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Mozzarella balls are pieces of fresh mozzarella cheese that have been formed into a round shape. They are generally made from either water buffalo’s milk or cow’s milk, and are generally stored in liquid or vacuum packed. Mozzarella balls are generally available in pieces that are roughly fist-sized as well as in bite-sized chunks called bocconcini. Sliced into round medallions, regular-sized mozzarella balls are a common ingredient in caprese salads and on pizzas, while bocconcini may be served breaded and fried, or simply enjoyed on their own.
Originating in Italy, mozzarella balls are generally prepared using either water buffalo’s milk or cow’s milk. While buffalo mozzarella tends to be more expensive than cow’s milk mozzarella, many cheese aficionados insist that the former is far superior in quality to the latter. This cheese is made by heating the chosen milk type with acid, rennet, and live cultures to form curds. These curds are removed and strained for several hours and then immersed in hot salted water until they soften significantly. The resulting mass is then kneaded, stretched, and rolled into one or more balls.
Many cheese shops and supermarkets sell mozzarella balls in two sizes. The first of these is roughly the size of a fist. It is also possible to purchase bite-sized mozzarella balls, which are commonly referred to as bocconcini. No matter its size, this cheese is best when it is kept moist, and therefore it is usually either packaged in a sealed tub filled with brine or whey, or vacuum packed in a plastic wrapping.
With its fairly mild flavor and soft texture, mozzarella works well in a wide range of dishes, although it is most often associated with Italian cuisine. When cooking with large mozzarella balls, it is common to slice them into rounds of varying thickness. These rounds may be layered with slices of tomato and leaves of fresh basil in a caprese salad. They may also be melted atop a homemade pizza or added to a cold or grilled sandwich.
Bocconcini can be used to make fried mozzarella balls. To prepare this dish, the bocconcini are dipped in egg and then rolled in a seasoned breading mixture. They are then fried in hot oil until the breading becomes golden but the cheese has not yet begun to leak into the oil. Some cheese-lovers opt to simply enjoy bocconcini on their own as a bite-sized treat.
I love to add mozzarella balls to my baked ziti recipe. They melt into the pasta and tomato sauce perfectly for a wonderful Italian dish.
To make baked ziti with mozzarella cheese balls, start with cooked and drained tube-shaped pasta. Stir in your favorite pasta sauce and heat in a sauce pan on your stove for a few minutes. Slice a mozzarella cheese ball, or break up the kind that is sectioned into smaller balls. Stir some of the cheese in the pasta and sauce mixture, and pour it into a baking pan.
Complete your dish by placing more of the mozzarella cheese ball on top, and bake it at 350 degrees Fahrenheit until it turns golden brown. The mozzarella cheese will add perfect flavor to this popular Italian dish.
Mozzarella balls are great in any type of salad. I like to mix them with iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, onions, and Italian salad dressing. They are also great tossed in a Caesar salad, or mixed with tomatoes and cucumber. I think that the mild flavor and soft texture of this cheese compliments any type of raw vegetable and salad dressing.
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