What Is Mozzarella Cheese and What Is It Made From?

Buffalo milk mozzarella with pesto of dry tomatoes and cashew nut
Luca Nebuloni/Flickr

Question: What is mozzarella cheese? What is mozzarella made from?

True mozzarella cheese is made from water buffalo milk

Answer: Mozzarella cheese is a sliceable curd cheese originating in Italy. Traditional mozzarella is made from water buffalo (not North American buffalo or bison as many mistakenly think) milk, and its flavor is highly prized. Water buffalo milk is three times more expensive than cow's milk and is costly to ship, so expect a corresponding high price tag on imported buffalo mozzarella.

Since these animals are herded in only a few countries, primarily Italy and Bulgaria, most mozzarella is now made from cow's milk. Water buffalo milk is very high in fat and cassein and not easily digestible in its raw form. As such, it is used exclusively for making mozzarella and not as a beverage. Mozzarella contains 40 to 45 percent fat, although there are now lower fat, skim versions available.

This cheese is not aged like most cheeses and is actually best when eaten within hours of its making. The process of making mozzarella is called pasta filata, which means the curds are heated in water or whey until they form strings (hence the term "string cheese") and become elastic in texture. The curds are stretched, kneaded until smooth, and then formed into round balls to make fresh mozzarella cheese.

It is easy to make homemade mozzarella cheese, and it can be used in a variety of recipes, including salads, meats, poultry, seafood, and vegetables.

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