For this final project in my Kitchen Chemistry class, Amisha (my lab partner) and I really wanted to challenge ourselves, so we set the original goal of making fresh pasta. We collected a few recipes, but didn’t find anything we loved. Then, I saw a video of burrata pizza on Facebook at 2 a.m. one day, texted Amisha, and immediately started looking for burrata and pasta recipes. We found this recipe and fell in love.
For those who don’t know, burrata is a kind of mozzarella with a creamy filling known as stracciatella, made of curd and heavy cream. Farfalle is the Italian name for bowtie pasta, meaning “butterflies.” Melanzane grigliate just means “grilled eggplants.”
After our consultation with our professors, they said orecchiette would probably be too difficult to shape. We decided farfalle was an easier-to-shape alternative. We also wanted to make our burrata from scratch, because I hadn’t been completely satisfied when I had made mozzarella in the past. Because of the time consuming nature of both grilling eggplant for the sauce and making the cheese, we decided to make our pasta ahead of time and dry it so it would be ready to go for the final lab. In order to dry our pasta without it going bad, we decided to use this no-egg semolina flour recipe. For our burrata recipe, I adapted Dr. C’s mozzarella recipe and this burrata recipe for the filling and stretching techniques.
This is an advanced recipe because we are making the 3 distinct components of burrata cheese, fresh pasta, and the eggplant and sauce. The fresh pasta is also not something we’ve made before in class and the grilling of the eggplant is a new strategy. Below are some of the goals we had for this process.
- Burrata: shiny and opaque white outside and filling
- Farfalle: light-medium yellowish beige (due to semolina flour)
- Grilled Eggplant: slightly purple skin, golden brown on the exposed inside flesh, will hopefully have dark brown lines from grilling
- Burrata: Smooth, firm, and stretchy outer skin with thick and creamy filling that spills out when the burrata is cut
- Farfalle: al dente, slightly soft but firm to bite
- Eggplant: tender, slightly firm to bite, not too mushy, may be slightly crunchy from grilling
- Burrata: fresh and milky, subtly salty with a tangy inside
- Farfalle: wheaty (due to the semolina flour), should not taste overly doughy, like carbs
- Eggplant: smoky, spicy and garlicky (from the marination), savory and mildly acidic, with a little bit of heat
- Whole dish: spicy, smoky, and garlicky sauce and eggplant, with an olive flavor from oil, contrasting the fresh and tangy flavor of the burrata coating the pasta
I’ll list all the recipes below with our adaptations (of which there are many), then I’ll get into our process.
- 400g durum wheat semolina flour
- 1 pinch salt
- 220ml water or as needed, at room temperature
- Place the flour on a stainless steel working surface and make a well in the middle.
- Dissolve the salt in the water and pour it into the well, a little at the time, mixing it with the flour. Add as much water as needed to make a sticky but compact dough.
- Knead vigorously for about 10 minutes, stretching and folding the dough until it becomes elastic but not too soft.
- Wrap in cling film and let stand for 30 minutes at room temperature. Take 1/3 of the dough and wrap the remaining dough up to prevent drying.
- Roll the dough into a rough sheet on a liberally floured surface (use all-purpose flour), then fold the outer thirds to the center, turn 90 degrees, roll out again, and repeat twice more. Once thrice laminated, roll the dough into one rectangular-ish sheet, probably about ⅛-1/16 of an inch.
- Trim the sheet to an even rectangle and rub with more flour. Trim the rectangle into squares approximately 3cm a side.
- Push the sides of each piece towards the centre to shape a bow tie and secure with a little dab of water. Proceed the same way with the rest of the dough. With time, you’ll get faster. (I did.) Once ready, transfer to a floured surface and sprinkle with more flour.
- Do not overlap or they will stick. Let dry for about 30 minutes before cooking. If not using the farfalle right away, let stand at room temperature for 24 hours and then transfer to a paper bag.
- Check from time to time to make sure no mold develops, and use within a week. If the farfalle are a few days old and dry, cooking time is about 8 to 10 minutes. In any case, the best way to check is…to taste, as always when cooking pasta.
- 1/2 and 1/8 cup bottled (NOT TAP) distilled water
- 1/2 gallon milk, raw
- 3/4 tsp teaspoon citric acid
- 1/4 rennet tablet or 1/4 teaspoon liquid rennet (Not Junket rennet)
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- Prepare the Citric Acid and Rennet: Measure out 1/2 cup of distilled water. Stir in the citric acid until dissolved. Measure out 1/8 cup of distilled water in a separate bowl or cup. If you have a rennet tablet, place the piece of tablet in a piece of folded wax paper and crush with the flat side of your knife. Slide the powder into the water. Stir the rennet into the water until dissolved. It is normal to see brownish powder remaining.
