Mozzarella is a cheese from the south of Italy traditionally made with milk from water buffaloes, but the cows' milk version is far more common (and cheaper). Italians have been making this cheese since at least the 15th century.
Ideally, mozzarella should be eaten the day it is made, and a herd of water buffalo recently introduced to Ireland by Toby Simmonds of the Real Olive company means we can buy freshly made buffalo mozzarella at many of our farmers' markets.
This test was of cows' milk mozzarellas packaged in just water, salt and citric acid.
The good news is that there was very little difference between the samples, although some melted better than others and some were a little softer. The taste was very similar and I am not sure you need to bother spending the extra money if you are just melting it on homemade pizza -- unless you have Italians coming for dinner!
Galbani, 125g, €1.69
Available at Superquinn and some other supermarkets, this was the softest mozzarella in the test with a pleasant milky taste and a hint of salt and excellent melting qualities. The most expensive but with the best texture and flavour this is perfect for salads. For pizzas I am not sure it would be worth the extra expense. 8/10
Castelli, 125g, €1.56
This brand seems to be the most commonly available (Dunnes, Tesco and elsewhere) and is made in Reggio Emilio in Northern Italy -- a town better known for Parmesan than mozzarella. Firm but reasonably moist texture with a stronger milk and salt flavour. Good melting qualities and tasty enough for salads. 7.5/10
Tesco, 150g, €1.39
Made in Italy for Tesco, this had a reasonably firm texture and when pulled apart this broke easily into good strips. This melted very well and had a strong milky flavour. Good quality and would work fine in a salad but is even better for pizza, thanks to the melting qualities. 7.5/10
Aldi, 200g, €0.59
The cheapest mozzarella in the tasting. No indication on the packet of where it is made but it is probably not Italian. This was firm textured but had good crumbling at the edges with a pleasant milky and slightly salty taste. It melts well and has a good texture for salads or other cold uses.
SuperValu, 125g, €0.59
The best-value Italian-made mozzarella in the test. Rather firm texture initially, but does break into pleasing moist strips when pulled apart. Melts well and has a strong milky flavour with a mild salty aftertaste. Perhaps not the best texture for a Caprese salad but certainly good for pizza and bruschetta.
Lidl Lovilio, 125g, €0.59
Lidl's own brand certainly looks Italian from the packaging but seems to be made in Germany. Firm and slightly flaky when pulled apart, this melted well but held its shape more than some of the others. Taste is a typical mild, milky and slightly salty taste. Perhaps best kept for melting but could just about work in a salad. 6/10
Brelat, 125g, €0.99
Available in Field & Vine shops and elsewhere. This had a rather squashed shape, like an ice hockey puck, but had a fairly soft texture that melted well. The taste seemed slightly blander than the others but was still perfectly serviceable. Best kept for melting on pizzas but would work in salads at a push. 6/10
Tesco Value, 125g, €0.59 This has a note on the packet saying "Not Italian but still great for salads..." which is refreshingly honest. This is made in Germany and is very firm textured with less give than the other samples. This did not melt quite as well and is perhaps a little too bland and firm for salads.