I like to think it was fate that led me to marry a man from Campania, which happens to be the birthplace of Mozzarella di Bufala, one of my absolute favorite Italian foods of all time. As I write this post, I sit here staring longingly at pictures of this exquisite cheese, daydreaming about its incredibly smooth, gleaming white exterior, and its soft, milky, rich interior.
Mozzarella di bufala is made from the milk of the female water buffalo, and is a traditional specialty from Campania (mainly Salerno and Caserta). It is made only from whole buffalo milk, and is rich in protein, calcium and fat, making it extremely delicious. Its traditional preparation is explained by mozzarelladibufala.org:
The milk is brought in, curdled, then drained to eliminate the whey. After this the curd is cut into small pieces, then ground up in a sort of primitive mill. At this point, reduced to crumbles, the curd is put into a mold and immersed in hot water, where it is stirred until it takes on a rubbery texture. The cheesemaker kneads it with his hands, like a baker making bread, until he obtains a smooth, shiny paste, a strand of which he pulls out and lops off, forming the individual mozzarella (“mozzare” in Italian in fact means to lop off). These in turn are put into cold water and then to soak in brine.
There are many types of mozzarellas floating around supermarkets back home in the USA (and even here in Italy) that are made from cow’s milk, which does not have the same flavor or quality. I can’t stress enough to people back home that what they are eating is not “real” mozzarella. Get that dry, rubbery, eraser-like hunk of cheese away from me! Living here as turned me into a mozzarella snob. For example, I know that the stuff they sell at supermarkets here in Italy, although labeled “mozzarella di bufala”, are either not produced authentically or aren’t fresh. I can tell right after I open the package, pour the water out, and slice one open. I know the texture it has to have, the aroma (very distinct odor of milk enzymes – it hypnotizes me), and of course the taste. When in Italy, you shouldn’t even be buying your mozzarella at the grocery store. No way. You have to go to a specialty shop, a caseficio, where they receive imported mozzarella from the South. Delivery trucks drive back and forth daily to replenish the North. This is serious business.
Also, mozzarella must be eaten when its at room temperature, not cold or hot! Don’t even drizzle olive oil on it (unless you are making a caprese salad), and don’t ever add salt. It’s eaten as is, with maybe some tomatoes, bread or prosciutto crudo on the side. If it were up to me, I’d take a bowl of bocconcini (bite sized mozzarella balls) and eat them like popcorn…but this would probably be frowned upon here.
Mozzarella di bufala has the EU’s Protected designation of origin (DOP in Italian) status, so it can’t be replicated and sold by its official name Mozzarella di Bufala Campana unless its the real deal (See my post: Focaccia di Recco). Once, at Costco, I saw a plastic container labeled “mozzarella di bufala” that said it was produced in Campania. My hopes are low, but when I’m in California and need a mozzarella fix, I may try it anyway. Because a life without anything that even resembles mozzarella di bufala would be a sad life.
Main photo: Youssef Amaaou
All others were taken by me unless otherwise credited.