Homemade Mozzarella and Pesto Marinated Bocconcini

First- another quick reminder about  The Second Tuesdays Déjà Food Event.  You have 6 more days to get us your submissions.  Pretty please?!?  We can’t wait to be inspired by how you’re re-purposing your leftovers and reducing kitchen waste.   No blog?  No problem.  Just email us the details and we’ll add you in.  Shall I remind you that we have a yummy prize?

In keeping with this week’s theme of brevity I’m going to give you a quick tease of things to come…   I’ll give you the recipe for these now, but check back in to see what I did with them.  Believe me, it’s worth it!

Homemade goat’s milk mozzarella bocconcini marinated in fresh pesto!


Homemade Mozzarella Bocconcini


The process of making these is so easy that you’ll be hard press to fork out the mad cash needed to purchase fresh mozzarella balls at most stores.  This simple method takes 30 minutes or less and is insanely easy.  There are a couple specialty ingredients needed to make them, but they’re easily acquired via the internet or mail order.  Once you have the items in your pantry and freezer you can make mozzarella on a whim.  …And I speak the truth when I say that you will have those whims once you taste these!

(If you want the most super-duper authentic fresh mozzarella, you can move up to this kind of recipe after perfecting the fast mozzarella.)  **Also- do not, under any circumstances, use ultra-pasteurized milk for this cheese.  It will not work.  Trust me.

Homemade Mozzarella and Pesto Marinated Bocconcini
For the Cheese:
  • 1½ teaspoons citric acid powder dissolved in ¼ cup cool water. Available here.
  • 1 gallon whole milk**- see note above (you can use skim, but why?) You can use goat milk or cow milk. Whatever floats your boat.
  • ¼ teaspoon regular strength rennet dissolved in ¼ cup cool water (or ⅛ teaspoon double strength rennet OR ¼ tablet vegetable rennet, crushed and dissolved in the ¼ cup water.) Available here
  • 1 teaspoon cheese salt, optional (cheese salt is just any salt that is not iodized or flavored.)
For the Pesto:
  • 4 cups fresh basil leaves (washed and drained), packed
  • 5 cloves lightly smashed, peeled garlic
  • ½ cup almonds
  • Kosher or sea salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1⅓ cups extra virgin olive oil (This is a good time to use the good stuff!)
  • 1¼ cups fresh grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesano cheese
  • zest of one lemon, optional
  1. Pour the gallon of milk into a large stainless steel or other non-reactive stockpot. Sprinkle the citric acid over the top and stir in gently. Heat milk to 88°F. Don’t panic when the milk starts to curdle. That’s the idea!
  2. While pot is still over heat, stir the diluted rennet in gently making sure to stir all of the milk (don’t just top-stir!) Once the milk reaches between 100-105ºF, kill the heat. WALK AWAY FROM THE PAN for about 5 minutes. I mean it. Do not touch that pan.
  3. When you come back, the curds (the white part) should’ve pulled away from the sides of the pot and you should see lots of whey (yellowish clear liquid) on top and around the sides. If the whey is still milky looking, wait a couple more minutes. This is not a bad thing… All milk is different.
  4. Now comes the fun part. Scoop the curds out of the pot with a slotted spoon and put them into a microwave safe 2 quart or larger sized bowl. Gently press the curd together against the side of the bowl with your hand. You’ll probably have lots of whey coming off the curd. Drain the whey off back into the stockpot and DON’T THROW IT AWHEY, er, AWAY, that is!***
  5. ***Whey is incredibly healthy for you. Use it in place of milk when baking bread to really improve both the health quotient and the texture of your loaves. I’ve heard it said that chilled whey, mixed with fresh squeezed lemon juice and sugar makes a refreshing drink. Um, sure. I’m not quite there yet, but I do use it in my bread when it’s available and it is wonderful!
  6. Put the bowl of curds into the microwave and nuke on high for 1 minute. Use your hands to hold the cheese in the bowl, and drain the extra whey back into the stockpot. Make like you’re kneading delicate bread dough and use your impeccably clean hands to gently fold the cheese back on itself over and over. Again, drain any excess whey back into the pot.
  7. Return the bowl to the microwave and zap it for 35 seconds more. Knead the curds and drain the whey again.
  8. Return once more to the microwave and give it 25 more seconds. Drain off the whey, add salt, if using, and knead until the curds are shiny and stretchy like taffy. You can continue to microwave it in small 10-20 second bursts if the curds cool down to the point where they’re snapping or breaking rather than stretching. At this point you can either stretch it into a smooth ball and eat it warm, drop the ball in ice water to cool the curd quickly for storage OR…
  9. Pull off little pieces of mozzarella, between walnut size and golf ball size and stretch and roll it to form little balls. Drop little balls into an ice water bath and repeat with the remaining curd. While the bocconcini (’cause that’s what they are now) cool, move on to prepare the pesto.
To Make the Pesto:
  1. To toast almonds, add them to a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat. Keep agitating them until they smell toasty and nutty and they’re taking on a delicate brown color.
  2. Remove the almonds from the heat immediately and throw into the food processor with the garlic, basil, salt and pepper. Pulse until the basil leaves are torn very small and the nuts and garlic have been minced. With food processor running, pour the olive oil in a steady stream through the feed tube.
  3. When olive oil is fully added, turn off food processor and add the grated cheese and lemon zest, if using. Pulse four or so more times to mix in the cheese and zest. Now you can use it for pasta, or as a filling in bread rolls OR…


    My new favorite summer staple:  Basil almond pesto marinated fresh mozzarella bocconcini.



