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Mozzarella for pizza

  • k

I may have to give up making pizza for lack of cheese. It seems like in the olden days any mozzarella would give you a good stretchy and tasty cheese. Everything we get now is like pale Velveeta. The latest try was Cacique which turns out to be a Mexican cheese... Per their website it has "great string", not only would I say not great, I would say NONE.

Are there any national brands better than others? We live in the sticks and have little choice.

This was last nights dinner, I thought it came out nice and would have been very good if not for the sucky cheese.

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  1. We use Poly-O (or Sorrento if we must). Poly-O goes on sale here for 1/2 price every once in a while.
    Got 6 # s in the freezer now that Pizza season is here.

    4 Replies
    1. re: wavywok

      If I have to resort to supermarket cheese I use Polly-o. Whole milk please. Toss some coarsely grated parm on top before going into oven...

      1. re: King of Northern Blvd

        yesyesyes...WHOLE MILK only, I totally agree!

        1. re: King of Northern Blvd

          Here in the tri-state area (NY/NJ/CT) Poly-O and Sorrento seem to be the big name ones in pretty much all the stores. I use Poly-o on pizze as it DOES melt and gives me enough oven time so it doesn't brown (I really don't like browned -top pizza). I've tried using fresh, but the (yes, I'll say it) more rubbery Poly-O retains it's flavor better. Agreed +1 to whole milk!

        2. re: wavywok

          JOOC, how does the POLY-O freeze? I've never done it but at the prices stores are getting for it, I didn't want to ruin a whole pound.

        3. I think that Cook's Illustrated liked Kraft among supermarket mozzarellas.

          9 Replies
          1. re: Bada Bing

            ew, kraft? ~~ no way. they don't even make decent other cheeses.

            1. re: hotoynoodle

              Kraft bought out Polly-o many years back, which is when it turned to garbage. Do they still make mozz under their own name too?

              1. re: coll

                my family used polly-o when i was a kid and it was pretty good. it's flavorless rubber now. it never occurred to me to buy kraft mozz -- i didn't even know they made it. their cheddar and stuff is so sub-par i don't bother wasting the money.

                am lucky to have access to italian markets and good cheese shops so i go there for most things.

                1. re: coll

                  I noticed that the quality of Polly-O declined into more like fake, tasteless cheese at some point many years ago. I couldn't put my finger on it and thought that it was just my imagination.

                  Thanks for confirming my suspicions.

                2. re: hotoynoodle

                  Yeah, I was surprised, too.

                  CI's favorite cheese was Sorrento Whole Milk, which is marketed as "Precious" out West, it says. Unfortunately for me, it is apparently not available in Northern Indiana supermarkets.

                  Kraft Part-Skim was second up, even beating out Sorrento's park-skim version. The only one not recommended was Sargento.

                  1. re: Bada Bing

                    um, ok, fwiw, sorrento sux. who is judging these cheeses for ci?

                    and anyway -- who puts mozz on pizza? really? i mean at home maybe, but not from a pizzeria...

                    1. re: hotoynoodle

                      ? What do your pizzerias put on pizza?

                      1. re: coll

                        sorry, got back too late -- i meant buffalo mozz. that's not a pizzeria thing.

                3. re: Bada Bing

                  CI bought Kraft mozzarella in block form and grated it, not the shredded stuff in the bags.

                  Kengk might want to try the block mozzarella in the deli case and break out the box grater.

                  If you're feeling deep you can buy the mozzarella in ball form that is found in gourmet groceries andethnicc markets. Its worth it for pizza Margherita but if you make American style pizza the other ingredients will overwhelm the cheese's delicate flavor.

                4. I live in the dairy state, so I can't imagine not having access to good cheese. Try something from Trader Joe's or Aldis's. Kraft would be on the bottom of my list.

                  1. Use whole milk mozz. For extra flavor and chewiness, mix half and half with muenster - the secret pizza weapon.

                    9 Replies
                    1. re: sandylc

                      or provalone. costco sells a great local brand around here... (the shredded blend)

                      1. re: Chowrin

                        I feel vindicated - I thought my dad was the only person who did that!

                        1. re: happybaker

                          the moz/provalone blend is fab. I can't stand provalone straight (the northern italian style).

