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How to Classify Cheese

How to Classify Cheese

Some examples of hard cheeses, clockwise from top left: Emmentaler, aged provolalone, Gruyere, manchego, aged Gouda, aged Cheddar, aged pecarino antico mugella, ricotta salata.

Culinary Institute of America

Pasta Filata Cheeses

Pasta filata cheeses are a group of cheeses that are related by the process used in their manufacture, rather than by their textures. In fact, the textures of pasta filata cheeses run the gamut from soft to hard, depending upon how they are aged, if at all.

Pasta filata literally means “spun curds” or “spun paste.” During manufacture, the curds are dipped into hot water and then stretched or spun until the proper consistency and texture is achieved. They are then kneaded and molded into the desired shapes.

The most common cheese of this category is mozzarella. In 1990, over 1.5 billion pounds of mozzarella were produced in America alone. Today there are two types of mozzarella available: the traditional fresh style, which is available in a variety of shapes and sizes, and the newer American invention of low-moisture mozzarella, which has a longer shelf life than the fresh style. Both whole milk and part-skim varieties are available.

Provolone is another popular pasta filata cheese that is similarly handled but is made with a different culture. Once the curd is stretched and kneaded, it is rubbed with brine and tied into shape. It is then hung and left to dry in sizes ranging from 250 g to 200 lb. Provolone is often smoked and/or aged for additional character and firmer texture.

Reprinted by permission from The Culinary Institute of America, “Garde Manger: The Art of Craft and the Cold Kitchen” (John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 2008).