Mozzarella di bufaia is the original mozzarella and is delicious served as is. It is sweet in flavour and soft in texture but does not melt as well as cow’s mozzarella. Cow’s milk mozzarella is the one to use for cooking. It has a very mild, creamy and faintly sour flavour and melts beautifully, making it ideal for pizzas. Mozzarella can also be made with goat’s milk, which is a little sharper in taste and is not such a popular choice.
Mozzarella is produced as a semi-soft, fresh cheese or a firm block of cheese made with low-or non-fat milk. The fresh cheese is the ultimate choice for home-made pizzas but it is important to make sure you drain and dry it well to remove as much excess moisture as possible. Fresh mozzarella balls are usually packaged in water or, alternatively, brine or whey, to preserve freshness. Fresh mozzarella is mild in flavour, soft and very pliable. The longer mozzarella ages the softer and sourer it becomes. In all our recipes we have used fresh mozzarella balls unless otherwise specified.
Mozzarella can also be found in other forms:
Block mozzarella – block mozzarella is lower in moisture than fresh mozzarella and is often the preferred choice for many commercial pizza makers. In America, as many as 90 per cent of all commercial pizza makers will use block mozzarella. It is lower in fat and consequently not as flavoursome as fresh mozzarella.
Bocconcini – small mozzarella balls usually about 2.5cm (1 in) in diameter.
Mozzarella affumicata – affumicato means smoked in Italian. This cheese is lightly smoked over wood chips and is darker in colour than normal mozzarella.
Mozzarella scamorza – this mozzarella has been heavily smoked, usually over pecan shells, and is much darker in colour and denser in texture.
Mozzarella pearls – tiny balls of mozzarella, which are about 1.5cm (5/8m) in diameter. They are available from some supermarkets but if you can’t find them then a large mozzarella ball cut into cubes does exactly the same thing.
Mozzarella can be wrapped in plastic food wrap and frozen for up to 3 months. Frozen mozzarella does decrease in flavour and may become moister in texture. Before serving or cooking allow the cheese to defrost in the fridge before removing and warming to room temperature. Fresh mozzarella usually keeps for up to 2 weeks in the fridge.
When buying Parmesan cheese always look for the words Parmigiano Reggiano for authenticity and quality. Never buy pre-grated or shaved Parmesan in tubs. It is important to keep your Parmesan from drying out so always buy a freshly cut piece and grate only when needed. Parmesan cheese is rich and round in flavour and has the ability to melt with heat and become inseparable from the ingredients to which it is joined. To store your Parmesan for longer than 2-3 weeks divide it into pieces, each with a piece of rind still attached, and wrap tightly in greaseproof paper, then in heavy-duty aluminium foil. Store on the bottom shelf of the fridge.
The Italian word for sheep is Pecora. hence all cheese made from sheep’s milk is called pecorino. There are dozens of pecorinos available: some are soft and fresh while others are crumbly and sharp, more like a Parmesan.
Fontina is a semi-hard cheese with a creamy texture and subtle nutty flavour. It is a very useful cheese for cooking as it has good melting properties, making it a popular choice in fondues and pizzas. Fontina is made from unpasteurized cow’s milk from the grazing cows of the Val d’Aosta alpine region of Italy.
The word ricotta literally means “recooked” in Italian. It is made from the way of other cheeses that are cooked again to make a milky white, soft, granular and mild tasting cheese. Ricotta does not melt
Gruyere is a firm cheese with a nutty flavour. It works best when finely grat
A semi-firm to hard Italian cheese with a nutty, sharp flavour that is mainly used for grating. Asiago was traditionally made with sheep’s milk, but it is now more commonly made with cow’s milk.
Havarti is a mild, semi-soft Danish cheese with small irregular holes.
Monterey Jack is a type of Cheddar-style cheese first made in California using pasteurized cow’s milk. It is commonly sold by itself or mixed with Colby to make a marbled cheese known as Colby-Jack (or Co-Jack).
Choose a mature Cheddar for the best flavour and always great for use on pizza to get a more even melt.
This is a southern Italian cheese that is pale yellow in colour, with a smooth texture. Milder, fresh provolone can be eaten on its own, although once aged it is generally used in cooking.
Gorgonzola is a mild and creamy blue-veined cheese. Choose dolcelatte if you prefer a creamier, milder soft blue cheese.
Taleggio is a semi-soft cheese made from whole cow’s milk. Its flavour can range from mild to pungent, depending on its age. When young, the colour of taleggio is pale yellow. As it ages it darkens to deep yellow and becomes rather runny. Taleggio is sold in blocks and is covered either with a wax coating or a thin mould.
Mascarpone is a soft, unripened cheese that belongs to the cream chees family. It comes from northern Italy and is a thick, rich, sweet and velvety, ivory-coloured cheese produced from cow’s milk that has the texture of sour cream. It is sold in plastic tubs and can be found in most delicatessens and good supermarkets.