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Whenever I use mozarella in a pasta dish, and attempt to mix it in like you would cheddar or anything else, I end up with one giant clump of mozzarella. Ex) I cook some pasta, and add the cheese/milk right after draining and attempt to mix.

Is there a way to thoroughly mix this hardheaded cheese?

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Are we speaking of fresh mozzarella or of the hard stuff that is sold as such? – nico Apr 30 '12 at 14:22
I'm just using store-bought shredded, like the latter picture "hard stuff" – JWiley Apr 30 '12 at 14:26
OK, because the fresh one does not really melt. – nico Apr 30 '12 at 14:35
up vote 5 down vote accepted

You need to add in your cheese in small quantities and stir after each addition.

I'm not sure what you're making, but you could make a cream sauce prior to mixing the pasta with milk/cream, cheese and butter. Again, though, you'll want to add the cheese in small quantities and ensure that it's incorporated before adding another batch.

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Great, thanks! I'll try that. As far as the cream sauce, how would you advise making that to avoid the same problem? Just put a pinch in, let it melt, and repeat? Or is there a method to the madness? – JWiley Apr 30 '12 at 17:33
Yeah, you'd basically be making something like a Mornay or an Alfredo sauce. Melt the butter, incorporate the milk/cream and, once hot, sprinkle the cheese in smaller than 1/4 cup increments stirring constantly. Once all the cheese is in and melted, you can then incorporate your pasta. – Jacob G Apr 30 '12 at 17:40
Sweet! Thanks a lot! – JWiley Apr 30 '12 at 17:43

Your cheese is clumping like oil and water.

Okay, it is perhaps oversimplifying slightly, but this is the basic issue--your cheese is made of, essentially, fat and protein (assuming you're using low-moisture mozzarella). The fat and water repel each other, meaning breaking up that ball of cheese is like trying to mix oil throughout a pot of water--it's going to tend to clump together.

What you need is an emulsifier, an agent that will act as a liaison between the cheese and the water to turn it into one smooth mixture. When making sauces, your go-to emulsifier is starch. This is actually quite handy because when you're making pasta you have starch in abundance! When you're done boiling your pasta, just take a bit of the water and add it to your cheese and pasta. With a little mechanical action, you'll see it all turn smooth and even before your eyes.

As far as how much to add--well that depends on how much pasta, how much cheese, how starchy your water is, etc. What I often do is drain my pasta over a bowl, add a ladle-full of water back to my cheesy sauce with the pasta, and stir for a few seconds. It will quickly become clear whether it is mixing well or whether I'll need more water.

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Thanks! I'll try that out next time too. – JWiley May 1 '12 at 20:04

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