What is Mozzarella? The Milky Delight at the Heart of Italian Cuisine


Welcome to our ultimate guide to Mozzarella, the star of Italian cuisine and the heart of countless mouthwatering dishes around the world. From its humble beginnings in Southern Italy to its current status as a global culinary staple, the journey of Mozzarella is a fascinating tale of tradition, innovation, and gastronomical delight.

In this guide, we’ll delve into everything you need to know about Mozzarella. We’ll explore its rich history, the traditional process of making it, and the many different types that exist. We’ll also share some insider tips on how to choose the best Mozzarella, how to store it properly, and how to use it in your cooking to create truly irresistible dishes.

Quick Facts About Mozzarella

Milk SourceTraditionally from Italian Mediterranean buffalo, but also made from cow’s milk
TextureSemi-soft, elastic
FlavorMild, milky
Aging ProcessFresh cheese, usually consumed within few hours to a few days of production
Protected Designation of OriginMozzarella di Bufala Campana has been registered as a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) under EU law since 1996. Fior di latte (made from cow’s milk) is not under PDO protection
Historical OriginsThe production of mozzarella dates back to at least the 12th Century in Capua and the 16th Century in Naples in the Campania region of Italy
UsesPizza, caprese salad, pasta dishes, served with tomatoes and basil

What is Mozzarella?

What is Mozzarella?

Mozzarella is a traditional southern Italian cheese made from the milk of water buffalos or cows. Known for its soft, moist texture and mild yet tangy taste, it has become one of the most popular cheeses worldwide.

The production process of Mozzarella is quite unique. It involves a technique called pasta filata, which translates to “spun paste.” The curd is heated in warm whey until it becomes elastic. It’s then kneaded and pulled to develop its characteristic stretchy texture. Once the desired consistency is achieved, the cheese is shaped into balls, often by hand, and then stored in brine or whey to maintain its moisture and softness.

One of the defining characteristics of Mozzarella is its high moisture content, which gives the cheese its soft, creamy texture. When heated, it melts beautifully, making it a staple ingredient in dishes like pizza and lasagna. But it’s not just limited to hot dishes; fresh Mozzarella is also fantastic in cold salads, paired with tomatoes and basil for a classic Caprese salad.

Mozzarella is a nutritious food, providing a good source of protein and calcium. However, its fat content can be high, particularly in versions made from whole milk, so moderation is key.

There are several types of Mozzarella, including Mozzarella di Bufala (made from buffalo milk and known for its rich and creamy flavor), Fior di Latte (made from cow’s milk), and Burrata (a fresh Italian cheese that contains a creamy center).

What Does Mozzarella Taste Like?

Mozzarella cheese has a subtle, mild flavor that can be described as slightly tangy and milky. It’s not overly salty or sharp like some other cheeses, making it a perfect complement to stronger flavors in various dishes.

The taste of Mozzarella is often influenced by its freshness. Fresh Mozzarella, which is typically stored in brine, whey, or water, has a clean, slightly sweet, and tangy taste with a hint of lactic flavor. It also has a creamy, delicate texture that’s quite different from the semi-soft, slightly rubbery texture of low-moisture Mozzarella.

Low-moisture Mozzarella, the type often used on pizza, has a denser texture and a more pronounced flavor due to the longer aging process. When melted, it becomes stretchy and gooey with a mild, creamy, and slightly salty taste.

Mozzarella made from buffalo milk, known as Mozzarella di Bufala, has a richer flavor and creamier texture compared to the cow’s milk variety. It offers a subtle sweetness balanced by a tangy finish.

Overall, the taste of Mozzarella is understated and versatile, allowing it to blend well with a wide array of ingredients without overpowering them.

