“White gold”, “the queen of the Mediterranean cuisine”, “the pearl of the table” – this is how one of the most appreciated and finest delicacies of the Italian cuisine is commonly known.
Mozzarella di Bufala Campana delights the senses from first sight to last bite. Its porcelain white colour, its smooth surface, its distinct aroma and organoleptic properties are its most appreciated features. Made from Italian water buffalo milk, it is produced exclusively in the Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) area of Central and Southern Italy, primarily in Campania, which is arguably the country’s most fertile agricultural region. This ubiquitous creamy cheese is not to be confused with its toned-down cousin made from cow’s milk, known in Italy as fior di latte (literally “milk flower”). Mozzarella di Bufala Campana is richer in nutrients, with a higher protein and fat content than fior di latte; it is an easily digestible cheese, with a reduced content of lactose and cholesterol and a good mix of probiotics too! Last, but not least, it is the only mozzarella that has entered in the register of Protected Designations of Origin.
The origins of mozzarella are directly linked to the introduction of the water buffalo in Italy, whose history is not well settled yet. The most likely theory, though, is that Asian water buffaloes (originally from Eastern India) were brought to Italy by Normans from Sicily around year 1000. However, the term Mozzarella comes from the Italian verb mozzare (literally “to cut”), referring to the way the cheese makers cut each ball by hand from the large mass of stretchy curd formed when the cheese is immersed in hot water and kneaded by hand. What’s interesting is that the first document attesting its existence dates back to the year 1200, when the monks (not surprisingly!) of the monastery of San Lorenzo in Capua – in the countryside near Caserta – used to produce and offer pilgrims a piece of bread together with a cheese made from water buffalo milk called mozza or provatura (when smoked). But the term mozzarella as we know it appeared for the first time in the second half of the 16th century, in a famous six-volume treatise on cooking by Bartolomeo Scappi, cook at the Papal Court. At the end of the 18th century the Bourbons created the first buffalo farm within the Real Sito di Carditello, in the province of Caserta. The consumption of buffalo cheese spread significantly, and so did the number of buffaloes.
In his book Contadini del Sud (1954), a study on peasant culture in Southern Italy, Italian poet and writer Rocco Scotellaro reports that the bufalaro – the person in charge of breeding the buffaloes – used to treat these beautiful animals as if they were cristiani (“Christians”, which in a wider sense means “people” in Italian). He also gave them specific names, which usually recalled court characters: “Contessa” (Countess), “Monacella” (Young Nun), “‘A malatia” (The Disease), “‘Ncoppe a paglia” (On the Straw). Sometimes the names were transformed into real and funny mottos coming from animals’ behaviours: for example, “Chi comanda” (“The ruler”) was only a shortened form of the full expression “Chi comanda…non suda” (“The ruler… doesn’t sweat”).
Besides the typical well-known mozzarella ball, Mozzarella di Bufala Campana can come in other shapes as well: cherries, bocconcini, knots, braids, etc. In order to fully enjoy it, it is advisable to eat it the very same day it’s made. If not eaten immediately, it is best to keep it in a cool environment (10°/15°C) and in its own liquid. If stored in the fridge, before consuming it, leave it at room temperature for at least one hour; otherwise put it, for about 5 minutes, in hot water (35°/40°C), as the Consortium for the Protection of the Mozzarella di Bufala Campana suggests.
Mozzarella di Bufala Campana PDO can be enjoyed both as a cold dish (i.e., caprese, on salads), and in hot preparations (i.e., pizza, parmigiana, mozzarella in carozza). The best way to eat it, though, is in the raw. Stick a fork into the tender white ball and watch the juices stream out; its fresh, milky aroma of lactic ferments will wake up your taste buds. Then take a bite and surely “Mm-hmm. . .” will echo around the table.
What makes Italian Mozzarella di Bufala Campana PDO such a fantastic experience is the care and love that goes into every aspect of its production, from the animal wellness to the balls of milky cheese, travelling around the world cushioned in their own protective fluid and finally ending up on our tables. This is more than just a food; it becomes a pure act of love crafted with great care.
Commission Regulation (EC) No 103/2008 of 4 February 2008 [Online]. Available at: https://eur-lex.europa.eu/eli/reg/2008/103/oj [Accessed 21 August 2020]
Consorzio di Tutela Mozzarella di Bufala Campana DOP [Online]. Available at: https://www.mozzarelladop.it/en/ [Accessed 2 August 2020]
Italy’s Favourite Cheese: Buffalo Mozzarella [Online]. Available at : https://www.eatingeurope.com/blog/buffalo-mozzarella/ [Accessed 3 August 2020]
Mozzarella di Bufala Campana DOP [Online]. Available at: https://www.qualigeo.eu/prodotto-qualigeo/mozzarella-di-bufala-campana-dop/ [Accessed 4 August 2020]
Mozzarella di Bufala Campana DOP, Treccani [Online]. Available at: http://www.treccani.it/enciclopedia/mozzarella-di-bufala-campana-dop_%28Dizionario-dei-prodotti-DOP-e-IGP%29/ [Accessed 4 August 2020]
Prodotti tipici della Campania: Mozzarella di Bufala Campana D.O.P. [Online]. Available at: http://agricoltura.regione.campania.it/tipici/mozzarella-bufala.html [Accessed 21 August 2020]
Scotellaro R., Contadini del Sud, Ed. Laterza, Bari 1954
What is Neapolitan Food? [Online]. Available at: https://www.rossopomodoro.co.uk/News/What-is-Neapolitan-Food%3F [Accessed 4 August 2020)
Written by Estela Hamiti, PhD student in “European Languages and Specialized Terminology”, University of Naples “Parthenope” (Italy).