Italian cheese report

In Food item by Sue Marshall

An overview of Italian soft cheeses in time for the summer months.

Buffalo mozzarella at its freshest, artisan-produced hand-cut buffalo mozzarella, made only with buffalo milk, salt and rennet.

Many of Italy’s finest food, such as prosciutto di Parma, Parmigiano Reggiano, have strict certification as to where they can be produced geographically in order to maintain quality, control and production methods. The same is true of buffalo mozzarella. La Baronia has enjoyed DOP certification (Denominazione di Origine Protetta, literally Protected Designation of Origin) since 1996, making it one of the most renowned producers in Italy with production in the Caserta and Salerno provinces, and selected areas of Latium.

Sourced from La Baronia, a small artisan farm in Campania (the rich pastureland around Naples is the heartland of buffalo mozzarella production), is immediately recognisable as home-made: it has a lovely sheen and the tell-tale seam – a line that separates the hand-made from the mass-produced.

Using and eating mozzarella
Hand-made and hand-cut fresh buffalo mozzarella is fresh, soft, creamy and mild. Rich in calcium and high in protein, this cheese contains no preservatives, so needs to be stored and eaten as fresh as possible. Buffalo mozzarella is great for a simple first course served with good-quality sliced tomatoes and fresh basil. It should be torn, not sliced or grated. Alternatively, scatter it over tomato-based pasta or pizza.

Top-quality mozzarella di bufala is not to be confused with mass-produced mozzarella, sold in water in supermarkets. This product has a long shelf life and is better suited to cooking.

Just before eating, Italians submerge buffalo mozzarella and smoked burrata in hot water (about 35°C) for 10-15 minutes to bring it to the correct temperature and for optimum flavour.

Based in the UK, Nife is Life sells burrata made in Puglia by artisan producer Deliziosa near Andria, the heartland of Italian burrata production. Like all the best burrata, this one has a thin casing of mozzarella-like cheese, which splits easily to reveal its heart of fresh cream and unspun mozzarella curds, offering a creamy taste with a hint of acidic sweetness. Burrata starts out much like mozzarella, with rennet used to curdle the warm milk. The fresh mozzarella curds are then plunged into hot whey or lightly salted water, kneaded and pulled to develop stretchy strings (pasta filata), then shaped, still-hot, into a pouch. The burrata is then filled with scraps of leftover mozzarella and topped off with fresh cream before being tied into a little topknot. Eat it as freshly as possible and keep refrigerated, as burrata contains no preservatives. Nife is Life advises serving burrata with toasted bread and a hint of extra-virgin olive oil, or salt if you prefer. The traditional Italian way is to enjoy as an antipasti, with datterini tomatoes and salami.

“Small bites” in Italian, 50g each, these are ideal for antipasti or aperitivo and popular with children and adults alike. Prepare in an insalata Caprese with tomato and basil, combine with tomatoes or Parma ham on a pizza, or enjoy ‘in carrozza’ (the classic Italian snack of mozzarella sandwiched between bread, drizzled with olive oil and toasted or grilled).

A plaited DOP buffalo mozzarella this is a luxury product with a slightly different taste and  islarger than the traditional product, guaranteeing freshness, creaminess and smooth texture.

The wood-fired buffalo mozzarella provola has a brownish colour, combined with a strong, round almost spiced flavour and soft, creamy texture and a longer shelf life (up to 5-6 days). With its melting qualities, smoked provola can be used to dress pasta and meat dishes (pasta, courgettes and provola is a classic) or cooked gently in tomato sauce. Serve with bread.

At Nife is Life’s (Nice Italian Food Everyday) signature mozzarella di bufala, burrata, treccia and smoked burrata, are flown into the UK twice a week from Campania. Same-day deliveries are possible in London and next-day delivery outside of London.

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