Mozzarella Tasting Notes

  • Texture: Fresh Mozzarella is soft, moist, and creamy with a slightly elastic feel. Low-moisture Mozzarella is semi-soft and firm but becomes stretchy when melted.
  • Color: Fresh Mozzarella is bright white, while low-moisture Mozzarella can range from white to light yellow depending on the type of milk used and the aging process.
  • Aroma: The aroma is mild, often reminiscent of fresh milk or cream. There’s usually no strong smell unless it’s aged or smoked Mozzarella.
  • Taste: Mozzarella has a delicate, milky flavor with a slight tanginess. The saltiness varies depending on whether it’s stored in brine or not. Mozzarella di Bufala tends to have a richer, creamier taste with a subtle sweetness.
  • Aftertaste: The aftertaste is generally clean and fresh, with a lingering creaminess.
  • Mouthfeel: Fresh Mozzarella has a high moisture content, giving it a creamy, smooth texture. Low-moisture Mozzarella is denser and firmer but becomes gooey when melted.
  • Variations: Mozzarella di Bufala has a more robust flavor profile compared to regular Mozzarella. Smoked Mozzarella has a distinct smoky flavor that adds depth to its mild taste.
  • Pairings: Mozzarella pairs well with tomatoes, basil, and olive oil in a Caprese salad. It’s also excellent with cured meats, olives, and crusty bread. On the sweeter side, it can be served with peaches or melon. Its melting qualities make it a star in hot dishes like pizza, lasagna, and baked pasta.

What are the 7 Different Types of Mozzarella?

Mozzarella TypeDescription
Mozzarella di BufalaMade from buffalo milk, it’s creamy and slightly tangy. Ideal for salads or eaten alone.
Fior di LatteMade from cow’s milk, it’s firm and mild. Commonly used in cooking, particularly pizza.
BurrataA mix of mozzarella and cream. The outer shell is solid mozzarella, while the inside is soft. Typically served fresh.
Low-Moisture MozzarellaUndergoes longer drying process, resulting in firmer texture and longer shelf life. Widely used in American-style pizzas.
Smoked Mozzarella (Mozzarella Affumicata)Smoked version of mozzarella with a distinctive smoky flavor. Adds a unique taste to dishes.
BocconciniSmall balls of mozzarella, often used in salads or appetizers.
CiliegineBite-sized mozzarella balls, perfect for snacking or adding to salads.

Mozzarella is a versatile cheese that comes in various types, each with its unique characteristics and uses.

Must read: 12 Different Types of Mozzarella: From Creamy to Crisp

Here are some of the most popular types of Mozzarella:

1. Mozzarella di Bufala:

Mozzarella di Bufala

This is the original form of Mozzarella, made from the milk of water buffaloes in the Campania region of Italy. It has a creamy texture and a slightly tangy flavor. Mozzarella di Bufala is often used in salads or eaten on its own.

2. Fior di Latte:


This type of Mozzarella is made from cow’s milk, which is more widely available than buffalo milk. Fior di Latte has a firm texture and a mild flavor. It’s commonly used in cooking, especially on pizza.

3. Burrata:


A relative of Mozzarella, Burrata is a fresh Italian cheese made from Mozzarella and cream. The outer shell is solid Mozzarella, while the inside contains stracciatella and cream, giving it an unusually soft texture. Burrata is typically served fresh, often with tomatoes and basil.

4. Low-Moisture Mozzarella:

Low-Moisture Mozzarella

This variant undergoes a longer drying process, resulting in a cheese with lower water content. It has a firmer texture and a longer shelf life than fresh Mozzarella. Low-moisture Mozzarella is widely used in the food industry, particularly in American-style pizzas.

5. Smoked Mozzarella (Mozzarella Affumicata):

Smoked Mozzarella (Mozzarella Affumicata)

As the name suggests, this Mozzarella is smoked, giving it a distinctive smoky flavor. It can be used in a variety of dishes to add a unique taste.

6. Bocconcini:


These are small balls of Mozzarella, about the size of an egg. Bocconcini are usually used in salads or appetizers, often paired with cherry tomatoes and fresh basil.

7. Ciliegine:


Similar to Bocconcini but smaller, Ciliegine (“little cherries” in Italian) are bite-sized balls of Mozzarella that are perfect for snacking or adding to salads.

Each type of Mozzarella brings something unique to the table, making it a versatile ingredient in a wide range of dishes. Whether you prefer the creamy richness of Mozzarella di Bufala, the mild versatility of Fior di Latte, or the smoky depth of Mozzarella Affumicata, there’s a Mozzarella to suit every palate.

How to Choose the Best Mozzarella

1. Understand the Types:

As we’ve discussed earlier, there are several types of Mozzarella, each with its own characteristics.

For instance, if you’re making a classic Margherita pizza, you might want to go for Fior di Latte or low-moisture Mozzarella.