- Warm the Milk: Pour 1/2 gallon milk into the pot. Stir in the citric acid solution. Set the pot over medium-high heat and warm to 90°F, stirring gently. Do not use raw milk if you are immunocompromised! Pasteurized milk will work, it will just take more care because the curds are likely to be grainy as opposed to the silky smooth texture of raw milk curds.
- Add the Rennet: Remove the pot from heat and gently stir in the rennet solution. SLOWLY Count to 30. Stop stirring, cover the pot, and let it sit undisturbed for 5 minutes. If you are using raw milk, it is important to top-stir it for several extra seconds when adding rennet. This mixes any butterfat that has risen to the surface back into the body of the milk. To top-stir, simply stir the top inch of milk with the bottom of a slotted spoon or skimmer.
- Cut the Curds: After five minutes, the milk should have set, and it should look and feel like soft silken tofu. If it is still liquidy, re-cover the pot and let it sit for another five minutes. Once the milk has set, cut it into uniform curds: make several parallel cuts vertically through the curds and then several parallel cuts horizontally, creating a grid-like pattern. Make sure your knife reaches all the way to the bottom of the pan.
- Cook the Curds: Place the pot back on the stove over medium heat and warm the curds to 105°F. Stir slowly as the curds warm, but try not to break them up too much. The curds will eventually clump together and separate more completely from the yellow whey. Make sure your thermometer is well submerged in the liquid (but not touching the bottom of the pot) so you get an accurate temperature reading.
- Remove the Curds from Heat and Stir: Remove the pan from the heat and continue stirring gently for another 5 minutes.
- Separate the Curds from the Whey: Strain the curds away from the whey using a wire-mesh strainer.
- Make the Stracciatella Filling: Remove one-quarter of the curds to a small bowl. Tear them into small pieces. Add the cream and 1/2 tsp. salt, combining the mixture with your fingers. Set aside. Transfer the remaining curds to a large bowl.
- Heat the Whey: Put the whey back into the pot, and heat until it reaches 190°F on a digital thermometer.
- Shape Your Cheese: Put the curds in a heat-safe bowl with 1 cup of distilled water. Add one cup of hot whey, wait two minutes, then stretch and fold the curd. Repeat this twice more before adding salt and beginning to shape your mozzarella into a thin disk. If your hands get too hot, run them under cold water before diving back in.
- Form Your Burrata Ball: Working quickly, gently form the stretched mozzarella into a disk 5 to 6 inches in diameter and about 1/4 inch thick. Place the disk in the palm of your hand. carefully spoon 2 to 3 Tbs. of the stracciatella filling into the center of the mozzarella disk, adding 2 to 3 Tbs. more cream from the bowl. Twist the ball to seal. Reserve some of the whey bath, where you will store the mozzarella and chill in the fridge until firm.
- Note: after Bon Appetit’s recent video about how to make the best mozzarella, I am questioning all my methods. Ours came out good, but not as milky as they described it should be. Check it out if you can at this link, because it blew my mind.
Put it all together now, y’all.
- 2 Italian eggplants, trimmed and halved lengthwise
- 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt
- 4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 2 teaspoons lemon zest
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 2 oregano sprigs, plus leaves for garnish
- 1 dried chile de árbol, crushed
- 1 pound farfalle pasta
- 3 oil-packed Calabrian chiles, drained and finely chopped
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Romano cheese, plus more for serving
- 1/2 pound burrata or buffalo mozzarella, torn into bite-size pieces (though not till the end)
- Chopped parsley, for garnish
- Heat a grill pan. Rub the eggplant with 1/4 cup of the olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
- Grill the eggplant over moderate heat, turning, until golden and tender, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board and let cool slightly.
- Cut into 3/4-inch pieces and transfer to a bowl. Add the lemon juice, vinegar and 1 teaspoon of the preserved lemon rind and mix well.
- In a small skillet, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil. Add the garlic, oregano sprigs and chile de árbol and cook over moderately low heat, stirring, until the garlic is fragrant and starts to brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the mixture to the eggplant and toss to evenly coat.
- In a large saucepan of salted boiling water, cook the farfalle until al dente. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the cooking water.
- Return the pasta and pasta water to the saucepan and add the eggplant and its marinade, the Calabrian chiles, the 1/2 cup of grated Romano and the remaining 1 teaspoon of preserved lemon rind. Season with salt and pepper and toss over moderately high heat until well combined and the pasta is saucy, about 2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and discard the oregano sprigs. Add the burrata, toss quickly and transfer to plates. Garnish with oregano leaves and chopped parsley and serve, passing grated Romano cheese at the table.
So as I mentioned in the intro, we decided to make and dry our pasta the week before the final lab in order to be able to give the cheese and eggplant our full attention. So during the practice session, I set up my well of semolina flour and slowly incorporated water.
