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Mozzarella is a generic term for the several kinds of, originally, Italian fresh cheeses that are made using spinning and then cutting (hence the name; the Italian verb mozzare actually means "to cut"): mozzarella di latte di bufala made from unpasteurized water buffalo's milk; mozzarella di bufala campana made only from Campania's buffalo milk; mozzarella fior di latte made from fresh pasteurized or unpasteurized cow's milk; and mozzarella made from mixtures, sometimes smoked, and those stored in preservatives.

Fresh mozzarella is usually served on the day it is made as it does not keep beyond 12 or 24 hours. Mozzarella of several kinds are also used for most types of pizza (more compact lower water content kinds), lasagna, or served with sliced tomatoes and basil in Insalata caprese.

The mozzarella di bufala campana (Dop 1996) is a particular type of mozzarella; some consider it the best for flavour or quality and it is protected by European DOP. It is a raw material in Italian style neapolitan Pizza - rather than mozzarella made with pasteurized cow's milk.

Mozzarella is available fresh; it is usually rolled in the shape of a ball of 80 to 100 grams (6 cm diameter), sometimes up to 1 kilogram (about 12 cm diameter), and soaked in salted water, sometimes with added citric acid, until sold.

Fior di latte (written also as fiordilatte) is used to distinguish the mozzarella made from cow's milk from that made from buffalo's milk.

When slightly desiccated (partially dried), the structure becomes more compact; then it is better used to prepare dishes cooked in the oven, for example lasagne.

When twisted to form a plait it is called treccia.

It is also available in smoked (called affumicata) and reduced-moisture packaged varieties. To preserve a natural consistency (for no more than a couple of days), fresh mozzarella is delivered in its own liquid (whey).
There are now offered a number of variations, such as "stuffed mozzarella", filled with olives and cooked or raw ham, as well as small tomatoes (pomodorini).

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