                          1. re: Chowrin


                            I have never tried a blend of the two. Definitely something to try for the next time!

                          2. re: happybaker

                            I think there's a St. Louis or maybe Quad-Cities style of pizza where Provolone is mandatory.

                            1. re: Bada Bing

                              In St. Louis it's something called Provel, which is some sort of hybridized cheese - a mix of cheddar, swiss, and provolone. I understand that you either LOVE it or HATE it.

                                1. re: sandylc

                                  OMG Provel is HORRIBLE - it's a processed, Cheddar-Swiss-Provolone FLAVORED cheese. It's soft like Monterey Jack but melts like Velveeta or American and is vaguely sweet and smoky. Truly awful, but Mr. Bionda (who is from St. Louis) LOVES it on STL style pizza.

                                  1. re: biondanonima

                                    I've heard this. Never tried it, myself!

                        2. Try cacciocavollo cheese, not smoked. It looks like a little Buddha and has a fantastic taste, similar to mozzarella.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: avallance

                            I wish I could find some without driving 30 miles! I have heard it described as similar to provolone

                          2. Is fresh buffalo mozzarella available near you?

                            21 Replies
                            1. re: 1POINT21GW

                              I live in an affluent area on the Jersey Shore. There is a significant Italian-American population and more than several good to very good Italian provisioners close by. In light of that, and considering the fact that Manhattan is visible from the beach a few miles up, fresh buffalo mozzarella is basically unavailable here. I find it unlikely that the OP has better access. Moreover, fresh mozz is not going to provide the stringy, "parlor slice" quality the OP seems to be looking for.

                              1. re: MGZ

                                Fresh mozz is very wet, you have to just about burn the crust to get it to melt on the pie. OK for something different.

                                1. re: coll

                                  My trick is to slice the fresh mozzarella, lay it out on paper towels and sprinkle it with salt. I then cover it with another paper towel and press it. I do this a couple of times and get rid of the extra water--then it cooks fine on the pizza without making any "puddles."

                                    1. re: escondido123

                                      Wish I'd known that a few weeks ago, before I made an extremely wet pizza with all fresh mozz.! I usually use whole milk regular mozzarella, and now I know why.

                                      1. re: jmcarthur8

                                        The fresh mozzarella has a delicate flavor, so I only use it for a tomato, basil and mozzarella pizza. When the ingredients are hearty--mushrooms, sausage and pepperoni for me--I stick with the "aged" mozzarella that I can grate.

                                        1. re: escondido123

                                          Agreed. Fresh just doesn't hold up to the heat well at all. I use it almost exclusively for caprese salad.

                                  1. re: MGZ

                                    Costco carries fresh buffalo mozzarella, imported from Italy, so if you have one near you you have an excellent (and reasonably priced) source. However, I agree with you that fresh mozz is not what gives a pizza the "parlor slice" quality you describe. Personally (and I'm sure many people will consider this heresy), I don't care for buffalo or fresh cow mozzarella on pizza anyway. I think the high heat degrades it too much - it just turns into a watery, rubbery mess. I would much rather savor it at room temperature and use regular mozz on my pizza!

                                    1. re: biondanonima

                                      How fresh can it be if (a) it's imported from Italy and (b) available at a discount retailer? The fresh mozz I buy is made the morning I buy it.

                                      1. re: MGZ

                                        Well, the term "fresh" in this case doesn't necessarily refer to the age of the product. "Fresh" mozzarella, which is usually packed in brine for sale, can last a week or two in the fridge. The term "fresh" is just there to distinguish it from regular or "low-moisture" mozzarella, which is the standard Polly-O type.

                                        In the US, fresh mozzarella is almost always made of cow's milk (mozzarella fior di latte), and lacks the tang and texture of mozzarella made from water buffalo milk (mozzarella di bufala). Personally, I find mozzarella di bufala much more delicious than cow's milk fresh mozzarella, even if it's a few days older. The mozzarella di bufala from Costco is fantastic and retains its flavor well - last week, I ate the last ball in the tub about 2 days before the "sell by" date (it had been in my fridge about 1.5 weeks at that point) and it was still awesome. As good as if I'd eaten it the day it was made? No. But better than pretty much any mozzarella fior di latte I've had in the US.

