Mozzarella: Pizza's Best Friend (and So Much More!)
The global mozzarella cheese market was valued at US$ 33.09 billion in 2018. This is in part thanks to the worldwide popularity of pizza along with many other Italian dishes that feature the delicious and popular cheese. Check out how it's made, where it comes from and a delicious Mera mozzarella recipe below!
Originating in southern Italy, mozzarella is a traditional fresh cheese named after the Italian verb mozzare, which means "to tear”. Known for its mild flavour, springy texture, and special melting abilities, mozzarella has gained popularity throughout the world as the pizza cheese. The first large-scale production of mozzarella cheese dates back to the 12th century in the Campania region of Italy.
Mozzarella cheese gets its unique texture and taste from a production method known as ‘pasta filata’. Pasta filata translates from Italian as ‘spun paste’, or ‘stretched curd’. The process starts with procuring the right quality of milk which is then fermented. The ratio of fats and proteins in the milk has an important role in achieving the desired end texture and taste. The milk is then heated and a substance known as rennet is added. Chymosin, a protease enzyme found in rennet, then curdles the casein in the milk. Once the milk starts curdling, it is agitated so that the curd separates into small pieces. The freshly formed curds are allowed to ripen in the whey - usually for around five hours.
Next, the curds are immersed in hot water (around 95°C) and stretched. The stretching causes a significant rearrangement in the curd structure and this in turn creates mozzarella’s unique texture and melt. After stretching, the curd is first immersed in cool water and then in brine. Traditional mozzarella is packaged in a diluted salt and acid solution and consumed fresh.
Fresh vs “Regular” (Low Moisture):
What is more commonly known as "regular Mozzarella" is really a low-moisture cheese. Low-moisture Mozzarella, which is also known as "low-moisture part-skim", is made by souring fresh Mozzarella just a little longer, and then carefully drying it out. Due to the lower moisture content, it has a longer shelf life and shreds more easily. The lower moisture also lends the cheese better browning and stretching abilities when heated, which makes it a popular choice for any number of dishes and especially pizza. Mozzarella cheeses with low moisture content are easier to transport and keep fresh and therefore are popular in most commercial kitchens.
Mozzarella is the most prevalent cheese used to make pizzas, and there’s a very good – and very scientific – reason for that. When the mozzarella is heated in the oven, all of its water content comes to a boil, and then evaporates. This process creates a bubble within the cheese that grows until it pops, releasing the newly formed steam and allowing the cheese to brown. Other types of cheese have either too much oil or too little water content to form the bubbles needed to allow the cheese to brown properly. The chemistry of mozzarella makes it an essential base for any pizza.
Mozzarella is a perfect addition to a huge range of dishes including pastas, salads and sauces. It adds a mild cheesy flavour and its signature stretch
Spinach Mozzarella Sticks:
225 g Mera cream cheese, softened
115 g cup spinach, cooked & drained
200 g Mera shredded mozzarella
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp garlic powder
250 g cups flour
4 eggs, beaten
230 g cups breadcrumbs
canola oil, for frying
marinara sauce, for dipping
In a medium bowl, combine the cream cheese, spinach, mozzarella, salt, pepper, and
garlic powder, stirring until thoroughly mixed.
Transfer the mixture to a square baking pan lined with parchment paper and spread
the mixture evenly in the dish.
Freeze for 30 minutes.
Flip the frozen cheese mixture onto a cutting board and remove the parchment paper.
Slice the block into 1-centimeter wide strips, then slice the strips in half into sticks.
Place the flour, eggs, and breadcrumbs into three separate bowls. Dip the cheese sticks
into the flour, then the eggs, then the breadcrumbs, then back into the eggs, and finally
back into the breadcrumbs. Set the breaded sticks aside on a plate.
Heat oil in a pot over medium-high heat. Fry the breaded sticks for about 30 seconds
to a minute, until golden brown.
Serve with marinara sauce for dipping.