The richest, creamiest and best tasting fresh mozzarella cheese comes from an area near Naples in Italy. It's hand-made but it is not from cow milk! It's made from water buffalo.
I'll explain how to identify it and buy it. And then I'll describe the proper ways to enjoy this delightful, unforgettable, messy, fresh-made cheese.
Know Where It is Made
The southwest coast of Italy near Naples is the undisputed Mozzarella Capital of the world. Although seven different provinces make the cheese, the towns of Caserta and Salerno are the largest and some say, best. There are roadside markets and dairy shops throughout the region where you can purchase the cheese.
The most prized cheeses carry a "Mozzarella di Bufala Campana" trademark on the packaging. This is handmade from water buffalo milk, and it tastes like no other mozzarella.
Fresh mozzarella that you find in US supermarkets is factory produced, pasteurized, and made from cow's milk, not buffalo milk. With few exceptions, these tend to be inexpensive, with a rubbery texture, and somewhat drier than the Italian counterpart. These cheeses are best used for cooking, not eating raw or fresh.
There are gourmet cheese shops and specialty shops that carry fresh Italian buffalo mozzarella, but they hard to find.
Fresh Italian buffalo mozzarella with the trademark seal on the package is available online. I found imported gourmet cheese stores selling 8.8 ounce pieces online for under $13 (plus $8 shipping).
Enjoy It in These Ways
Fresh Buffalo Mozzarella that is hand-made with non-pasteurized milk and eaten the same day it was made, is an incredibly delicious, wet and messy, but memorable experience. Aficionados swear by eating it this way, by itself, with no garnish, bread or vegetable of any kind. If you must have it accompanied by other things, here are some traditional Italian uses:
- Caprese salad is one way to enjoy the cheese at it's freshest. Easy enough for die-hard non-cooks to prepare, it is a simple matter of alternating slices of fresh mozzarella with leaves of home-grown basil and slices of ripe, very red tomatoes.
- Another easy and delicious use of fresh buffalo mozzarella is to treat it as a spread on fresh crusty bread with ground pepper and a drizzle of olive oil.
- Finally, if there are leftovers (and there shouldn't be) from the same-day fresh Buffalo Mozzarella, it is permissible to use it for cooking. On a meal to be enjoyed that same day, of course. Pizza Margherita would be an acceptable use, especially if cooked in an Italian wood-fired oven.
- fornobravo.com (water buffalo and wood fired oven), amazon.com (Italian label)