The Store-Bought Appetizer Your Guests Will Love More Than Anything Homemade

Two ingredients, no cooking—it's the perfect addition to a holiday gathering.

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burrata on plate
Photo: Katrinshine (Shutterstock)

This is the time of year when everyone heads home for the holidays, but also tries to cram in a quick visit with everyone else they can think of while they’re there. Consequently, you might receive an unexpected phone call and find yourself entertaining some last-minute guests. Surprise visitors aren’t always the easiest to accommodate, so you’ll want to choose some stress-free snacks that everyone can graze on. One of my all-time favorites, perfect for sharing with friends, only requires two ingredients with no cooking involved: burrata and extra virgin olive oil.

What is burrata?

Chances are you’ve encountered burrata as an appetizer option at an Italian restaurant—it’s a common and popular cheese dish. But I still find it fascinating, since there’s nothing else like it. Served as, essentially, a ball of cheese, burrata features an outer skin made of fresh mozzarella, wrapped around a center of cream mixed with thin shreds of mozzarella (aka stracciatella). Firm on the outside, gooey on the inside—basically it’s just a big ol’ cheese Gusher.

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Burrata is sold in tubs, either individually or in batches, with the knobs suspended in water. It’s good to check the tub before buying, making sure the water is translucent and not filled with a creamy mess; the latter would indicate that the burrata broke open, but this is rare.

What do you do with burrata?

To make the world’s best appetizer, simply take a ball of burrata and add a fat drizzle of good extra virgin olive oil on top. A quality olive oil, by the way, is well worth the initial splurge. I’m currently using Graza, which, although I received my initial bottle as a media sample, is relatively affordable at $35 for 1.25 liters; I plan to buy more when my current bottle runs out. The fancy extra virgin olive oil in your pantry isn’t meant to be cooked with, but rather used as a “finishing” oil, added for flavor and richness. You can add a drizzle of finishing oil to practically anything: salad, bread, meat, and even ice cream.

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After you drizzle it on a plate, you can sprinkle some finishing salt on top, whether it’s flaky sea salt or coarse kosher, and if you’re so inclined, you can add a crank of freshly cracked black pepper on top. But that’s it.

All you need to decide is what to pair it with. I recommend some slices of crusty bread, but any plain crackers, breadsticks, or toasts you have lying around will certainly work in a pinch. You want the burrata to be the star.

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How much does burrata cost?

Burrata isn’t terribly cheap, but sometimes that’s the price you pay for nice ingredients. At my local grocery store, it can be found near the fresh mozzarella, and one 8-oz. package can run anywhere between $5-$7.50. If you’ve got a Costco membership, you can find a much better deal than that, the caveat being that you have to purchase a larger quantity. There are worse problems to have than having too much burrata in your fridge.

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The holidays are here, and I say, bring on the unexpected guests! They’re the best excuse to stock up on some delicious cheese, and if you have any burrata left over after you bid your company goodnight, you’ve also got a pretty great candidate for a midnight snack.