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Mozzarella, the most widely consumed fresh cheese in Italy, is a typical Italian product loved by young and old people and known worldwide for its deliciousness.
It is a fresh pasta filata cheese. This means that it is prepared through a special processing that makes its texture tender and stringy. Its characteristic feature is that it has a delicate flavor, and it is a beloved food in Italian and international cuisine.
It has a fascinating history; its name refers to the verb “mozzare”, which is the cut that the dairy artisan makes by hand cutting the spun paste to form mozzarella. It has ancient origins: some say this cheese may even date back to the time of the Roman Empire. The Romans are thought to have started making a primitive form of mozzarella using cow’s milk.
Others believe it was invented by monks at the monastery of San Lorenzo, Capua, in southern Italy during the 12th century. This cheese is first mentioned In 1570, in the cookbook of Bartolomeo Scappi, the cook of the papal court. This delicacy quickly spread to the surrounding region because of its unique qualities. Today, mozzarella is produced throughout the country, but in southern regions such as Campania, Puglia and Calabria, you find the excellence of “Made in Italy” cuisine.
Fun facts about mozzarella
This cheese is a key ingredient in many Italian recipes. Some examples include “mozzarella in carrozza”, a fried dish with mozzarella between two slices of bread; the famous “caprese salad”, consisting of mozzarella, tomatoes and basil; pizza, in which mozzarella is the undisputed star; and “supplì”, tasty breaded and fried rice balls filled with mozzarella cheese typical of Rome. These are just a few examples of how mozzarella enriches Italian cuisine. Mozzarella’s versatility has also created unusual pairings that have been very successful. Try it with fruit, particularly grapefruit and strawberries, or with anchovies and raw shrimp.
Mozzarella is featured in several films, which have celebrated this Italian culinary excellence. In “Mozzarella Stories (2011)“, the screenplay makes mozzarella the real star of the comedy. In a scene from the film “Bicycle Thieves (1948)”, the main character and his son eat a stringy mozzarella in carrozza. In the film “Welcome to the South (2010)”, the Zizzona di Battipaglia is extolled, which increased its sales during its appearance on the big screen. These films helped spread the love for mozzarella all over the world. In the field of fashion, mozzarella di Bufala Campana PDO was chosen as a symbol of Italian excellence for the fashion show of a major brand and also appeared as a course on the menu offered to the evening’s guests.
Internationally renowned chefs, such as Gordon Ramsay, have made mozzarella known worldwide through their passion for Italian cuisine. Their gourmet creations and appearances on television programs have made this cheese a globally famous ingredient. In fact, there is no shortage of foreign imitations. In China, you can find “Fresh Buffalo Mozzarella”, in Japan “Mumu Mozzarella” with the CDO Tokyo brand, in Hungary “Mozzarella Italia”, and in Thailand “Murrah Mozzarella”.
In this article, we will further explore the curiosity and versatility of this string cheese. Finding out how to make mozzarella, a product that has won people’s hearts and palates. 👇
Types of mozzarella
There are different types of mozzarella in Italy, each with its own distinctive characteristics. Here are some of the main ones:
- Mozzarella di Gioia del Colle PDO: Pasta filata mozzarella produced in the town of Gioia del Colle, Apulia. It is recognized as a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) product and is produced using cow’s milk. The transformation process follows the traditional serum-innesto technique, with coagulation achieved by the addition of calf rennet. Its flavor is sweeter and more delicate.
- Traditional Mozzarella TSG (Traditional Specialty Guaranteed): this is the traditional mozzarella, made from cow’s milk, produced in different regions of Italy. In its production, milk coagulation can be achieved through different methods, including the addition of animal rennet or vegetable rennet. It too follows strict quality standards and is highly valued for its freshness and softness.
- Mozzarella di Bufala Campana PDO: It is made from buffalo milk mainly in the region of Campania, and recognized as PDO. Half as much milk as cow’s mozzarella is needed to make this cheese. It has an unmistakable savory and slightly acidic taste and has a creamier texture than traditional mozzarella.
- Sheep’s milk mozzarella: Less common than the other varieties, this mozzarella is made from sheep’s milk. Sheep’s milk is distinguished by its superior nutritional richness compared to other types of milk. Sheep’s mozzarella, especially Sardinian mozzarella, is an artisanal delicacy produced mainly in the province of Cagliari. It has a more intense flavor and a different texture than mozzarella made from cow’s milk.
A typical Italian product that can be confused with mozzarella is burrata: a stringy cheese filled with fresh cream or ricotta and stracciatella. It is native to Southern Italy, particularly the regions of Puglia and Basilicata. Characteristic of burrata is its creamy texture and rich, milky flavor. This cheese can be eaten plain or seasoned with pepper and salt, great served with salad and tomatoes, very tasty when served on a slice of toast.
The differences between mozzarella and fiordilatte can be subtle but significant:
- Mozzarella: is a type of string cheese that can be made from different types of milk, including cow’s, buffalo or sheep’s milk. Mozzarella is known for its stringy texture and mild flavor. The milk is curdled with the addition of rennet (usually animal) or vegetable rennet. This is then processed, heated and spun to make mozzarella. This process gives it its typical stringy texture.
