Learning the Art of Mozzarella Making

Making mozzarella cheese by hand
Pasquale Guarella of Losurdo Foods makes it look easy.

There are three things that make food taste amazing: fresh ingredients, skillful preparation, and deep enthusiasm. A Mano restaurant in Ridgewood recently hosted a hands-on mozzarella-making class that featured step-by-step instruction in crafting delicious fresh cheese. The enthusiasm ingredient was supplied, in abundance, by the instructor, Mr. Michael Losurdo, founder and president of Losurdo Foods, Inc., as well as A Mano owner Fred Mortati.

As part of the restaurant’s ongoing series of educational and entertaining culinary events, the class was designed to introduce attendees to the techniques involved in taking cheese curds from their raw form to irresistibly smooth and delectable mozzarella in various shapes and sizes. Mr. Losurdo, a renowned leader in the food industry, made it look easy, flowing through the steps with practiced turns of the wrist and a constant flow of gentle Italian-flavored humor. He and his experienced colleague, Pasquale Guarella, offered an overview of mozzarella’s culinary history, outlined the basics of crafting homemade cheese, and then invited guests to roll up their sleeves and slide their hands into hot, milky water to try it for themselves. The result? Mozzarella Amazeballs!

Here’s a visual recap of the process.

Slicing cheese curds to make fresh mozzarella
STEP 1: Have a large vat of water ready at 165-170° F. Beginning with fresh cheese curds (available at specialty grocery stores like Corrado’s Markets), slice the curds into a large stainless steel bowl.
Michael Losurdo making fresh mozzarella
STEP 2: Put the curds through a first cook by ladling the heated water gently around the edges of the bowl until the curds are fully submerged. Stir with a stainless steel spoon or paddle. As the water begins to cool, ladle in additional hot water. This is tempering the cheese.
Michael Losurdo stirring first cook of fresh mozzarella
STEP 3: As the curds begin to soften together, use the paddle to fold and stretch the cheese, eventually bringing it to a silky texture.
Stretching fresh mozzarella
STEP 4: Pour out some of the water in the bowl and replace with fresh hot water for the second cook. Now the mozzarella is ready for shaping. Working your hands into the water (keep a bowl of cold water nearby for quick relief from the intense heat!), lift and stretch the cheese, submerging it repeatedly to keep it moist and warm.
Folding and stretching in the process of making mozzarella
STEP 5: Separate a piece of cheese from the larger mass, then begin folding and smoothing into the desired shape.

Stretching fresh mozzarella cheese

Pasquale Guarella demonstrating mozzarella making
STEP 6: Work your palms in a cupping motion to create a traditional ball. Mr. Losurdo explains that “mozzare” means to cut — in slang, to “murder”—and gave mozzarella its name, as the motion of the pinching action used here is like strangling (perhaps once used on early pizza thieves!).
Michael Losurdo demonstrates cheese making
Mr. Losurdo shows Mary Bartels how to shape the perfect mozzarella ball.
Forming handmade mozzarella balls
The shaping continues.
Fresh mozzarella braid
STEP 7: Cheese can be shaped in a variety of ways. Twist off small balls to create bocconcini (“little bites”). With practice, you can even stretch a long strand and create a lovely braid like this one.
Fresh mozzarella made by hand
STEP 8: Once the ball is formed, place it in a prepared bowl of water to cool. It can then be shifted to a second bowl of salted water to impart a salty finish, if desired. And done! These beauties are ready to serve!

Mr. Mortati, who opened A Mano (meaning “by hand”) in 2007 with the goal of introducing authentic Neapolitan pizza to North Jersey food lovers, has fresh mozzarella made by hand daily in his kitchen. This, in tandem with the hand-built wood-fired ovens and directly imported Italian ingredients his staff use, is how he fulfills his commitment to recreating the experience of eating fresh dishes just as they are served in Naples. In fact, A Mano is one of only a select few restaurants in the U.S. that carry certification by the two Italian governing associations, Associazone Verace Pizza Napoletana and Associazone Pizzaiuoli Napoletani, designating its pizza as truly authentic Neapolitan.

“Artisanal is a buzzword these days,” Mortati notes. “It’s becoming a fad. But it’s really about taking it back to the basics.” Bringing in a master like Mr. Losurdo to give people a personal experience is one way he enjoys making a connection with customers and sharing his own passion about the food. Working with Losurdo Foods is a delight, he explains, because “they’re really great about sharing their trade secrets. They’re so proud of their heritage.”

Perfecting the art of making fresh mozzarella will surely take some practice without this kind of expert guidance in your kitchen, but it is well worth the effort. The taste is glorious and the process pretty fun. If you’d like to sample some of the amazing stuff as inspiration, head to A Mano for a bubbling pizza fresh from the oven and taste the difference for yourself.

Fresh Neapolitan pizza at A Mano Restaurant
Authentic Neapolitan pizza fresh from the oven at A Mano

A Mano
24 Franklin Avenue (at the corner of Chestnut Street)
Ridgewood, NJ 07450

Mon – Thurs: 11:30 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Fri – Sat: 11:30 a.m. – 11 p.m.
Sun: 12:30 p.m. – 9 p.m.


Deanna Quinones is the Jersey Bites Regional Editor for Morris County. A freelance writer, blogger, and unrepentant chocolate addict, Deanna spent 20 years in the San Francisco Bay Area where life was good and the burritos even better. She recently returned to the Garden State and now resides in Morristown, where she and her Texas-born/Jersey-raised/California-found husband are raising two wild and wonderful kids. An experienced book marketer, award-winning greeting card writer, and entertainment writing dabbler, Deanna can be reached at deannaq@optimum.net. (photo credit Pete Genovese/The Star-Ledger)