rossopizzeria.com.