Among the most common varieties of shapes are bocconcini, small mozzarella balls ideal for caprese salads and skewers; the “treccia” (“braid”), a traditional braided shape that adds a rustic touch to any dish; the “nodini”, which are small cylinders of mozzarella cheese perfect for a quick snack; zizzona di Battipaglia, a PDO buffalo mozzarella from Campania that is generously shaped (with a minimum weight of 1 kg) and has a unique flavor; and figliata, filled with many small bites of mozzarella and cream, a fresh and light variant perfect for salads and sandwiches.
- Fiordilatte: the main feature is the use of fresh, unfermented cow’s milk. The processing of fiordilatte is simpler than traditional mozzarella. The milk is curdled and heated, but it does not undergo the spinning process like mozzarella. As a result, fiordilatte has a softer and less stringy texture.
It is important to note that PDO designations guarantee the origin and quality of products, but within these categories, there are variations due to production techniques specific to each region. In short, the variety of mozzarellas in Italy is rich and varied, with differences in both the type of milk used and processing, leading to a wide range of textures and flavors to satisfy all palates.
It is worth noting that although mozzarella is widely available in stores, is produced by artisanal dairies and industrial companies, there is nothing comparable to the satisfaction of making mozzarella at home. Although the process takes time and some manual skill, it is a unique culinary experience that everyone can enjoy. 😉
How to make fresh mozzarella cheese?
Let’s now look at the ingredients, utensils, and procedures you will need to follow in the recipe for mozzarella making, which I will outline in the next section.
- Unpasteurized or pasteurized milk (avoid ultra-pasteurized milk, it can present difficulties in curd formation and negatively affect the flavor and texture of homemade cheese).
- Rennet (can be of vegetable or animal origin). It is available in solid form, as a dried or freeze-dried powder, or in liquid form, and is widely available at some well-stocked pharmacies or dairies.
Tools needed: kitchen thermometer, ladle, large pot, strainer, containers for storing mozzarella.
Procedure and timings: follow these steps and their timings for making mozzarella at home:
- Milk coagulation: heat milk to a temperature of about 32-35 degrees Celsius. Add rennet following the instructions on the package and let it sit for 30-40 minutes. This is the time when the milk coagulates and becomes curd. The acidity during this stage is critical for good curd.
- Curd breaking: after coagulation, cut the curd into walnut-sized pieces. This will help separate the whey from the cheese. This step takes about 5-10 minutes.
- Curd ripening: cover the curd and let it rest for about 2-3 hours. This stage is important for the mozzarella cheese flavor to develop.
- Spinning: gently heat the curds and whey to a temperature of 54-57 degrees Celsius. Stir constantly until the curd becomes stringy; this will take about 20-30 minutes. The right temperature and consistency are critical for proper spinning.
- Shaping (mozzatura): form the mozzarella into balls or other desired shapes when the curd is stringy.
- Salting: add a little salt to mozzarella and let it cool in cold water to stop cooking.
- Packaging: store mozzarella in its whey or in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
Homemade mozzarella recipe
- 1 liter of milk (preferably not ultra-pasteurized)
- 2.5 ml rennet (vegetable or animal)
- 5 g salt
- 250 ml water
Procedure to make your own mozzarella:
- Heat the milk to 32-35 °C in a large pot.
- Add the rennet and let it sit for 30-40 minutes until a solid curd is obtained.
- Cut the curd into walnut-like pieces and let it rest for 2-3 hours.
- Heat the curd and whey to 54-57 °C, stirring constantly until the curd becomes stringy.
- Shape the mozzarella into balls or other desired shapes.
- Add salt to mozzarella and let it cool in cold water.
- Store mozzarella in its liquid or in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 2-3 days.
As for storage, homemade mozzarella can be consumed fresh in the first few days. To regenerate it before consumption, soak it in warm water to soften it slightly. Keep in mind that mozzarella does not keep well in the freezer.
Finally, for vegetarians, you can use vegetable rennet or citric acid to make mozzarella at home. For vegans, there are vegan variants of mozzarella that use plant-based ingredients and do not contain animal milk or rennet such as: cashew, almond, soy or coconut milk.
Main events dedicated to mozzarella cheese
Now that you know the mozzarella recipe, you should know that there are several festivals in Italy that celebrate the culinary culture associated with this delicious cheese. Here is a short list on the most important events:
- Bufala Fest in Naples: Bufala Fest in Naples is an event dedicated to mozzarella di bufala campana PDO, held in August and September. It offers not only mozzarella tastings but also performances, culinary events and the opportunity to discover the traditions related to the production of this cheese. It is an opportunity to explore the food and wine culture of Campania.
- Dairy Festivals: many small towns and municipalities in Italy host so-called “Dairy Festivals”. These events focus on the production of cheese, including mozzarella, and offer tastings, workshops and hands-on demonstrations on cheese making.
- Culinary events and food festivals: in addition to specific events dedicated to mozzarella, many food fairs and culinary festivals in Italy include mozzarella among their protagonists. These events offer the opportunity to enjoy traditional and creative mozzarella dishes prepared by local and international chefs.
- Dairy tours: in some regions of Italy, it is possible to participate in guided tours of the dairies where mozzarella is produced. These experiences allow you to observe the production process live and taste freshly prepared mozzarella.
These events provide a comprehensive overview of mozzarella culture in Italy and are a unique opportunity to discover the different varieties and traditions associated with this fresh cheese.
Now you know all about how to make mozzarella, try making it at home! Enjoy your meal and happy mozzarella discovery journey with Italia Delight.
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