Pasta Filata

Science Byte

How does heating and stretching curd change final cheese structure?

Pasta filata, also known as “stretched curd” or “spun paste”, refers to the process of heating and stretching curd directly before forming a final cheese. Most famously performed with mozzarella, the pasta filata process is used in order to achieve desirable cooking characteristics. Traditionally done by hand, the fresh curd is submerged in hot water and then stretched. Commercially, pasta filata is done by mechanical mixers, since the necessary amount of scald-proof hands are hard to come by nowadays.


Stretching mozzarella, aka the pasta filata process

When the curd is placed in hot water, the structure softens. This softened, pliable curd is then stretched. Stretching aligns the protein structure into strands, more or less. These aligned protein (casein) strands are nested together with pockets of fat and serum (whey/water) in between. The pasta filata process usually yields a cheese that has better stretching characteristics, perfect for pizza!

A schematic representation of the change in cheese structure due to the pasta filata process.
Drag the black slider! Made using twentytwenty.js

Curd can reach high temperatures during pasta filata, usually around 55-70°C (~130-160°F). These temperatures can, partly, deactivate enzymes and decrease bacterial culture activity in the final cheese. This may help prolong the shelf-life and functional properties of the cheese.


For More Information