Ingredienti Italiani: Mozzarella
Starting this week, for La Piazza’s new “Ingredienti Italiani” series, I’ll be sharing brief notes on favorite Italian recipe ingredients–itemized and brought to you in totally random order. Annotations will duly include: bilingual names with phonetics, useful nutrition information, cooking tips, interesting facts of folklore and food history. The entries come laced with anecdotes and gastronomical trivia, and major topics receive extended treatment. The photos constitute food porn, so proceed at your own risk.
Mozzarella is a generic term for several kinds of fresh milk cheeses that are made by spinning and then cutting the cheese (the Italian verb mozzare means “to sever”). These are:
· Mozzarella di Bufala: made from water buffalo’s milk, which in Europe is sold as Mozzarella di Bufala Campana DOP, designation of origin status
· Fior di Latte: similar to but more solid and springy than regular mozzarella, fior di latte is made from pasteurized cow’s milk
· Low-moisture mozzarella: made from whole or lowfat milk, and widely used in the foodservice industry
· Smoked mozzarella: commonly known here as Provola Affumicata
Mozzarella fundamentalists insist the cheese must never be refrigerated. The rule is to keep it in a ventilated area of the pantry, shrouded with a gauze cloth and soaked in its whey. During summer I resist for a couple hours then I shove it in the top part of the fridge where the temperature is milder. Something about leaving fresh dairy out in the Roman summer heat of my otherwise ventilated kitchen freaks me out.
After a couple of days from making, the mozzarella’s structure starts to lose its original firmness. Then it is better employed in dishes cooked in the oven, like for example lasagna or added diced to wonderful pastas or soups.
When braided to form a plait, mozzarella is called treccia. There are recently also offered a number of variations, such as “stuffed mozzarella”, filled with olives, arugula or prosciutto, as well as cherry tomatoes. The most amazing stuffed mozzarella type is however the scrumptious Burrata from the Magna Graecian region of Puglia. But that’s another story…