Mozzarella hails from Southern Italy, where it cozied up to pizza. Originally, it was made from the milk of water buffalo, which has a higher fat content than cow’s milk. Mozzarella di Bufala is still favored by gourmets. Mozzarella fior di latte is the more economical cow’s milk version. Both of these mild, fresh cheeses are soft and high in moisture, best eaten within days of production. Low-moisture mozzarella, the dense cheese sold in blocks and grated for commercial pizza, was invented in the United States to extend shelf life and accommodate long-distance distribution.
Fresh mozzarella is a feature of insalata caprese, the popular salad of tomatoes, basil and olive oil. Because it melts well, it’s a common addition to baked pastas. Fresh mozzarella is now widely available, but a heightened interest in the food arts has many cooks producing it at home. Armed with a gallon of milk, a microwave, a thermometer, and a few cents worth of rennet and citric acid (available on-line or from cheese-making supply houses), you can participate in a bit of bacterial wizardry. In literally half an hour, you can call yourself a cheese maker.
—By Jo Marshall, a food writer in Deephaven, Minn.