I added a little bit too much water too quickly, and had to add more than my precisely measured 400g. I kneaded for a good 10 minutes then let it rest for 30. We made our pasta with water and semolina flour. The flour contains the proteins glutenin and gliadin, which we mechanically worked by kneading the flour and water to create a gluten matrix that made the dough very elastic. This is what will allow the pasta dough to be stretched, shaped, and cooked while maintaining structural integrity. We made sure to leave our dough sitting for about a half and hour so that it would settle and would not get overworked.
After the rest, I laminated the dough and rolled it out and cut in rectangles to make the farfalle shapes. As I went on, I found that smaller squares seemed more appropriate than the medium rectangles that the original recipe called for.
We then set all the farfalle up to dry in a makeshift rack, which didn’t work so well. When I came back the next week for the final lab, only the top rack was free of mold, so I was forced to make more dough before lab started.
I finished the fresh dough just as people started to enter the class, and because it still had to rest to avoid overworking the gluten, I knew our timeline would be messed up. As it rested, I started on the cheese and Amisha started on the eggplant.
My first time making the cheese, I tried to also form the pasta as the milk heated, so it curdled as I worked the dough. I had to discard the milk and start again.
As all this was going down, Amisha was working hard at grilling the eggplant.
One of the important steps of this part of the recipe is to grill the eggplant to create browning and more complexity of flavor. We do this using Maillard browning, which requires sugars from the breakdown of starches and amino acids from the breakdown of proteins. Both protein and starch are available from the eggplant, so when we grill it, the process begins. The sugar opens at the anomeric carbon, and the exposed carbonyl group of atoms interacts with the amino groups from the proteins in a dehydration reaction that bonds the sugar structure to the amino acid. Here the carbon from the carbonyl group bonds to the nitrogen of the amino group and the extra hydrogens and oxygen form a water molecule. This is rearranged to create the Amadori compound, which further breaks down at a heat of 250 degrees Fahrenheit to create large brown molecules that change the color of the eggplant and create grill marks and new aroma molecules. These aroma molecules are unique because they include the sulfur and nitrogen atoms that might have been present in the amino acid before it broke down, which gives the eggplant more depth of flavor.
I took another stab at the cheese, and though the curds were a little grainy, everything came together appropriately. To see some super satisfying cheese footage, make sure to watch the video at the end.
We used raw milk to make our burrata because cheese made with raw milk has more flavor and it makes better curds. The curds from pasteurized milk are often really grainy and don’t hold together very well due to the proteins that get denatured during the heating of the milk in the pasteurization process. To separate the whey, an acid soluble protein, from the casein, an acid insoluble protein that makes up the curds of the cheese we added acid to the milk. When milk is homogenized negatively charged casein proteins coat the surface of fat globules and repel negative charges on other fat globules. This keeps the milk stable. When making cheese you add acid to the milk to denature the proteins and have the casein clump together separate from the whey. Rennet is an enzyme used to coagulate milk, helping to form the thick curds required for cheesemaking. Rennet works best at higher temperatures, which is why we heated our milk to 90°F. Rennet can be purchased in a liquid, paste, or tablet form — we used a tablet, which has a longer shelf life, and crushed it up into a powder so it dissolved more easily in our milk. Rennet is traditionally found in the stomach of a calf or other baby animal, to help them digest the milk that makes up the majority of their diets.
Amisha had issues with getting the eggplant to cook all the way through, so she cut the pieces into smaller strips to let the heat penetrate faster.
This seemed to work, so she chopped the eggplants up and tossed them in the marinade she had created.
At this point, pretty much everyone had presented to the judges, and we were almost ready to go. We were having a real issue getting our water to boil though, and without our pasta and the starchy water, we couldn’t make any more progress with the dish at large.
We were able to finally cook the pasta, 8 minutes for the dried and 1 minute for the fresh, and pull together the sauce. I wasn’t totally happy with it because it felt like we didn’t get the chance to taste and adjust the recipe because it was the end of the period and the judges needed to get our group over with.
As for our goals, I mention some of them in the video, but we achieved all our color goals as well as both our eggplant and pasta goals for texture, with only a slight issue in the texture of the burrata filling. However, while we met our goals for flavor with the burrata and pasta, the taste of the sauce and dish overall left something to be desired. I would have preferred a little more lemon and a little more oil in the sauce, as well as less pasta water to brighten the dish.
All in all, I was exhausted at the end of this recipe and feeling a little unsatisfied with my work. I really wish we hadn’t come upon so many roadblocks, but it was definitely a learning experience. If I were to do this again, I would use boxed pasta, because that didn’t seem to make much of a difference. I would also grill and marinate the eggplant first to give the flavors some more time to get to know each other, then get to work on the burrata, so that I could give the cheese my full focus. I would definitely try to make this recipe again though, just to see if I could really be happy with it.