Mozzarella is available in fresh, smoked, and reduced-moisture packaged varieties. To preserve natural consistency (for no more than a couple of days), fresh mozzarella is delivered in its own liquid (whey).
It has been said that the name "mozzarella", which is clearly derived from southern Italian dialects, was the diminuitive form of mozza (cut), or mozzare (to cut off). However, as nothing is cut during the preparation of mozzarella, other theories seem to have a better chance of describe its origins as a minor preparation of "scamozza" (Scamorza cheese), which in its turn probably derives from "scamozzata" ("without a shirt"), with allusion to the fact that these cheeses have no hard surface covering.
It is alternatively argued that the cheese originated in a 12th century monastery, whose members gave out homemade "mozza" or "provatura" on bread to visitors. These handouts were probably buffalo-milk "ricotta", from which modern mozzarella probably developed as a by-product. The term "mozzarella" is mentioned in cookbooks dating from the 16th century.
The production of mozzarella involves the mixture of curd with heated whey, followed by stretching and kneading to produce a delicate consistency. In Italy, a "rubbery" consistency is generally considered not satisfactory; the cheese is expected to be softer. It is typically formed into ball shapes or in plait.
See also: List of cheeses