But if you’re preparing a Caprese salad, you may prefer the creaminess of Mozzarella di Bufala.

2. Check the Freshness:

Fresh Mozzarella should have a milky, light aroma. Avoid any cheese that has an overly sour smell or appears dry, as this could indicate it’s past its prime.

3. Look at the Packaging:

If you’re buying pre-packaged Mozzarella, make sure it’s in a well-sealed package with some liquid (whey or water). This liquid helps keep the cheese fresh and moist.

4. Consider the Texture:

The texture of Mozzarella can tell you a lot about its quality. High-quality fresh Mozzarella should be soft but firm, and when sliced, it should release a bit of milky whey.

5. Taste it:

If possible, taste the Mozzarella before buying. It should taste clean and milky, with a slight hint of tanginess.

6. Buy from a Reputable Source:

Whether it’s a trusted local cheese shop, a good supermarket, or a reliable online vendor, make sure you’re buying from a source that knows how to handle and store cheese properly.

How to Store Mozzarella Properly

How to Store Mozzarella ProperlyInstructions
RefrigerationStore in the refrigerator as soon as possible.
Use an Airtight ContainerOnce opened, store in an airtight container to prevent drying out.
Store in LiquidStore in its original liquid (brine, whey, or water) for up to five days.
Wrap Tightly in Plastic WrapIf you don’t have an airtight container, use plastic wrap.
Freeze for Longer StorageFor extended storage, freeze the cheese. Note: this may alter the texture.
Check RegularlyCheck for signs of spoilage such as mold, sour smell, or changes in color and texture.

Is Mozzarella a Healthy Cheese?

Yes, mozzarella is considered a healthy cheese. It is a good source of protein, calcium, and phosphorus, essential nutrients for optimal health.

Mozzarella is lower in sodium and calories than most other cheeses and contains probiotics that may benefit your immune system.

It’s also relatively low in fat, making it a healthier substitute for other cheeses. Additionally, mozzarella cheese helps to support bone strength due to its calcium content.

However, like all foods, it should be consumed in moderation as part of a balanced diet.

For more info about whether Mozzarella is healthy, read these 2 articles by certified personnel:

The protein and nutrients in mozzarella cheese: Nutrition facts

Key nutrients in a 100-gram serving:

Vitamin A242IU
Vitamin B120.65µg
Total Fat22.35g
Saturated Fat13.10g
Please note that these values can vary slightly depending on the specific brand or type of Mozzarella cheese.

Can I eat fresh Mozzarella every day?

Mozzarella is also a source of calcium, protein, and other essential nutrients. However, its high sodium content can contribute to high blood pressure if too much is consumed.

The key is balance. Incorporating a variety of nutrient-dense foods into your diet is beneficial for overall health. If you enjoy eating fresh mozzarella, consider having it in small portions and pair it with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins.

As with any dietary concerns, it’s always best to consult with a healthcare provider or a registered dietitian for personalized advice.

What is Mozzarella Cheese Mostly Used For?

Cooking MethodDescription
PizzaUse mozzarella for many types of pizza. Sprinkle on dough with toppings, bake until golden.
PastaToss mozzarella into hot pasta dishes for gooey strands. Key in lasagna and baked pasta.
SaladsFresh mozzarella is great in salads, especially Caprese with tomatoes, basil, olive oil, and vinegar.
AppetizersUse small mozzarella balls for appetizers. Marinate in olive oil and herbs, or skewer with tomatoes and basil.
Stuffed DishesUse mozzarella as a filling in dishes like stuffed peppers, mushrooms, or chicken breasts.
Grilled Cheese SandwichSwap cheddar or American cheese for mozzarella for a different take on this classic.
Baked GoodsAdd mozzarella to savory baked goods like bread and muffin for a cheesy twist.
MeltsUse mozzarella in any dish where you want a good melt – like quesadillas, nachos, or baked dips.

