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Mozzarella and Beyond: The Story of Pasta Filata Cheeses (Or, It’s Not Just a “Pizza Cheese”)

The world-famous “pizza cheese” is an ancient creation. Records of Mozzarella date back to 12th-century Italy, with monks at the Saint Lorenzo Monastery in Capua offering "Mozza" or "Mozzarella" with bread to pilgrims. "Mozza," derived from the Italian verb "mozzare" meaning "to cut off," refers to the process of pinching or cutting off pieces of the curd to form cheese balls.

Most are familiar with Mozzarella on pizza. Made similarly to fresh Mozzarella, it then undergoes a period of aging, which reduces its moisture, yielding a semi-soft, easily shreddable cheese perfect for melting.

Fresh Mozzarella, consumed within days of production, is creamy with a slight elasticity. Its milky, tangy flavor is showcased in salads, pasta, or enjoyed solo with olive oil and a hint of salt. This is the Mozzarella we handmake in the kitchen at Cheesetique.

Mozzarella is just one of many “pasta filata” cheeses. Pasta Filata, Italian for "spun paste," is a distinctive category of cheeses, known for their unique crafting method of stretching curds in hot water, resulting in a pliable, elastic texture. Pasta filata cheeses can be fresh or aged.

The second most famous pasta filata? That’s Provolone. Unlike Mozzarella, Provolone is aged. But, it isn’t simply “aged Mozzarella.” The curds for Provolone are kneaded and stretched for a longer time, which helps develop a firmer texture. Provolone is then aged for at least a few months (Provolone Dolce) to over a year (Provolone Piccante), which develops a harder texture and more robust, sharp flavor.

Pasta filata cheeses show exceptional culinary versatility. Fresh Mozzarella beautifully complements tomatoes, basil, and olive oil in a Caprese salad, while Provolone enhances sandwiches and casseroles. When it comes to wine, try to match the cheese's intensity. Delicate Buffalo Mozzarella goes well with light, crisp white wines like Vermentino or Falanghina, while stronger, aged pasta filata like Provolone pairs wonderfully with full-bodied reds like Chianti or Barolo.

With their historical richness, diverse profiles, and adaptability, pasta filata cheeses continue to charm food enthusiasts worldwide, taking center stage in various cuisines and wine experiences. At Cheesetique, they are the heart and soul of our annual MozzarellaFest!