From beautifully simple salads to rich and creamy main courses, these recipes were made for mozzarella obsessives.
Whether it’s hot, melted and gooey on top of a pizza or cold, creamy and refreshing in a caprese salad, mozzarella is undoubtedly one of our favourite cheeses. But it’s perhaps because it’s so indisputably delicious in the aforementioned guises that it’s easy not to experiment with mozzarella: to keep using it in the same old recipes, time after time.
If you’d like to branch out in how you use mozzarella in the kitchen, start with the five recipes below. Skye McAlpine’s mozzarella with celery, olives and pine nuts is a beautifully simple dish that’s perfect for spring and summer, as is James Martin’s buffalo mozzarella, blackberry and beetroot salad.
Both of these recipes call for buffalo mozzarella, which is traditionally made in the southern Italian region of Campania using Mediterranean buffalo milk. Happily, you can now buy excellent British-made varieties in the UK, such as the organic buffalo mozzarella from Laverstoke Park Farm in Hampshire (from £2.80, Farmdrop). If you can’t get hold of buffalo mozzarella, though, these dishes will still taste delicious made with the more common cow’s milk version.
If you’re already thinking about what you’ll cook once you can have friends over again, allow us to direct you to the mozza fritta recipe by the Big Mamma restaurant group (owners of Instagram-famous Italian restaurants Gloria and Circolo Popolare). Little balls of mozzarella deep-fried in breadcrumbs and garnished with fried basil leaves, they’ll make indescribably tasty snacks to nibble on alongside a glass of celebratory Italian pet nat like Vino Frizzante Sullerba 1701 Franciacorta NV (£23, Buon Vino Natural Wines).
Similarly shareable is Rosie Reynolds’ recipe for spicy salami pizza sliders, made from soft bread rolls showered in grated mozzarella, pepperoni, chilli, black olives and all kinds of good stuff.
And for a mouth-watering main course, try Ben Lebus’ caprese gnocchi, which takes the ingredients of the Italian tricolore salad – mozzarella, tomatoes and fresh basil – and transforms them into a hearty hot dinner. Say cheese…
James Martin’s buffalo mozzarella, blackberry and beetroot salad
James says: “It’s amazing to think there are thousands of buffalo roaming the British countryside and those at Laverstoke Park Farm in Hampshire, run by Formula One World Champion Jody Scheckter, produce some of the best buffalo mozzarella.
“This is a fresh cheese that needs to be eaten quickly – it’s made by warming and stretching the curd, moulding it into balls and storing it in salted water. This adds flavour but degrades the cheese if kept for too long.”
- 25ml elderflower cordial
- 25ml white wine vinegar
- 50ml olive oil
- ½ cucumber, deseeded and diced
- 50g blackberries
- 200g pre-cooked (not pickled in vinegar) beetroot, sliced
- 1 ball buffalo mozzarella
- 2 pickled onions, halved and layers separated
For the curd:
- 500ml buffalo milk
- juice of ½ lemon
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- small handful of bergamot leaves or herb flowers (optional)
Line a sieve with muslin and rest it over a bowl.
To make the curd, pour the buffalo milk into a medium saucepan and place over a very low heat. Heat to 70°C – use a cook’s thermometer to check – then pour in the lemon juice and whisk well.
Spoon into the muslin to strain away the liquid for 2 minutes, then spoon the curd into a separate, clean bowl. Discard the liquid. Season the curd well, mix together and chill.
Whisk the elderflower cordial, vinegar and olive oil together in a bowl, season and add the cucumber and blackberries. Toss together to coat well.
To serve, arrange the beetroot slices on a large serving plate and spoon some of the curd all around.
Shred the mozzarella and dot around the plate, then spoon over the dressed cucumber and blackberries, leaving the rest of the dressing in the bowl.
Scatter over the onion layers, then spoon over the dressing and decorate with the bergamot leaves or herb flowers, if using.
From James Martin’s Great British Adventure: A Celebration Of Great British Food, With 80 Fabulous Recipes by James Martin (£25, Quadrille), out now
Skye McAlpine’s mozzarella with celery, olives and pine nuts
Skye says: “You can pair mozzarella successfully with most things, though I find that celery, with its distinctive mineral flavour, works particularly well with the salty black olives here, while the pine nuts add an unexpectedly creamy note.
“The success of this dish depends upon the cheese. Buffalo mozzarella, if you can get your hands on it, is my favourite; it’s lighter and a little tangier than mozzarella made from cow’s milk.
“One of the joys of this dish is that the mozzarella can be sliced a little in advance and left on its serving dish for a couple of hours, though of course the longer it sits, the less fresh it will taste.”
- 12 black olives, pitted
- 6–8 anchovies
- 25g pine nuts
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1–2 celery sticks
- 6 mozzarella cheeses, ideally buffalo
Finely chop the olives, anchovies and pine nuts together. Spoon them into a bowl, pour over the olive oil, give everything a good stir and set aside.
Thickly slice the celery.
Slice the mozzarella thickly, roughly 1cm thick, and arrange on a serving dish.
Sprinkle the chopped celery over the cheese, then spoon over the olive mixture with all of its flavoured oil.
Set aside – ideally in the fridge, or if fridge space is at a premium, somewhere cool – for 20–30 minutes before serving, so the cheese becomes imbued with the flavour of the oil.
Bring the cheese to room temperature before serving.
