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Tasting Panel: Shopping for Mozzarella

Fine Cooking Issue 92
Photos: Scott Phillips
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Without question, the ideal melting cheese for pizzas, stromboli, and calzones is low-moisture mozzarella. Also known as block or “pizza” cheese, low-moisture mozzarella is what you find at your local supermarket and is the cheese pizzerias use for their pies because of its firm, shreddable texture, mild flavor, and meltability. We like it melted on sandwiches and in baked pastas, too.

To compare national brands of both whole-milk and part-skim low-moisture mozzarella, we brought together nine willing Fine Cooking tasters. We tasted the cheese in both melted form and straight out of the package, looking for a creamy, milky flavor with just a hint of sourness, a firm texture, and smooth melting capabilities.

Whole-milk and part-skim mozzarella are typically sold in 1-pound plastic-wrapped blocks. Sorrento whole-milk mozzarella ($4.69 per pound) made the grade with our tasters for its rich milkiness, delicate balance of sour and salty notes, and gooey stretchiness when melted. Polly-O whole-milk mozzarella ($4.69 per pound) was a close second for its smooth melt and subtly sweet milk flavor.

Sorrento part-skim mozzarella ($4.69 per pound) looked and tasted the most like a gourmet fresh mozzarella (see panel below), with its pale white coloring, fresh milkiness, and moist, stringy texture. It did not melt as well as its whole-milk counterpart, but it would still be a welcome addition to any pizza or calzone. The runner-up for part-skim mozzarella was again Polly-O ($4.69 per pound), which had an appealing string-cheese-like texture and creamy flavor, although some testers found it greasy and thick when melted.

A fresh look at mozzarella

Compare low-moisture mozzarella with fresh and you have two entirely different cheeses. Originally made from the milk of water buffalo, today fresh mozzarella is often made from cows’ milk. Its smooth, porcelain-white exterior reveals an intensely milky, creamy interior that practically oozes milk as you bite into it. Mild and delicate, this is a cheese you want to serve simply, with a dressing of extra-virgin olive oil and salt, or in a caprese salad with sliced ripe tomatoes and fresh basil leaves.

Fresh mozzarella is best eaten the day it’s made, so we recommend looking for it at Italian markets or cheese shops. It’s well worth a trip.

If mail-order is a better bet for you, we suggest trying Lioni Latticini fresh mozzarella. It has a delightfully creamy, sweet milk flavor and is as tender and ropey as a good fresh mozzarella should be. You can mail-order Lioni’s mozzarella by calling Lioni Direct at 908-687-1515.

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