Mozzarella cheese is a staple in the Italian kitchen. There are many varieties produced and each has a place in my kitchen.
The classic, low moisture, part-skim mozzarella bar or ball is a great, multi-purpose cheese used in lasagna, parmigiana and pizza. It is usually sliced or grated. This mozzarella is the type with the big stretch. It holds your lasagna together once it cools so you can slice beautiful square slices that don’t slide away! With less moisture content than fresh mozzarella it is great for thick or bread style pizza that takes longer to bake than thin crust pizza (the moisture from fresh mozzarella will make your crust soggy). It is also available in a skim milk variety. It is made from cow’s milk.
Fresh mozzarella, which is stored in brine, has a much higher moisture content, sometimes as high as 60%. It is great at room temperature in a salad or on it’s own, seasoned and drizzled with extra virgin olive oil. If it is cooked, it is best at really high temperatures for a short time, otherwise, the moisture will seep out. This is why it is successfully used on thin crust pizzas that are cooked in a very hot, wood-fired oven. For the home cook, if your oven doesn’t get over 500 degrees fahrenheit, you may not like the results on a thin crust pizza. The moisture will seep out and make your crust soggy before the crust is fully cooked. I would recommend the low moisture, part-skim mozzarella for this application.
Fresh mozzarella can be made from water buffalo’s milk, “Mozzarella di bufala”. This is the best, hands down! Buffalo milk is higher in fat and therefore makes a much richer mozzarella. Cow’s milk is used to produce “Fior di latte mozzarella” which is also delicious, but not as rich. “Bocconcini” will fall into the same category but they are even lower in milk fat therefore they have a much firmer texture and are not as rich. Fresh mozzarella is always sliced. A traditional, thin crust pizza in Italy will always have mozzarella di bufala.
When we visit Italy on my tours we visit small, artisanal cheese producers for a fresh mozzarella demonstration and tasting. Often generations of families have produced the same recipes for years. Enjoying these fresh cheeses within 24-48 hours of being produced, at room temperature, is the way Italians consume them. This is why when I am back in Canada I would rather use a fresher, domestic mozzarella than one imported from Italy, days, sometimes weeks ago. There are even Italian water buffalo that have been brought to Canada just to produce mozzarella di bufala! This cow’s milk, fresh mozzarella (pictured)was less than 24 hours old. We enjoyed it in a recent tour to Puglia. It was as beautiful as it was delicious!
All the variaties of mozzarella have a place in recipes and some will produce better results than others depending on the application. I hope this information will help you get in your own kitchen and bring homemade back…!
Ciao for now, Natalina