                                        1. re: biondanonima

                                          The majority of the curd purchased to make mozzarella in house is from Polly-O

                                          1. re: scubadoo97

                                            Aiello makes a nice curd, it sells pretty well here on Long Island. And Grande is alway popular with the older pizzerias. I don't know anyone that uses PollyO myself. (BTW Aiello is actually the original Pollio family that branched off on their own after Kraft took over).

                                          2. re: biondanonima

                                            Interesting NY Times piece on making buffalo mozzarella in the US: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/14/mag...

                                            1. re: MGZ

                                              Read that (and then wikipedia on mozz). I never realized that making mozzarella was such an art, I always thought it was one of those easy cheeses. Regrettably at his direct to consumer target price of $35/# its not likely to become a mainstay on my pizza

                                        2. re: biondanonima

                                          I agree--I only like fresh mozz on wood fired oven pizza--the super short cooking time melts it without giving it time to get weird. It gets bhlecky on oven cooked pizzas UNLESS it is completely covered by other wet ingredients ala deep dish or whatever.

                                      2. re: 1POINT21GW

                                        One of the problems with fresh mozzarella is that it will weep a lot of water on your pizza

                                        1. re: scubadoo97

                                          Not if you slice, salt and then dry between layers of paper towels before putting on pizza.

                                            1. re: scubadoo97

                                              Trial and error, trial and error, trial and....success!

                                            2. re: escondido123

                                              If at first you don't succeed, either get take out or keep making MORE pizza!

                                            3. re: scubadoo97

                                              While I have sometimes had wateriness (sp?) be a problem, I think it's also the case that the wateriness is part of what we're after if using fresh mozz to make a Naples-style of pizza, which I generally do. My oven can get my baking stone up to about 600 degrees (I use an infrared thermometer), which is just about good enough to make the real deal. Maybe that heat evaporates the moisture better. But still, I like at least a semi-soggy middle in that kind of pizza.

                                          1. Retail mozz is a joke (to me anyway). None of them are any good anymore and it kills me to buy them, no matter how cheap. If you have a food wholesaler nearby, pick up a 5 lb loaf of Grande, Aiello, Empire or whatever the pizzerias in your area prefer. They like a mix of whole milk and part skim, and it has to be "low moisture". You can cut it into lbs, it freezes very well.

                                            1. Not sure if this product is available south of the border, but Saputo's Mozzarellissima melts great and provides that nice stretchy cheese.

                                              1. I don't know if you have access to it, but I have really good results with the Trader Joe's fresh mozzarella. It's much softer than the block of processed mozzarella from the store that I grew up with, which makes it tricky to grate. The flavor and texture are excellent.

                                                1. The nearest town to me has a population right at 3,000 people and a Piggly Wiggly.

                                                  3 Replies
                                                  1. re: kengk

                                                    Do they have whole milk mozzarella and muenster? If they do, you will enjoy a pizza that has both of these mixed on it.

                                                    1. re: kengk

                                                      stupid idea of the month: tried farmer's cheese?

                                                      1. re: kengk

                                                        If you can't find fresh mozzarella, you can make it - it's easy.

                                                      2. I prefer Sorrento of the national brands that are available at my local stores - it's better than Polly-O, IMO. I like the whole milk variety.

                                                        1. While fresh mozzarella is nice, when I want to make an inexpensive pizza at home and if I can't find a nice Wisconsin mozzarella, I will buy the blocks of Kraft mozzarella, never the already shredded. It's not bad.

                                                          1. Marcella Hazan (in her Classic Italian Cooking and More Classic Italian Cooking) expressed great frustration with American Mozzarella, back in the 80's. Her solution? She has you toss the grated cheese with olive oil and let it sit, so that it absorbs it and gets, well juicier.

                                                            It does work, but what also makes a nice pizza is to use provolone. I don't know why my dad started using it - but he loved it and it did make a very tasty pizza.

                                                            An ex-New Yorker, when the one place he liked pizza from closed up, he started making his own and did so for decades.

                                                            1. Be sure to grate (I prefer to cube) your own from a block. Pre-grated cheese in a bag is coated in cellulose powder as an anti-caking agent and can really effect the outcome once melted.

