Mozzarella belongs to a group of cheeses known as formaggi a pasta filata. The “true” version begins with milk from the water buffalo. The highest production remains in and around Naples. Both Italy and Denmark produce exceptional cheeses in this family.
Mozzarella is second only to Cheddar in usage. Cow’s milk is typically used for Americanized versions to meet high demand. It is naturally low in fat when made from partial or skim milk. Texture is stringy.
String cheese, blocks, sliced, or pre-shredded are readily available at supermarkets. Commercial products will not have the high-moisture content of fresh cheeses.
At specialty markets, you may also find:
- Treccia Puglieses Affumicata, which is smoked and firm
- Bocconcini; made into bite-sized balls; perfect for salads and easy to slice
- Mozzarella rolls filled with a variety of ingredients
Mozzarella is also produced from a combination of cow and goat milk. Buffalo milk varieties may be imported from South America as well as Italy. Regionally named versions include Occhi di bufala (buffalo eyes) and Uova di bufala (buffalo eggs).
Choose packaged mozzarella according to the “sell by” date – the farther out the better. For fresh mozzarella, look for elasticity; not too hard or too soft. Some beading of the milk or whey is natural.
Fresh varieties are kept in a brine or water bath. This will protect the cheese for one or two days, which is the average timeframe for consumption.
Commercial products will remain fresh for about four weeks.
Pre-shred packages can be frozen if double-wrapped, but some flavor and consistency may be lost. In fact, shredded cheeses, although convenient, have a cellulose coating. They may not meet the standards you expect in recipes that use toppings.
Mozzarella is probably the most popular pizza topping. It has a wide range of other uses, including gourmet toppings for sandwiches. Just slice and fry briefly in a skillet first.
Fresh or salted varieties are best for inclusion on cheese platters. Fresh mozzarella may not be suitable for some cooked dishe