    How did we like this recipe?


    Both of the components of this dish -the cheese and the pesto- got a resounding 14 thumbs up out of 14 possible.  This included the “no cheese” guy and the “no green stuff in my food” guy.  These inconsistencies in food preferences are a ray of hope for me.  Some day I may not have to microscopically mince my onions (or leave them large enough to pick back out…)  Ahhh.  A girl can dream.  In the meantime, I’ll serve this as often as possible to get some green stuff in ’em all.



    1. Rebecca says

      WORC- Thank you. I like to rock the ball (jar- that is!)

      ECM- Shucks. You’re making me blush.

      My Sweet & Saucy- Thanks for backing up my utter addiction to this food item. And thanks, too, for stopping by. Ya’ll come back now, ya hear?

    2. says

      Wow! I want to make mozerella.
      I didn’t know it was so easy.
      I have seen citric acid at the bulk store, I just need to find rennet.
      And as for salt without iodization – I am a salt collecter. I have a lot of different kinds. Would fine sea salt be okay?
      ps, you are amazing

    3. Rebecca says

      Natashya- That was my reaction after I made it the first time! I had to make it to be convinced it was truly that simple. As for finding rennet, you can easily order it online through the links above …or… try your local health food place. I know the big one around here sells vegetable rennet tablets. Those keep almost indefinitely when tightly wrapped and in the freezer.

      ps, if you are a salt collector I formally invite you to be one of my best friends.

    4. Rebecca says

      Natashya- I forgot to mention that fine sea salt would work well but you might want to adjust down the quantity until you can taste how salty the cheese is. You can always knead a bit more in at the end.

    5. janel says

      I am totally going to make this! How do you know what kind of rennet you should buy? There were a few to choose from on that page. The vegetable one would work?
      So how bad is the skim milk version? Thanks for the guidance! This will be fun! Now how about that ice cream recipe with Grand Marnier??? 😉

    6. Rebecca says

      Janel- HI! You can use any of the rennets on that page. For us I use the calf rennet, but when I know vegetarian friends are going to be eating with us soon I use the vegetable rennet. You can buy the vege rennet in tablet form and that stores really well for a really long time. It’s probably the best bet unless you’ll be making cheese semi-regularly. You can get those through New England Cheese Making Co. at: http://www.cheesemaking.com/store/p/109-Tablet-Vegetable-Rennet-20-Tablets.html

      The skim milk version, while not inedible, does not compare to the whole milk one. It’s still tasty, but much firmer and gives a much lower yield because of the lack of milk solids.

      You want the ice cream recipe? I’ll post it this week. I was just looking for a reason to make more!

    7. says

      This is very exciting and I needed a kick in the pants to get the cheesemaking going again. I’ve done the mozz a couple times and ricotta as well – both times I wished the mozzarella was a little softer. It got pretty tough and grainy…any thoughts? How does yours come out on the scale from the soft fresh stuff (that comes in the liquid) and the blocks of shredding cheese?

    8. Rebecca says

      Hey Andrew! I think the trouble you’re having can be fixed by playing with your citric acid and rennet proportions. Reducing the rennet slightly will result in a softer cheese. The same can be true of the citric acid, but you’ll want to be careful not to reduce it too much as that is the curdling agent here. My mozzie comes out pretty soft. Of course, most cheeses are supposed to be served warm or room temp, so the texture of almost all cheeses is improved by slight warming.

      …And did you see our cheesemaking supply giveaway? http://www.foodiewithfamily.com/blog/?p=193 Might be helpful…

    9. Ed Flowers says

      I made some mozzarella last night and it came out pretty well for a first try. I saved the whey, but I have no idea how long it will last. I’d like to use it for some bread. What is the shelf life? Also, would cheese cloth help in draining the excess whey?

    10. Rebecca and/or Val says

      Ed- I’m glad you had such good luck. The whey is good for a month in the fridge in a tightly lidded container or indefinitely in the freezer. Cheese cloth would help you greatly if you’re trying to save as much whey as possible (also if you have a softer curd it maximizes the amount of cheese you make.)

    11. Goldie says

      Thanks for the recipe! I just made this tonight and was fully prepared for it to be a complete disaster but it really was easy! Then I took the leftover whey and made ricotta for my lasagna tomorrow night. This has inspired me to make even more and varied types of cheeses (and did I mention that my friends and family now think I’m a culinary genius? LOL)

    12. Heather says

      I DID IT! I DID IT!! :) I’m so proud of myself right now, you’ve no idea. So, how do I store this amazing stuff I just made? In water (that’s how it is in the grocery stores)? I chose not to do the pesto.

    13. DOROTHY FISHER says


    14. Tonya says

      Instead of the microwave, I put the solid curd back in the hot whey (kept it on low), salted the water a bit, and used it to melt the larger pieces. Just keep checking it with a spoon. You don’t want to completely melt it or you’ll never get it back out of the pot :) Just smoosh together and stretch. When it cooled off, I let it sit some more in the hot water. Once you’re finished, put in ice water to firm it.


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