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. Boar's Head whole milk is very good in all respects, but it is a tad pricey. Publix slices it as you like and it's nice to not have to shred it. Eazy-Peazey.

                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. re: grampart

                                                                  Oh good, I am not alone in my laziness.

                                                                  It's so nice to go to my local marked, they'll slice whole milk mozzarella for me, or provolone, nothing added, and all I have to do is lay it out on the pizza, no shredded knuckles!

                                                                2. I know that the powers that be are trying to destroy more regional or "provincial" styles of pizza, but the hell with them, you could start making "tomato pie"

                                                                  1. Your pizza looks great. If the flavor is meh, I suggest that you add in some modest amounts of genuine parmigiano, or asiago/romano, and even a touch of cheddar. Greek feta is also worthy. Just be aware that those cheeses will also ask you to modify your salt levels--lowering them a bit.

                                                                    Come to think of it, make sure you're putting some salt on the pizzas as you already make them.

                                                                    1. Take a look at what’s available by mail from Pennsylvania Macaroni Company. Although I live in Manhattan and have access to excellent, freshly made mozzarella if that’s what I’m looking for, when it comes to cheese for my pizza I want something that, as you say, is tasty, melty, and stringy. I’ve tried a few of their cheese products and am a fan of the Grande Shredded 50/50 Blend. But I see they have something new now that looks very intriguing and I might try that next time I order: The F & A Whole Milk Mozzarella that they say to mix half-and-half with Park provolone. Hmmmm.

                                                                      If you make pizza often, there are many other excellent products on this site. I love the 6 in 1 tomatoes for sauce and the Ezzo pepperoni is outstanding. Good prices, excellent service, and modest shipping charges.


                                                                      5 Replies
                                                                      1. re: JoanN

                                                                        I'm fortunate to live within walking distance of Penn Mac and buy most of my cheeses as well as my pizza making and Italian cooking supplies there. In person they are very helpful and generous. Out-of-town friends I have told of Penn Mac report that they are equally as helpful over the phone or through email and that shipping charges are very reasonable. I recommend Penn Mac to anyone looking for reasonably priced cheeses and Italian cooking supplies.

                                                                        I make a lot of pizza, and I can at least partially confirm what JoanN says. Although I often get a little creative with my cheese blends, my standard, most common, cheese topping is Penn Mac's standard fresh mozzarella, which I shred by hand, and mix about half-and-half with the Park Provolette, which I grate. I usually use my microplane to grate a little Pecorino Romano DOC or Reggiano Parmigiano DOC on before I bake the pizza and also grate some on after I pull it from the oven.

                                                                        I can't really speak to the quality of the pepperoni, but I can confirm that the 6-in-1 ground tomatoes from Escalon are fantastic. Switching to them for the sauce was somewhat of a pizza making revelation for me.

                                                                        1. re: MonMauler

                                                                          what's the price on that mozarella?
                                                                          /too lazy to check.

                                                                          1. re: Chowrin

                                                                            I just picked some up yesterday, and I want to say it was $8/lb for the fresh mozzarella. Of course, they are usually pretty generous, and what I buy for the 1 lb. price is usually closer to 1.2 lbs of cheese.

                                                                            1. re: MonMauler

                                                                              too rich for my blood. i'll stick with costco.

                                                                              1. re: MonMauler

                                                                                Did you just say $8 per pound for fresh mozzarella?

                                                                        2. you say you're in the stix, so maybe not avaialbe, but trader Joes has a shredded combo, mozz, asiago, provolone that is tasty and stringy.

                                                                          1. Trader Joe's or the Grande brand they sell at Whole Foods are good, so long as they're whole milk. Mozzarella di Bufala should be eaten within HOURS of being made, so the export stuff isn't going to taste nearly as good as fresh. Still tastes better than most of what's on the shelf in your local market, but for me it's not worth the premium. Your best bet is to find your closest cheesemonger who can steer you towards a small dairy farm making quality, locally sourced cheeses. Usually more expensive, but almost always more flavorful than factory cheese.

                                                                            One trick a local, dearly departed Italian pizzeria used was a mix of provolone and Danish fontina on their white pizza. Heavenly with some fresh grated romano and parmegian.