Mozzarella goes well with pretty much anything and everything, but there are few more delightful lunches than this served alongside roast stuffed tomatoes, a big dish of baby artichoke, fennel & pecorino salad, and perhaps – if feeding a hungry crowd – an asparagus with lemon & toasted almond gratin.
From A Table For Friends: The Art Of Cooking For Two Or Twenty by Skye McAlpine (£26, Bloomsbury), out now
Big Mamma’s mozza fritta (fried mozzarella)
The Big Mamma team say: “These crispy little nuggets are even more delicious served with a good green pesto. Dip, bite and roll!”
- 20 (20g) mini mozzarella balls
- 250g plain flour
- 5 eggs
- 200g dried breadcrumbs
- 1 litre sunflower oil
- a few fried basil leaves, to garnish
- sea salt flakes
Arrange the mozzarella balls on a rack with a baking sheet under them, and leave them to dry for at least 3 hours at room temperature.
Tip the flour into a dish. In a bowl, lightly beat the eggs with a fork and pour into a second dish. Put the breadcrumbs into a third dish.
Roll the mozzarella balls in the flour, then the beaten egg and finally the breadcrumbs. Shake well to remove any surplus.
In a deep fryer or heavy-based pan, heat the oil to 160°C. If you don’t have a cooking thermometer, you can test the oil temperature by dropping a few breadcrumbs into it: if the oil is hot enough, they will turn golden.
Immerse the mozzarella balls in the oil and cook for 3–4 minutes until golden brown.
Remove the balls using a slotted spoon and place them on paper towels to drain. Garnish with a few fried basil leaves.
Sprinkle with sea salt flakes and freshly ground pepper and eat immediately!
From Big Mamma Cucina Poplare: Contemporary Italian Recipes by Big Mamma (£27.95, Phaidon), out now
Rosie Reynolds’ spicy salami pizza sliders
Rosie says: “These pizza sliders can be made with large or small rolls. Perfect for a party, you can go mad with the fillings – ham and pineapple is a great nostalgic trip. Bring the hot rolls to the table and let your guests pull them apart.”
Makes 12 rolls
- 50g soft unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing
- 1 fat garlic clove, crushed
- 1 tsp chilli flakes
- 12 mini bread rolls
- 150g mozzarella cheese, grated
- ½ x 400g can chopped tomatoes with herbs
- 2 tbsp tomato purée
- handful basil leaves, torn, plus extra for garnish
- salt and black pepper
- 16 slices spicy pepperoni sausage
- 1 small red chilli, sliced
- 25g pitted black olives, roughly chopped
- 25g parmesan cheese, grated
First make the garlic butter. Melt the butter in a small pan over a low heat. Remove from the heat and mix in the garlic and chilli flakes, then set aside.
Preheat the oven to 200°C/gas 6. Without separating the rolls, slice them in half so that you have one giant top and bottom.
Use the extra butter to lightly grease a baking dish large enough to fit all the rolls. Place the bottom halves of the rolls in the dish. Scatter over half the mozzarella and bake for 5 minutes to melt the cheese and firm up the base.
Sieve the tomatoes to remove any excess liquid.
Mix the tomatoes with the purée and stir in the basil, season and spoon over the melted cheese.
Top with the pepperoni, chilli and olives. Cover with the remaining mozzarella, then pop the giant bread roll lid on top.
Brush the tops of the rolls with the garlic butter and sprinkle over the parmesan. Bake for 10–15 minutes until the rolls are golden and the cheese is oozing. If the buns are getting too much colour cover them with foil.
Remove from the oven and scatter with basil leaves. Devour while hot.
From Posh Sandwiches: Over 70 Recipes, From Reubens To Banh Mi by Rosie Reynolds (£12.99, Quadrille), out now
Ben Lebus’ caprese gnocchi
Ben says: “We’ve taken everyone’s favourite salad and made it into a gnocchi recipe. What more do you want? This is about as easy as they come, and it will become one of your staples.”
- 1 red onion
- 750g cherry tomatoes
- 2 x 500g packets of fresh gnocchi
- 1 bunch fresh basil
- 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
- 1–2 tsp dried chilli flakes
- 2 x 125g mozzarella balls (check the label if cooking veggie and find an alternative if needed)
- olive oil
- salt and black pepper
Get a large frying pan over a medium heat and pour in a good glug of olive oil.
Peel the onion and then coarsely grate it straight into the pan. Fry for a minute to soften, then chuck in the cherry tomatoes and stir.
Turn the heat up and leave the tomatoes to bubble away, burst and create a sauce.
Meanwhile, pour the boiling water from the kettle into a large saucepan over the heat and bring back to the boil. Season well with salt and drop in the gnocchi. Cook for 1–2 minutes. When the gnocchi float to the surface they are done. Drain through a sieve or colander.
Back to the sauce. Tear in half the basil leaves, add the red wine vinegar, chilli flakes to taste and salt and black pepper.
Tip in the drained gnocchi and give everything a good stir.
Drain the mozzarella balls of any liquid, then tear the mozzarella straight into the pan and leave for a minute to melt.
Spoon the gnocchi and sauce into four bowls. Tear over the remaining basil leaves and finish with some extra black pepper.
From Speedy MOB: 12-Minute Meals For 4 People by Ben Lebus (£14.99, Pavilion Books), out now
Photography: Skye McAlpine; © Peter Cassidy; © Faith Mason; David Loftus