'Pasta filata’ is the term used in Italy for stretched curd cheeses, but you can just call them, ‘ultimate melting cheeses for your next pizza party'.
Fresh, stretchy, milky and sweet are just some of the descriptors you can use for stretched curd cheese, also known as pasta filata cheeses in Italy. Pasta filata cheeses are when the fresh cheese curds have been plunged into hot water, and then while warm stretched into a shape. The heat from the water causes the curd to seize and the protein to change making it stretch, rather than break in a brittle way, and creates a texture to the finished cheese.
There are a few variations of this style of cheese, from the simplest version of stretching and manipulating the curds to create bocconcini and mozzarella, and all the variations in this same style - cilegieni (cherry sized bocconcini), treccione (plaited mozzarella) and the drier longer lasting scamorza. These cheeses are most commonly made with cow and buffalo milk. On the sexier end of this style comes burrata, where mozzarella is filled with creamy stracciatella (essentially mozzarella strands suspended in cream) and finished with a top knot. Burrata is a great single serve option to surround with peaches, mint and plums for a perfect summer salad. Always make sure you buy them as fresh as possible, as they are meant to be eaten straight away. Also, bring the cheese to room temperature, before serving to improve flavour and texture.
The Mexican cheese, Oaxaca (pronounced wuh·haa·kuh) fits into this category too as it was introduced to Mexico from Italy. This cheese is a great melting cheese, making it perfect for quesadillas, we use it as one of the cheeses for our cheese toastie to add to the theatre, lighten the blend and even-out the funk of the Raclette.
The other style for stretched curds is when the cheese has been cured or flavoured, and aged. Bigger cheeses like Caciocavallo, Ragusano or Provolone and Spanish tetilla fit into this catergory, are aged for 3 weeks to 24 plus months. The rinds can be rubbed with olive oil, butter and paprika, and sometimes smoked to preserve the cheese and hinder mould growth on the surface. These are amazing to cook with and they are also the perfect snacking cheese served as part of an antipasto with some olives, anchovies and crusty bread. Try adding smoked scamorza or tetilla to your mac and cheese, or lasagne, for lovely depth of flavour.
Penny’s top picks
Vannella buffalo mozzarella
Fresh, lactic (bright) and milky. A staple for making memorable salads or with just the very best olive oil and pepper. Simple and yet perfect. When buying mozzarella try to buy one that has travelled the least as it is best eaten fresh!
Caciocavallo Silano PDO
Buttery, fruity, spicy and chewy. This cheese looks like it won’t taste like much, but it packs a punch. I fell in love with Caciocavallo when I was working in London. Even when it is cold (as it was in the cheese room) it has flavour, and the texture is chewy and pleasing.
That’s Amore stracciatella
Creamy, sweet and decadent. What we really want when we get a burrata. Lush. I put this in a salad of raw zucchini, mint, lemon rind and fresh chilli.
By Penny Lawson, Penny’s Cheese Shop.