Top Chef alum CJ Jacobson shows Food & Wine how to make hand-pulled stracciatella cheese at home.
CJ Jacobsen's Stracciatella
Credit: © Julia Heffelfinger

Stracciatella, the creamy fresh cheese that spills out when you slice into burrata, is the kind of decadent food that dreams are made of. It is soft, pillowy and incredibly versatile. Super-talented Top Chef alum CJ Jacobson recently stopped by the F&W Test Kitchen to show us how to make this magical cheese at home. Jacobson, who makes this hand-pulled stracciatella daily at his new Mediterranean restaurant in Chicago, Ema, also shared his favorite ways to serve the coveted cheese. Check out CJ's video demo above to see how it's done and then take a crack at making it yourself with the recipe below.

CJ Jacobsen's Stracciatella
Credit: © Julia Heffelfinger

Hand-Pulled Stracciatella
Makes about 4 cups
Use the best heavy cream you can buy for this recipe: The cream is what gives the stracciatella its amazing flavor and texture.

2 cups heavy cream
Kosher salt
1 pound of mozzarella curd, cut into 1-inch pieces (see Note)
3 gallons hot water (185 °F)

1. In a medium bowl, season the heavy cream with salt.
2. Transfer the curds to a large metal or glass bowl. Gradually ladle the hot water over the curd until it is covered. Let the curd sit until pliable, about 5 minutes.
3. Using a spatula, lightly press on the curds and form them into one piece of stretchy cheese, being careful not to overwork the mozzarella. The water will get cloudy as the whey is pressed out. As the water cools, pour some of the water out and add more hot water to heat up the cheese. Continue this process until the cheese is elastic.
4. When the cheese is warm and easy to pull, pinch off a 5-inch piece of the mozzarella and stretch it to about three feet. Pinch the ends of cheese together to form a loop and then fold the loop in half. Using two hands, begin pulling from the center of the stretched cheese to create long "strings."
5. Transfer the cheese “strings” to the seasoned cream and repeat with the remaining mozzarella curd, adding more hot water as needed.
6. Massage the cheese into the cream and let sit in the refrigerator for at least three hours.

MAKE AHEAD The stracciatella can be refrigerated for up to four days.
NOTE Mozzarella curd can be purchased at most specialty cheese shops, local dairies and online at Di Bruno Bros.

Ideas for serving:
- Serve with sliced heirloom tomatoes and a pile of fresh herbs. Drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil and flaky sea salt.
- Use as a bed for roasted vegetables like romanesco or carrots and then drizzle with honey and sprinkle with sea salt.
- Dollop on grilled asparagus, then garnish with olive oil, lemon zest, toasted almonds and flaky sea salt.
- Spoon onto grilled pizza with prosciutto and basil. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar.
- Smear on grilled bread and top with fresh figs and olive oil.
- Dollop on pasta with bolognese

For an inside-the-kitchen look at Chef CJ's recipe testing for Ema, follow him on Instagram at @bigceej

Ema: 74 W Illinois St.; Chicago;