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What Are Bocconcini?

By Sheri Cyprus
Updated May 16, 2024
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Bocconcini are Italian cheese balls about the size of cherry tomatoes. They taste similar to mozzarella cheese, since they are actually a fresh variety of it. Consumers can usually find them in delicatessens and some supermarkets in plastic tubs filled with liquid containing whey and/or water.

When these cheese balls are sold today, they often made from cow's milk, but bocconcini were traditionally made from water buffalo's milk in Naples, Italy. Some contains both types of milk in the tub. Since they are a type of fresh cheese, they are much more perishable than large blocks of mozzarella. Bocconcini are best used within a few days of buying them.

Bocconcini means small mouthfuls in Italian, and there is a bite-sized appeal to these balls of cheese. They are great served as appetizers with cherry tomatoes since both foods are about the same size and shape, yet their colors and flavors complement each other. Cooks can also stuff mushroom caps with them, broil them, and garnish with a small sprig of parsley for easy appetizers. It's best to season the mushroom caps first, since the cheese is mild in flavor.

A variety of Italian dishes can include this cheese. Italians may eat the balls in a salad with sliced tomatoes, olive oil, and basil. They could also be wrapped with a meat such as prosciutto, an Italian ham, and served in a spinach salad dish known as Bocconcini Sorentina. Bocconcini Florentina features the cheese balls in a hot dish with garlic, seasonings, meat and onions. It can also be blended with other cheeses such as Gruyere to make a filling for a vegetable tart.

Bocconcini are very versatile because, not only can you serve them hot or cold as appetizers and make Italian dishes, you can use them in many different quick and simple meals. For example, they can be sliced and used on mini pizzas for a casual lunch or dinner. Cooks can place some leftover tomato sauce onto English muffins or pitas, add slices of cheese and broil in an oven or toaster oven until the cheese just starts to brown.

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Discussion Comments
By bluedolphin — On Nov 20, 2012

I like bocconcini in sandwiches with basil pesto and sundried tomatoes. It's great for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

The only issue is that bocconcini doesn't stay fresh long. It really does have to be eaten in a few days like the article said. I used to buy a big container of it at first but realized that I am wasting it. So now, I only buy in small amounts, enough to last a couple of days.

By bear78 — On Nov 20, 2012

@MikeMason--Hmm, maybe mild cheese just isn't your thing. I think you would change your mind if you had deep-fried bocconcini though. It's so good!

I buy baby bocconcini (the really small ones) from an Italian grocery, I dip them in eggs, flour and breadcrumbs and deep fry them. The outside is nice and crispy and the inside is really soft. It's the perfect appetizer! I have not met anyone who doesn't like my fried bocconcini as of now.

By stoneMason — On Nov 19, 2012

I had a pizza that had bocconcini as a topping the other day. It was the first time I had this cheese. My God! It's the least flavorful cheese ever. It's just like balls of milk, no taste whatsoever.

I used to think fresh mozzarella was flavorless, but bocconcini is definitely worse in that respect.

By disciples — On Oct 17, 2012

It is fascinating to study how to make mozzarella cheese. Many people only think of it as a pizza cheese, but it is actually one of the most subtle and versatile cheeses ever conceived and there is a true art to making it.

There are a number of purists who believe that certain kinds of mozzarella have to come from Italy and are pale imitations when they come from anywhere else. After finally visiting Italy and eating as much cheese as I could I am inclined to agree.

By tigers88 — On Oct 17, 2012

Is bocconcini widely available in the US? I don't ever recall seeing it in my grocery store but it sounds amazing.

By gravois — On Oct 16, 2012

I have a great recipe for bocconcini pasta. It basically involves bow tie pasta, fresh basil, good tomatoes and the highest quality bocconcini cheese available. Everything is tossed together and served with a drizzle of olive oil. It is a simple dish but delicious and it really highlights the cheese.

By cyprus — On Mar 04, 2010

Thanks so much for your thoughtful comments on the differences between bocconcini and other cheeses! It's very much appreciated.

By anon68664 — On Mar 03, 2010

In Australia, people tend to be confused about the difference between Fresh Mozzarella, Bocconcini, and Buffalo Mozzarella.

Mozzarella, stretched curd and Pasta Filata are all general terms for Italian style fresh cheeses including bambini Bambini, cherry Cherry, traditional Traditional, and grande Grande Bocconcini, as well as trece Treccia, mozzarella Pizza Mozzarella and Buffalo Mozzarella. In Italy consumers will simply call any of the above products "Mozzarella Fresca" (Fresh Mozzarella).

The main difference between Bocconcini and pizza Mozzarella is that pizza Mozzarella goes through an extra cooking step after the curd is cut to expel more moisture. This allows it to be shredded for ease of use especially in a commercial environment.

Essentially, Bocconcini are small pieces of fresh mozzarella that undergo no further ripening after being packed in slightly salty water.

The only difference between Buffalo Mozzarella and fresh Mozzarella is that Buffalo Mozzarella is made using buffalo milk while other fresh Mozzarellas can be made using cows' milk.

Bocconcini La Casa Del Formaggio - The Quality Cheese Maker

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