1 Tbsp. Sun-dried tomatoes, oil packed, finely minced
1 Tsp. Orange zest
1 Tsp. Calabrian chili flakes
1 Tbsp. Fresh parsley, finely chopped
1 Tsp. Dried basil
1 Tsp. Fresh Chives, minced
1/4 Tsp. Garlic powder
1 Lb. Fresh Mozzarella cheese, cut into cubes
3) Serve the cubes on fancy toothpicks if using as an appetizer or serve in a bowl family style.
NOTES: Marinated mozzarella cubes is a fast and easy appetizer that can be made ahead and served at room temperature. I typically make these the night before serving, but they can be made just an hour before serving and kept in the fridge. If making ahead and storing overnight, the oil will solidify. Be sure to let the bowl come to room temperature and stir before serving or adding toothpicks.
I’m using mozzarella cubes since I had a log of fresh mozzarella on hand. However, you could easily make marinated mozzarella balls using the already formed bocconcini from the grocery store. Bocconcini is simply small portions of mozzarella already shaped into a small, round ball. You’ll find them in the deli section in small containers with water or brine in the container. Shape is not important in this recipe. It is the flavors in the marinade that make this a stand out dish. Once you have decided on the shape (Mozzarella cubes or Mozzarella balls), you are ready to decide between fresh mozzarella and regular mozzarella. While both are good, there are definite differences in terms of texture, taste and how they are used when cooking.
What’s the difference between fresh Mozzarella and regular Mozzarella?
I find that there are five main differences between the two cheeses. Note that either works and I recommend using what you prefer or have on hand. Here are the differences:
- Moisture content and texture:
- Fresh mozzarella: It has a high moisture content and is soft and creamy. It is typically sold in water or brine to retain its moisture and shape. You’ll find it i containers at the grocery store or in big barrels at Italian delis where it is made daily.
- Regular mozzarella: Also known as low-moisture mozzarella, it has a lower moisture content and is firmer with a slightly rubbery texture. This is the cheese we’ve all grown up with and have used in lasagnas and baked pasta dishes for years. You’ll also find this as the shredded cheese we use when making pizza.
- Aging and shelf life:
- Fresh mozzarella: It is a cheese that is meant to be consumed shortly after being made. This will not hold very long (no more than a week) so should be enjoyed immediately.
- Regular mozzarella: This type of mozzarella can be aged for a longer period, which gives it a longer shelf life and makes it suitable for packaging and distribution. It can last for several weeks or even months when properly stored. This is the cheese most of us will have on hand and you can absolutely use this in this recipe. I chose fresh mozzarella because I had it on hand.
- Production process:
- Fresh mozzarella: It is traditionally made by stretching and kneading freshly made curd in hot water, a process known as “pasta filata” (A cheese-making method.) This results in a cheese with a smooth surface and a unique texture. If you live anywhere near an Italian deli where they make their own mozzarella, be sure to stop by and watch them make the cheese. It is the best thing ever! I grew up in NYC where watching the owners make cheese was a regular thing. Tasting it is a little piece of heaven.
- Regular mozzarella: It is also made using the “pasta filata” method, but the curd is pressed and cooked for a longer time, resulting in a drier and more elastic cheese.
- Fresh mozzarella: It has a mild and slightly tangy flavor. Its taste is delicate and best appreciated on its own or with minimal “fussing”. Simply marinating it like we are in this recipe is just enhancing the flavor.
- Regular mozzarella: This type of mozzarella has a distinct savory flavor, especially when aged. Its taste is well-suited for dishes that require melted cheese or stronger flavors. This is your go-to cheese when you are looking for that “string-pull” we all love and crave in baked pasta dishes.
- Culinary uses:
- Fresh mozzarella: It is commonly used in salads, caprese (tomato, mozzarella, and basil) dishes, and enjoyed fresh herbs, olive oil and balsamic vinegar. These marinated mozzarella balls or cubes are a perfect way to treat the fresh cheese.
- Regular mozzarella: This type of mozzarella is a popular choice for pizzas, lasagnas, pasta dishes, and recipes where you want the cheese to melt, get gooey-gooey and you are looking for the “string pull” (stretching).
Make the Marinade
In a bowl, mix all the marinade ingredients until well incorporated. You’ll note that I have a citrus flavored olive oil (Blood Orange Infused Olive Oil) and some fresh orange zest in this marinade This is what makes this marinade unique and delicious. If you don’t have the blood orange olive oil, use regular olive oil and double or triple the amount of zest you add to the marinade.
You can increase the heat in this marinade by increasing the amount of calabrian chilis you use. Also, feel free to play with the fresh herbs you add to this recipe. I added chives and parsley, but basil and thyme would be great too. If you don’t have fresh herbs on hand, go ahead and use dried herbs. This is a very flexible recipe and you can “play with it” and make it your own.
MARINATE THE MOZZARELLA BALLS OR CUBES
The last step is to bring the whole dish together. Add the mozzarella cubes or mozzarella balls to the marinade and gently toss to coat all the cheese. Cover the bowl and keep in the fridge for about an hour or overnight.
If using fresh mozzarella, you’ll want to eat these within a couple of days. If using regular mozzarella, these will hold for up to a week or longer, covered in the refrigerator.
Note: Because there is olive oil in the marinade, it will solidify when cold. Don’t worry, that is normal. Just remove from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before serving so it comes to room temperature. Stir the marinade and cheese so everything is once again combined.
SERVING THE MARINATED MOZZARELLA CUBES OR BALLS
If I’m serving to my family, I’ll serve these in a bowl with a loaf of crusty bread on the side. They they can serve themselves family style.
Leftovers? These are great on top of a salad so be sure to add these to your side salads and lunch salads too.
Did you like how easy this appetizer is? Try some of my other “no-fuss” starter recipes. These are great to put out with cocktails for a stress-free cocktail hour.