Some of life’s greatest pleasures are the products of happy accidents. Case in point: mozzarella. According to legend, a Neapolitan cheesemaker accidentally dropped a block of curd into a pot of hot water and rolled the melty morsel into a ball in an attempt to salvage it—and the soft, stretchy snack that was the result forever took center stage in the hearts, minds, and stomachs of cheese-lovers everywhere.
Today, quality mozzarella-making is no accident; it requires first-rate ingredients, patience, and time-honored techniques. That’s something Giuseppe Argentieri, owner of Mozzarella House, is well aware of. His Peabody-based business has amassed a loyal customer following for its commitment to creating house-made curds, using all-natural ingredients, and eschewing additives.
Argentieri witnessed passionate, fastidious food-making firsthand while growing up in the Puglia region of Italy. After moving to the US in 2003, he was delighted to stumble upon Mozzarella House, which had been employing meticulous Italian methods since its founding in 1989. “I was intrigued by what the owner [Maria Cubellis] was doing,” he told us. “Typically the mozzarella you find involves stretching curds that were made by someone else. [Cubellis] was making her own.”
While working in distribution for an Italian coffee brand, Argentieri heard that Mozzarella House was on the market—and as a devoted customer, he felt a duty to protect the business that supplied him a taste of home. He purchased the company, relocated it from Everett to Peabody (closer to his milk source), and reached out to knowledgeable Italian cheesemakers for guidance to enhance the product line’s flavor consistency.
These days Argentieri sources raw cow’s milk from a Peabody dairy farm, and the team implements a low-and-slow pasteurization process to preserve natural enzymes crucial to flavor. After newly formed curds are stirred delicately in a large kettle of hot water, they’re expertly stretched, kneaded, and hand-pinched one by one into small balls. Dunked into cold brine, the mozzarella rounds soak up just enough salt to stay fresh and moist. They might have a shorter shelf life than more industrial versions, but it’s a small price to pay for that milky-fresh, clean, subtle taste.
That basic process yields mozz of all shapes and sizes, ready to be enjoyed in myriad ways. We love to serve the classic four-ounce balls sliced with basil, tomatoes, and ripe peaches under an EVOO-balsamic drizzle. Nodini, which are formed into small knots, make an ideal pick for antipasto platters. Soft ricotta—made with whey leftover from mozzarella-making— is absolutely perfect spread on crusty bread with a drizzle of honey and chopped hazelnuts. Scamorza, a dry-aged mozzarella, features a firmer, chewier texture and a salty kick; in addition to plain, a smoked iteration is stellar in an eggplant risotto or on a white pizza with arugula and pancetta.
Look for Mozzarella House products at Cambridge’s Formaggio Kitchen, Russo’s in Watertown, Volanti Farms in Needham, and Wilson Farm in Lexington, among other local specialty shops. These cheeses also often make their way into dishes crafted by Lydia Shire, Ken Oringer, and Jamie Bissonnette at some of Boston’s best restaurants.