What goes well with Mozzarella? Pairing guide

Foods that go well with Mozzarella

Fruits and VegetablesSliced Tomatoes, Peaches, Radishes, Cucumbers, Plums, Nectarines, Zucchini, Snap Peas, Cantaloupe
SaladsCaprese Salad, Peach & Burrata Caprese, Buffalo Chicken Salad Sliders
PizzasWhite Pizza, Mushroom And Tomato Mini Pizzas, Pizza with Homemade Sauce
BreadCheesy Garlic Bread, Garlic Bread
Meat DishesCheesy Bacon Ranch Chicken, Baked Meatballs
PastaItalian Pasta Salad
Snacks/AppetizersMozzarella Sticks, Potato Croquettes, Bacon Wrapped Mozzarella Sticks
Side DishesOnions, Mushrooms, Eggplants, Roasted Peppers, Spinach
OtherBarilla Lasagna, Tomato with Mozzarella & Parmesan, Chicken Nuggets, Pizza Bagels, Potato Rosti

Also read: What Fruit Goes on a Charcuterie Board?

Beverages that go well with Mozzarella

Non-Alcoholic DrinksTea, Coffee, Drinking Chocolate, Lemonade, Soda, Chicha Morada, Natural Soda
CocktailsMezcal Margarita, Aperol Spritz, Daiquiris, Sangria, Spiced Rum Daiquiri, Gin-Based Cocktails
BeersLager, Pilsner, Bock
Alcohol-Free SpiritsZero-proof Whiskey, Gin, Amaro
Other Alcoholic DrinksWine, Cider, Rum, Whisky, Cognac

Also read: Best Wine and Cheese Pairings: The Ultimate Guide

10 best Mozzarella substitutes

Mozzarella SubstituteDescription
Bel PaeseAn Italian semi-soft cheese that is similar to Mozzarella in texture and taste. It’s creamy, slightly tangy and melts well.
ProvoloneThis cheese is mild and nutty in flavor and can be used in place of Mozzarella in many recipes. It also melts well and has a similar stretchy quality.
OaxacaKnown as Mexican mozzarella, Oaxaca has a similar spongy texture and buttery taste. It also melts beautifully, making it a great substitute in dishes like quesadillas or enchiladas.
BurrataBurrata is a fresh Italian cheese that is essentially mozzarella filled with cream. While it’s more decadent than Mozzarella, it can provide a similar flavor and even more creaminess.
White CheddarWhile not as creamy as Mozzarella, white cheddar can provide a sharp, robust flavor. It melts well and can be used in a variety of dishes.
RicottaRicotta is a creamy Italian cheese that can be used as a substitute for Mozzarella in dishes such as lasagna or stuffed shells. It doesn’t melt the same way, but it offers a similar mild flavor.
GoudaMild Gouda cheese has a nutty flavor and a firm texture that makes it a good substitute for Mozzarella cheese in salads and sandwiches.
FetaFeta can provide a tangy alternative to Mozzarella. It doesn’t melt as well, but can be a good substitute in salads or Mediterranean-style dishes.
FontinaFontina is an Italian cow’s milk cheese. Although it is semi-soft, it melts well and has a mild, nutty flavor that makes it a great substitute for Mozzarella.
Cottage CheeseWhen blended smooth, cottage cheese can mimic the creaminess of Mozzarella, although it lacks the same ability to melt. It works best as a substitute in cooked dishes.

The History of Mozzarella: A Fascinating Tale

Its story begins in the southern regions of Italy, where it was first produced by monks in the 12th century.

The name “Mozzarella” derives from the Italian verb ‘mozzare’, which means “to cut off”. This refers to the process of making Mozzarella, where cheese curds are heated in warm water, kneaded like bread dough into a smooth consistency, and then severed or “cut off” by hand or tool to create individual balls of cheese.

Originally, Mozzarella was made solely from the milk of water buffaloes. These animals were brought to Italy from India around the 7th century and thrived in the marshy areas of Campania. The rich, creamy milk they produced was perfect for cheesemaking, leading to the creation of what was then called “Buffalo Mozzarella”.

However, due to limited availability of buffalo milk and an increase in demand for Mozzarella, producers began making it with cow’s milk during the 18th century. Today, most of the Mozzarella we consume is made from cow’s milk, though Buffalo Mozzarella remains a prized delicacy, known as “Mozzarella di Bufala Campana”, and holds a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status in Europe.

Mozzarella gained global recognition and popularity largely through the rise of pizza.

When Italian immigrants brought their culinary traditions to America in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Mozzarella became the cheese of choice for topping pizzas due to its excellent melting qualities.

