What the heck is buffalo mozzarella – or Mozzarella Di Bufala as the Italians would say? Where does it come from? Why is it so special? Why oh why does it taste so good, especially in Italy?! Those are questions I had after moving to Italy and learning how freaking delicious buffalo mozzarella is!
I set out to investigate… and like always, when investigating, I drag my family along to learn something new with me. Being the adventurous person that I am, I didn’t want to go to some non-authentic place where they show you bags of mozzarella. I wanted information from the experts; I wanted to go where the locals bought their mozzarella!
I decided the Vannulo family, who have been in the Mozzarella Di Bufala business since 1988, was a good choice. They are known as the MVP’s of mozzarella. They are also one of the only 100% organic mozzarella di bufala farms in the world. The in-the-know locals drive miles to get this mozzarella. You even have to call in the morning to reserve cheese if you want some. It’s that good!
I called them up and asked if we could come to the farm and take a look around. They were so gracious and invited us to come on by. So, I packed everyone up in the car and off we went! Don’t they look thrilled?
The first thing I really needed to know, being a Colorado girl surrounded by lots of buffalo, was why we didn’t make any of this cheese in Colorado? Why do I need to go to Italy for this quality cheese? How did our big, American bison get to southern Italy?
Well, the first thing I learned was that mozzarella was made from water buffalo, not bison. Yikes, am I feeling silly right now. Italian water buffalo at that. The origin of the Italian water buffalo is not 100% clear. Some think they came over from Sicily around year 1000 and were more than likely brought by the Arabs. There are many thoughts on this, and most likely we will never know. What we do know is that they make some killer cheese!
Next, I learned authentic Mozzarella Di Bufala is only produced in Italy. To be deemed authentic, it has to be made in the regions of Campania, Lazio, Apulia, or Molise. The buffalo mozzarella from Campana, where we lived, has been deemed DOP and is protected under the EU’s Protected Designation of Origin. This DOP stamp lets people know that it is authentic. It can only receive this stamp of approval when it is made from the traditional recipe in those specific areas; so that is why you don’t see mozzarella di bufala production popping up around the world. Yes, other people can make it, but it won’t be authentic. Legally, the world traditional can only go on products granted this designation. So, when purchasing, always look for the DOP stamp.
We arrived at the farm and were immediately met and guided toward the stables. I’m not going to say I wanna die and come back as a water buffalo, but these buffalo live the life! They have a massage station, a bathing station, and their own cute beds. They are never milked until they feel ready. They actually walk to the milking machine, and the milk machine milks them without a human being. Oh, it’s a cool process! Then, the buffalo can leave the milk machine, have some food, take a nap, or get a massage. The Vannulo family believes that happy buffalo make better and tastier milk. Obviously, they are doing something right because people drive for hours just to buy their cheese.
We also learned about the buffalo, and we were even able to pet them! They were surprisingly calm and ate right from our hands. Awww, I think I want one!
During our tour, we got to see how the cheese is made. The process is done on site and by master cheese Gods who have been trained in the special and sacred making of mozzarella di bufala. The word “mozzarella” comes from the word mozzare, meaning to cut by hand. So, every morning, they make fresh mozzarella, and we watched them do it right in front of our very own eyes.
We also learned that there is mozzarella made with cow’s milk called fior di latte, but if you have had the real deal you can taste the difference immediately. You know what they say… “Once you go buffalo…” Well, no. They don’t really say that, but you get my point.
Now for the good part – a private tasting of the Italian white gold! We got to eat some fresh mozzarella di bufala right from the kitchen. Oh, Mamma Mia! The cheese is formed into beautiful little balls, is so creamy, and melts right in your mouth. All you heard us saying as we stuffed as much mozzarella into our mouths was, “Ohhhh”, “Ahhh”, and “WOW.” It was close to a religious experience. If you’re going to taste buffalo mozzarella for the first time, it should be in Italy at a farm. Trust me on this!
There is a cute, little museum and leather shop on site that shows the history of the farm and sells handmade, buffalo leather goods.
Then there is the store – there are two sections: one that serves fresh yogurt and ice cream; and baby, if you never had buffalo vanilla yogurt, you are missing out! We ate all we could and then were flooded with about 50 people who had hopped off a tour bus; so, we bolted to the next building to buy the mozzarella to take home. We were asked if we had reserved any cheese for purchase. Ummm, no? We need a reservation to buy cheese? Really? Then, locals started pulling up and picking up their cheese. We had to buy some!
Luckily for us, they had reserved us some cheese, unbeknownst to my family. Sometimes, we are some lucky ducks! We happily took home four bags of fresh Mozzarella Di Bufala Cheese. They know how far people drive, so they even package the cheese in a cooler for you to travel home with.
I would tell you to look for it in your local store, but the Vannulo family does not sell their cheese in mass production nor do they export their foodgasmic cheese; they only produce for locals and the people of Italy. You can purchase the real deal all over the world but from different farms, we found some Italian Mozzarella Di Bufala from a gourmet grocery shop online.
If you happen to be in Italy, stop by the Vannulo farm or pick up some mozzarella di bufala at your local store. Make sure it has the DOP stamp to verify it is the real deal.
If you want to do a tour of the Vannulo Farm here is the link to their website. Shoot them and email, and ask them when you can do a tour.
Get ya some! It sure is tasty!
Can I help you with anything else in Italy ?
Do You Need a Hotel? Check out Booking.com for the best Hotels in the Campania area.
Need some Tours around Italy? Try our Partner “Weekend in Italy” for some great tour and travel ideas. While in the area you should check out Pompeii represents a unique heritage of architecture, sculpture, paintings, and mosaics – don’t miss it!
Need to rent a car? Try SIXT for great rental rates in Europe and they are running a Spring Special | one rental day for free
Want to learn some Italian? Check out . Pimsleur Italian Quick & Simple Course
Have you ever tried real mozzarella? Do you have any questions or funny stories on where you thought mozzarella came from? We would love to hear your thoughts; just drop a comment below!