Festival of the Mozzarella Nodino – Knot and Bruschetta

When I saw that my visit in Puglia coincided with the Sagra della Bruschetta e Nodino – Festival of the Bruschetta and (mozzarella) Knot, I was ecstatic. I consider these little “knots” to be one of my top ten favorite foods in Italy. Something that must be sampled and savoured here, because the freshness and quality of ingredients just doesn’t export well.

(Note: My boss’ boss calls me on Sunday night to ask me to come into the office at 8 on Monday. I have officially returned from vacation.)

On the mountain behind Manfredonia, in a frazione, or fraction/fragment of Manfredonia called Montagna, the biggest business in this hilltop town is San Salvatore Societa Cooperazione – Lattini Freschi – fresh cheeses. There is so little information about this company because their products are quite local, but oh so good. They were the hosts of this sagra.

A sagra is a local Italian festival that usually focuses on a gastronomical ingredient that is their specialty, is seasonal, or perhaps is just plentiful in that area. The food is usually made by the local community members and is usually great and cheap! One of the best steaks I ever had was at a tiny, 100-person sagra for cherries in Tuscany. Rowena from Rubber Slippers in Italy has made it her goal to go to as many of sagras as she can and Tania from Eurobimbo has gone to quite a few, too. And you have to love a festival that charges you 1 euro for a beer!

Festival of the Bruschetta and Mozzarella Knot

With a little of help from my father-in-law, I was immediately behind the scenes and snapping away as I drooled over the kilos of fresh mozzarella being made before my eyes.

They start with fresh whole milk curd.

Whole Milk Curd for Mozzarella

They add hot water to break down the curd and start to form the elasticity. It isn’t completely clear here because I believe they re-use the water after draining it in the next step.

Adding Hot Water to Mozzarella

Then the water is drained from the mozzarella. This water could be reboiled and after adding rennet, it would become ricotta!

Straining the Milk Curd

Then a mozzarella expert stretches the cheese, looking for uniformity and shine to tell him when to stop.

Stretching the Mozzarella

You can tell these guys have worked together for years doing this. They chatted casually as they tied off knot after knot of little mozzarella nodini and threw them into a vat of salted cold water. In front of them, there was a crowd constantly trying to get their attention. Every so often they would throw one into the crowd and the recipients scrambled to grab it. Once in a while there would be a mozzarella casualty and I shed a salty tear for its loss.

Making Mozzarella Nodini

Here’s a look at the sagra plate of the evening – freshly toasted Pugliese bread topped with local colorful tomatoes, and paired with several mozzarella nodini! If you are lucky, several of your companions “sacrificed” a mozzarella knot in your favor.

The Mozzarella Nodino - Knot and Bruschetta

This is an excellent video demonstration of making mozzeralla with an authentic NY accent from an event by the Gothamist and SliceNY. Nicki in Positano recently talked about making mozzarella on her blog!

How do you eat your mozzarella? Sliced, braided, knotted, as a ball? What’s your favorite thing to pair it with?

The Mozzarella Nodino - Knot!

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  1. says

    Are Nodini a Puglia thing? I assumed they’re everywhere. My favorite dish for mozzarella is just a nice Caprese. The Auchan near me has started making mozzarella in the store where you can watch.

  2. says

    I eat it about 6 hours old for choice. How? Anyway I am given it. What pleasure, luxury, sensuousness!

    Similarly, buratta, which should be illegal, really.

    Neapolitans recently opened a bufala farm near me, and I have to steer really hard to keep the car from turning in onto their road. They also make cacio and ricotta, but not yet grana. My life as an ambulatory person could end at any time if I get sucked into that vortex.

  3. says

    as fresh as possible! i’m in ceccano, italy every summer and my uncle’s friend owns a bufala farm. once a week he makes fresh mozzarella that just melts in your mouth. the milk oozes out of it. i just eat it on it’s own. i love it!

  4. says

    I’m with Judith – any way I can get fresh mozzarella I will eat it. And you lucky expats are really able to eat it hours old! The combinations with the bruschette is always one of my favorite, or add roasted peppers, salumi, prosciutto, etc… What doesn’t go with it might be a better question!

    I also noticed – again – that intense blue sky in Puglia. Amazing.

  5. mhp says

    i like that the wine is even cheaper than the beer, water, o.j. and coke. (photo 1). the colors are great in that photo, by the way. mmm…so delicious.

  6. says

    Gorgeous photos, and great behind-the-scenes reporting! Although as far as the sagre go around these parts, the prices are getting a bit out of hand. Sometimes prices at a sagra in the paesi around Rome can be the same as, or higher, than what you’d pay in a restaurant! But still, they are fun regional festivals, and soon there will be the one for chestnuts… yum!

  7. says

    We had Caprese in Florence made with what appeared to be fresh Mozzarella and it was glorious. Since then I get in need of a Caprese fix so I run down the local Italian Market and buy the packaged stuff and fresh tomatoes. Eating it usually consists of my wife and I hunched over the plate and devouring it with our hands in about a minute or two.

    Still it is not the same as that night in Florence.

  8. Ms. Adventures in Italy says

    @Jeff – I would say they at least originated in Puglia…if they are “imported” up north they have a Pugliese brand or affiliation on it. But shapes are becoming more universal.

    I wish I could go to more sagre! I wouldn’t mind going to a mozzarella one every week :)

  9. says

    Hello there,
    so fine to read appreciations of my beloved region! I am Pugliese though I¡ve been living in Madrid for three years now. All of us overe there are quite ‘sciovinists’ when it comes to fresh cheese and mozzarella in particular…every single family has its own favoured shop/maker! And of course it’s a peculiar and at times ‘hot’ topic when
    people have meals together ;) . Anyway, best mozzarella to be found @ Fratelli Curci, Gioia del Colle (BARI). I’d kill right now for a couple of their burratine…

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