Also read: What is the Best Cheese for Pizza?

From there, its fame spread, and today, Mozzarella is cherished worldwide for its soft texture, mild flavor, and versatility in a variety of dishes.

From humble monastic origins to a symbol of Italian cuisine, the journey of Mozzarella is a testament to the enduring appeal of this remarkable cheese.

Whether served fresh with tomatoes and basil in a Caprese salad, melted atop a Neapolitan pizza, or tucked inside a hearty lasagna, Mozzarella continues to capture hearts and palates around the globe.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is the best way to eat mozzarella?

The best way to eat mozzarella is to enjoy it fresh, at room temperature, which allows its delicate, milky flavors to shine.

Another iconic dish is the Caprese salad. In this dish, thick slices of ripe, juicy tomatoes are layered with equally thick slices of fresh mozzarella, and then garnished with fresh basil leaves. A drizzle of high-quality olive oil, a splash of tangy balsamic vinegar, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper completes the dish.

This simple yet flavorful combination enhances the natural, slightly sweet flavor of the cheese, creating a delightful culinary experience.

2. Does mozzarella cheese melt when cooked?

Yes, mozzarella cheese does melt when cooked, but the process depends on the moisture content of the cheese.

Fresh mozzarella that has been stored in brine or whey tends not to melt well due to its high moisture content.

Low moisture mozzarella, on the other hand, can be melted effectively in a microwave or over a pot of heating water. The cheese should be heated slowly and at a low temperature for it to melt properly.

Mozzarella cheese starts to melt at temperatures above 130 degrees Fahrenheit or 55 degrees Celsius.

3. What’s the difference between mozzarella and regular cheese?

Mozzarella and regular cheese, such as Cheddar, have several differences in terms of origin, production method, texture, and flavor.

Mozzarella originates from Italy and is traditionally made from the milk of water buffalos, although today it’s commonly made from cow’s milk. It has a soft, moist texture and a mild, slightly sweet flavor.

On the other hand, Cheddar cheese originates from England, specifically the village of Cheddar in Somerset. It’s made from cow’s milk and undergoes a unique process called “cheddaring” which involves repeatedly stacking and turning the curds. This results in a cheese that has a firm texture and a range of flavors from mild to extra sharp, depending on its aging period.

These differences mean that Mozzarella and Cheddar are suited to different culinary uses.

4. Can you eat mozzarella without cooking?

Yes, you can eat mozzarella without cooking it.

Mozzarella is perfectly safe to consume raw and is often enjoyed as such in many dishes, including the popular Caprese salad. Many people also enjoy eating fresh mozzarella directly as an appetizer or in salads. It’s important to note that mozzarella, especially if it’s made from pasteurized milk, is safe to eat raw.

However, like any cheese, it should be stored properly and consumed before its expiration date to ensure it’s safe to eat. Pregnant women can also safely eat fresh mozzarella, provided it’s made from pasteurized milk.

5. Is mozzarella vegetarian?

Whether mozzarella cheese is vegetarian can depend on the specific brand and type of mozzarella.

Some mozzarella cheeses, especially traditional European ones, may use animal rennet in their production, which is not suitable for vegetarians.

However, many softer styles of cheese like mozzarella often use whey or another type of acid as their coagulant instead of rennet, making them vegetarian-friendly.

Brands like Amul produce mozzarella cheese that is considered vegetarian as it doesn’t contain animal-derived rennet.

>> Click here to learn more about what rennet is

So while mozzarella cheese can be vegetarian, it’s crucial to check the ingredients list or contact the manufacturer to ensure it meets vegetarian dietary requirements.


In conclusion, mozzarella is a versatile cheese with a rich history and unique characteristics that set it apart from other cheeses.

Its mild flavor and smooth texture make it a staple in Italian cuisine and a favorite around the world. Whether you’re enjoying it raw on a Caprese salad or melted atop a homemade pizza, mozzarella offers an unmistakable creaminess that enhances any dish it graces.

Remember, the key to truly appreciating mozzarella lies in understanding its origins, properties, and best uses. From its melting behavior to the differences between fresh and low-moisture versions, this guide has provided you with the knowledge you need to fully enjoy this delightful dairy product.

Happy cheese tasting!

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