Mozzarella Cheese - Real Italian Pizza

This Italian cheese has long been associated with the pizza as a topping that is as essential as tomatoes. However, it was never an ingredient for traditional pizza as made in the Greek colony of Naples centuries ago, and it’s history is not a relatively long one. In fact it has been mentioned by name in cookbooks from the 16th century.

The name mozzarella comes from Southern Italy, and from the words "mozzare" which literally means to "cut off", and "mozza" which means "cut" and describes the method by which mozzarella is made. It is not actually one particular kind of cheese but applies to several kinds of Italian cheese made by spinning and cutting it. Made from either cows’ milk or buffalo milk, fresh mozzarella does not keep any longer than 24 hours. Of course we know that we can buy it today with a variety of stabilisers in it to last, refrigerated, for many days.

During production, as the old nursery rhyme reminds us, curds and heated whey are mixed in large sterilised containers. This thick mixture is then subject to stretching and kneading, almost like bread dough, to produce a uniform and delicate consistency. The cheese maker will keep doing this until a smooth, almost shiny, paste is achieved. The final part of production involves forming the mozzarella cheese into ball shapes or sometimes into a plait. Whilst we are more used to a rubbery consistency with our shop-bought mozzarella, made from pasteurised cows’ milk, when cooked on the pizza, the Italians would not tolerate this, preferring instead a much softer consistency.

As with many dishes originating from a particular place and culture, there is a proper way for doing things. Using fresh made mozzarella in Italian cooking is the only acceptable method in Italy, although for our fast food chains and for the sake of speed and ease we will no doubt continue to have rubbery mozzarella on our takeaway pizzas!

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