                                                                            6 Replies
                                                                            1. re: monkeyrotica



                                                                              My mind is now blurring and processing, trying to think what this would taste like. ( I may just have to go out and buy some!)


                                                                              1. re: happybaker

                                                                                Fontina is kinda earthy, mushroomey. The family went with Danish Fontina in the '50s because it was more readily available than the Fontina Val d'Aosta they used back in Italy. Alone, the stuff is fondue-ey but the addition of the Provo gives it a more mozzarella stringyness.

                                                                                1. re: monkeyrotica

                                                                                  I actually occasionally make a white pizza with some fontina on it, and you're right, monkeyrotica, about it having an earthiness. I usually make my white-fontina pizza with boursin, as well, of all things. The creaminess of the boursin really contrasts nicely with the fontina. Those two cheeses with a nice mix of veggies (I usually do onion, mushroom, maybe some sliced tomatoes and another veggie or two) on a thinner dough, and the crust brushed with garlic butter or oil, is really fantastic.

                                                                                  1. re: MonMauler

                                                                                    The fact that there's so much bland part-skim mozzarella and flavorless pepperoni on the market should motivate people to experiment with other styles of cheeses and toppings. I'm not particularly fond of fennel but I tried thin shaves of it on a fontina/provo pizza with some capers and a squeeze of lemon and it tasted great.

                                                                                2. re: happybaker

                                                                                  One of my favorites (from Paulette's in SF, don't know if they're still around) is simply Italian fontina with pesto spread on top of the cheese after baking to a nice bubbling golden brown. The pesto melts into the cheese and stays really fresh tasting. Super easy to make.

                                                                                  1. re: happybaker

                                                                                    Fontina is my favorite pizza cheese. It's not stringy like moz, but The flavor and texture works for me!

                                                                                3. Trader Joe's whole milk mozzarella is very good on pizza. It has good flavor and the stringy factor you're looking for.

                                                                                  I recently tried Sorrento mozzarella. A lot of pizza places use this one and although it has a lot of stringiness, it's somewhat bland and tasteless.

                                                                                  1. Made great pizza last night with TJ's whole milk mozz, muenster, parm, and romano. Nicely chewy cheese, good flavor. Used homemade sauce from the last of the local vine-ripened tomatoes :-(, roasted red peppers, and average pepperoni (because we didn't have the time to drive around and chase down good stuff, if there really IS such an animal in my area).

                                                                                    Sort of an American-Italian pizza with good crust - several hours on the poolish.

                                                                                    1. Buy a 5 lb. block of any decent whole milk mozzarella put it in the back of the fridge for a year, you wont believe the flavor. Ed

                                                                                      1. The cheese in the OP probably has no stretch because it's been cooked to death. Even the best mozzarella won't stand up to torture like that.

                                                                                        1. I use Kraft (block - not pre-shredded) and deli provolone - about a 50/50 blend. It perks up the bland flavor of the mozz without sacrificing the stretch. I get the "live in the sticks" problem - sometimes it's Kroger, Walmart, or nothin'.

                                                                                          1. This is walmart brand cheese and it stretches just fine, you cannot cook a pizza to that degree. Its now crispy cheese.

                                                                                            1. Better late than never: Trader joes shredded Quattro Formaggio (asagio, fontina, parm and mild provolone) is delicious on pizza IN COMBO with a few thin slices of TJ's fresh whole milk Mozzarella LOG and perhaps some (a little) TJ's burrata here and there. I also sprinkle on a little shredded moz. The right combination of these cheeses will melt perfectly at 550 for 5 or 6 minutes when using a pizza stone, and not bring down a Naples style pizza if used sparingly. The
                                                                                              Quattro Formaggio used sparingly is REALLY good and adds much flavor!
                                                                                              For those who don't have a Trader Joe's, my sympathy, but try BelGioioso Mozzarella Cheese. It is excellent and will not water up on your pizza.

                                                                                              1. I'm going out into crazy land and I'm going to suggest making your own mozzarella. It's SUPER easy to make with organic, non-ultra pasteurized milk and it makes a lovely string melted on pizza.

                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                1. re: dordalina

                                                                                                  The non-ultra pasteurized milk is essential or the cheese will not work.