The history of mozzarella is debatable, but delicious! As for who really made it first—we can’t be sure. Where was it made—Italy. How was it made—water buffalo. As to where the water buffalo came from in the first place and as to when they arrived to Italy…not a clue!
In fact, the water buffalo were discovered by the Italians at some point in the 12th century, simply wandering around abandoned farmland. They were new to the Italians and they were rare. Best yet, the Italians utilized them to create a new type of cheese. The same cheese that would go on (in a variation of recipes) to be the single most popular cheese in the United States; and one of the most popular cheeses to ever come out of Italy—Mozzarella.
Unfortunately, or fortunately, the recipe did have to evolve with the times. As the popularity of the cheese grew, so did the rarity of the water buffalo. By the time the recipe reached the United States in the 20th century, it has gone from being produced from water buffalo, to cows. A natural substitution, but certainly less efficient. It takes approximately 30% more cow milk, to produce the same amount of mozzarella than that of buffalo. Fortunately, you can still find the traditional recipe in some specialty stores and all over Italy; as over time they’ve increased their water buffalo population to maintain tradition.
Photo Credit: NoshOn.it
Milk type aside, there are several types of mozzarella: “Buffalo” Mozzarella, Bocconcini, and processed. Buffalo Mozzarella is the freshest and is made by stretching and kneading warm cow’s-milk cheese curds (buffalo in Italy) into large balls of of mozzarella cheese. They’re then packed in salt water or whey, and shipped to local specialty groceries. The biggest crowd pleaser of all the mozzarella’s and typically the most expensive, given it’s short shelf life. It should be soft, mild and tastes of fresh milk. Bocconcini, meaning “little bites” in Italian, are simply mini sized Buffalo Mozzarella balls, about the size of an egg. They originated in Naples and are often found marinated in oil and spices. Lastly, Processed Mozzarella, the most common of the three. It’s mozzarella that has been pressed, rather than stretched. This type of cheese is much drier (as much of the moisture is removed during pressing) and has an even milder taste. It can be found in blocks of cheese at almost any grocery store and is what we use for shredded mozzarella.
Photo Credit: WalksOfItaly.com
Now as to which version of mozzarella you prefer: buffalo, cow, fresh, or pressed—or how your like to eat it: freshly sliced on tomatoes, baked, or simply by itself—one thing is clear. We love it for #PizzaWeek! Not to say the nuttiness of Asiago, the smokiness of Gouda, or the savory aspects of Gruyère couldn’t make for one epic pizza, and have…but there’s something so natural and so right about topping a pizza with with fresh mozzarella. It’s mild and it’s milky. Always fresh and bakes like a dream. And who could argue that the best part of eating pizza isn’t the race to gather all the strings of ooey gooey melted goodness before someone else does?! It’s basic fact and I love it.