Americans eat a LOT of cheese. On average, approximately 35 lbs of cheese…Every year.
Of all that cheese, mozzarella edges out cheddar as the most consumed in this country… (Pizza Hut, Little Caesars and Domino’s, you can stand up and take a bow…)
However, due to the enormous production of the “processed,” partially dried “loaf” mozzarella used by most pizzerias across the U.S., and coupled with pizza’s overwhelming popularity in general, fresh mozzarella cheese has become the forgotten cousin of its more famous pizza relative. In fact, the use of fresh mozzarella on a pizza is almost a novelty nowadays; its main use is in salads, appetizers and cold food dishes.
(And as a side note, if you want to taste just how delicious fresh mozzarella can be on a pizza, stop by Nino’s and pick up one of our awesome Margarita Take n’ Bake pizzas available in both white and whole wheat crusts.)
Just what is fresh mozzarella?
Fresh mozzarella is, exactly as the name implies, fresh. It’s generally white, semi-soft, higher in moisture content and traditionally eaten (if not immediately) within a day or two of being made (whereas processed mozzarella can be stored for as long as six months).
Of the many cheeses we consume on a regular basis, mozzarella cheese is relatively easy to make. As a matter of fact, you can take mozzarella cheese from milk to finished product, ready to eat in less than one hour.
In Italy, the process of making mozzarella is called pasta filata, which means the curds are heated in water or whey and then stretched and kneaded until smooth. The soft cheese is finally formed into round balls and stored in a brine solution.
What does mozzarella taste like?
The tastes of the two mozzarellas are “somewhat” similar but the first thing one notices is the texture difference. Fresh mozzarella is, well…let’s say…spongy and tender. You’ll also notice that when fresh mozzarella melts, the cheese is creamier than the chewy/rubbery processed mozzarella, which some people prefer.
Are all fresh mozzarellas the same?
Traditionally, mozzarella was simply “Mozzarella di Bufala Campana” made from the milk of water buffalo raised in designated areas of Lazio and Campania, Italy. It’s believed that the idea of this cheese came from the Roman’s conquest on Egypt during Caesar’s rein, when Egyptian barges were pulled by water buffalo, and their milk used to make cheese for Cleopatra and her “minions. ” Mark Anthony’s passion for both resulted in subsequent gifts of water buffalo to Caesar in Rome, where they flourished (as did their cheese).
Which supposes a “6 degrees of separation” theory from Cleopatra to Chuck E. Cheese?
Today in Italy, this cheese holds the status of a protected designation of origin (PDO 1996) under the European Union.
As you might imagine, Mozzarella di Bufala Campana is more “robust” in flavor and more expensive than Fior di Latte (mozzarella made from cow’s milk).
Still, there is something for everyone’s tastes and budget.
If you’ve never tasted fresh mozzarella or if you’d like to try a couple of recipes, we have some. Below are links to two recipes people at Nino’s have enjoyed for years. We’re also adding two new recipes that we know you’ll want to try.
Nino’s Fresh Mozzarella Recipes!
Salvaggio’s Cobblestone Fresh Mozzarella Pavé
- 4 slices Salvaggio’s, Pepperoni Jalapeno Cobblestone Bread
- 8 oz. Fresh mozzarella (3” balls)
- 4 medium Roma tomatoes, sliced ¼”
- 3 tbsp. Roasted garlic cloves, chopped
- ¼ cup Fresh basil, shredded
- To taste Black pepper, freshly ground
- To garnish Dark balsamic crème
- Lightly toast bread and place on a non-stick cookie sheet.
- Arrange 4 slices of Roma tomato on each slice of bread, then top with chopped roasted garlic.
- Slice fresh mozzarella cheese in ¼” slices, then cut into quarters. Arrange cheese over tomato slices to just cover.
- Sprinkle black pepper over the cheese and bake in an oven pre-heated to 375 F until the cheese just melts.
- Remove from the oven, top with fresh basil and drizzle lightly with balsamic crème.
- Cut into quarters and serve warm.
Fresh Mozzarella with Grilled Asparagus & Lemon Pepper
- 8 oz. Fresh mozzarella (1” balls)
- 2 dozen spears Fresh asparagus
- 1 cup Grape tomatoes, halved
- 2 tbsp. Roasted garlic cloves, sliced
- ¼ cup Olive oil
- 2 tbsp. Lemon juice
- 2 tsp. Lemon pepper seasoning
- To taste Salt
- Trim bottoms from asparagus spears as needed, spray with vegetable oil and grill on medium-high heat until lightly charred. Chill spears and cut in 2” lengths on the bias.
- Add all ingredients to a medium-size mixing bowl and toss.
- Serve as a small salad or part of an antipasto tray.
What are your favorite ways to enjoy fresh mozzarella? Let us know in the comments below!