What exactly is Pizzarella?

The short answer: not cheese!

2015-02-08 17.03.14When I first moved to Israel I made the mistake of buying Pizzarella to make pizza, thinking it was mozzarella.  In my newbie state I didn’t read the fine print, which is actually right on the front of the package: חלבון חלב ושומן צמחי aka “milk protein and vegetable oil” that has been formed into little shreds to look just like grated cheese.

The resulting pizza wasn’t that great, and now I know why.  I also know why people buy it: it is way cheaper than mozzarella, about 24 shekel per kilo, compared to mozzarella, which costs around 60-80 shekel per kilo depending on the brand. (For reference, at today’s exchange rates, that’s $2.80/lb versus ~$8.20/lb).  So, understandably, many people prefer to use Pizzarella for pizza cheese, including some pizza chains.

I really taste and feel the difference between Pizzarella and real mozzarella however, so now I buy mozzarella from the cheese counter at my grocery store, especially when it is on sale, ask them to grate it for me, and store it in my freezer for pizza night.  Or, if you want to mix it up, you can try Suluguni for your pizza cheese.

If you also like making homemade pizza, I recommend this quick pizza dough recipe from my fav, Martha.

Buffalo Mozzarella

Buffalo Mozzarella from Moshav Bitzaron

buffalo

My most unique Israeli cheese experience yet has been at the Buffalo farm in Moshav Bitzaron. This magical place makes, to my knowledge, the only kosher buffalo mozzarella in the world, along with other great buffalo milk products such as yogurt, tzafatit cheese, and ice cream! But, you don’t have to go all the way to the farm to buy this cheese. I’ve been able to find it in lots of healthy-type stores, like Supersol green markets.

So, what is buffalo mozzarella and why am I so excited about it? Because in my opinion, it is the queen of mozzarellas. Let me explain.

Buffalo mozzarella, or mozzarella di bufala, originated in Italy, and is made from the milk of water buffalo.  Buffalo milk has more protein and much more fat than cow’s milk, so it makes a fantastic, creamy, cheese with a tender texture.  It also has more calcium and less cholesterol than cow’s milk.  Fresh buffalo mozzarella is often found in the shape of balls, large or small, and is kept in water.  It is highly perishable, best enjoyed on the day it’s made, and won’t last for more than a week in your fridge.

Now let me say a word about the difference between fresh and “regular” mozzarella cheese.  Fresh mozzarella cheese is, well, fresher, has a higher moisture content, and is kept in water.  Regular mozzarella is allowed to dry, which also allows it to develop some more flavor (there is also smoked mozzarella, with an interesting smoky flavor).  Because of the drying process, regular mozzarella cheese has a much longer shelf life.  Regular mozzarella comes in many forms: wrapped in a ball, shredded (aka pizza cheese), in sticks (aka string cheese) etc.

To me, fresh mozzarella is wonderful.  The delicate yet chewy texture of the cheese, combined with its subtle flavor, just wins me over.  Unfortunately it is very hard to find fresh kosher mozzarella cheese outside of Israel (or perhaps Italy).  I’m sure this is changing, but until it does, this can be something for kosher-keepers to look forward to in their next trip to Israel!

Uses:

I recommend using fresh mozzarella in simple, raw recipes where the subtle flavor and texture of the mozzarella can shine. Caprese salad is a perfect dish for showcasing great mozzarella.   See this delicious looking recipe from The Pioneer Woman.

Because of the high moisture content of fresh mozzarella, be wary of using it in cooked dishes, such as pizza or lasagna, as it will add water to the dish as it cooks, making it soggy.

Make your own mozzarella? Apparently, this isn’t too hard! Stay tuned for a future post when I’m feeling very ambitious…