Fresh mozzarella is made by stretching and kneading warm cow's-milk cheese curds into smooth, rindless balls. (In Italy, the cheese is called "buffalo mozzarella," since it is made from the milk of water buffaloes.) Good mozzarella should taste fresh and milky. Look for it, packed in salt water or whey, at specialty food stores and some supermarkets—then try it in these delicious mozzarella recipes.
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Bocconcini are small balls of fresh mozzarella (about 1 to 1½ inches in diameter) that, like their larger counterparts, are typically packed in water or whey. You might also see bocconcini sold marinated. Make your own marinade by tossing the cheese with olive oil, crushed red pepper, and fresh herbs.
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Burrata is a hollow ball of fresh mozzarella filled with cream and pieces of mozzarella. Find it in specialty food stores and cheese shops, stored in brine or wrapped in bright green leaves (an indicator of freshness—both cheese and leaves last about 2 days). It's worth the splurge. Scoop it onto crusty, toasted bread and serve with cold white wine.
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Smoked mozzarella is fresh mozzarella that has been smoked over wood chips. The smoking process dries the cheese and lends it a golden hue. Since it's less watery than fresh mozzarella, it's ideal for paninis.