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Was the world’s favourite cheese invented by accident?

One of the world’s most popular cheeses, mozzarella, may have been invented by chance.

Layered between thick slices of tomato and fresh basil. Oozing from silky-smooth ravioli. Bubbling atop a doughy, fresh-out-the-oven margarita pizza. Whether it’s served fresh in a salad or piping hot in a home-made pasta dish, Italy’s milky-white cheese has won the hearts of millions across the globe.

Few, though, know how or when this world-famous dairy product came to be. According to Italian legend, mozzarella was created by accident in Naples when curdled milk fell into a pot of boiling water. The result was a rich, creamy delicacy that, centuries later, became one of the world’s favourite cheeses.

But the smooth milky morsel we know and love is very different from the accidental mozzarella born in Naples. Traditional Italian mozzarella — or mozzarella di bufala — is made exclusively from water buffalo milk. Containing roughly twice the fat of cow milk, high-quality buffalo milk is what Italian cheesemakers say gives mozzarella di bufala its distinctive creamy texture and rich flavour.

Outside of Italy, however, this vital ingredient is rarely used. Today, most mozzarella sold in the US or Europe is made from cow’s milk. A cheaper, more readily available ingredient, cow’s milk produces a milder, less creamy version of the cheese, which, for true mozzarella fans, just doesn’t compare to Southern Italy’s traditional mozzarella di bufala.

Get a taste

The best place to sample mozzarella di bufala is in Naples or the surrounding regions of Campania, Lazio, Apulia, and Molise, where strict government regulations ensure that the cheese is only prepared using traditional ingredients and methods. If you’re not planning on a trip to Italy, ask for fresh buffalo milk mozzarella at your local deli or specialist food market, but be warned: it’s rare and difficult to find.

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