Massimiliano de Caro
Wairau Valley, Auckland
Making soft, cloud-like balls of mozzarella on Auckland’s North Shore is a passionate Italian cheesemaker, who stretches to perfection!
Just like a supple strand of mozzarella atop a margherita pizza, Massimiliano De Caro brings authentic Italian cheesemaking straight to New Zealand, stretching all the way from Gioia del Colle, southern Italy to Wairau Valley, Auckland, where his cheese factory, Il Casaro, is based.
Massimiliano first came to New Zealand in 2010 to provide training to a local cheese company. He fell in love with the country and never left. A year later he established his artisan Italian cheese factory, and now, almost ten years on, Massimiliano employs a team of eight to create fresh mozzarella, as well as bocconcini, ricotta, mascarpone, burrata and stracciatella.
Massimiliano’s love affair with cheese began as a teenager when his father sent him for formal training to an il casaro (master cheesemaker) in Gioia del Colle, a town studded with cheese factories and famous for fior di latte mozzarella (mozzarella made from cow’s milk).
Fast forward 35 years and the days are still long for this passionate, hard-working cheesemaker; he’s at his factory from 5am to select the milk, spending his day supervising the entire process – scalding, stretching and moulding the curds – until the early evening.
The result – supple, stretchy mozzarella, rich, creamy burrata and tiny soft shreds of stracciatella – cheeses that are favoured by the likes of Poderi Crisci, Baduzzi, and Farina, to name a few. Il Casaro has also won a clutch of awards over the years from the New Zealand Champions of Cheese Awards.
“We source our milk from cows that are grass-fed, which makes an enormous difference to the taste. It is more natural and tasty compared to the milk in Italy.
“New Zealand milk changes with the season, even from day to day, as the cows change pasture and landscape,” says Massimiliano. And that’s where his extensive knowledge and experience of cow’s milk cheeses comes in and is respected by his customers. He makes balanced, creamy, delicate cheese over and over again, with just the right consistency and texture. A task that requires commitment and practice.
Massimiliano’s dream for Il Casaro was that New Zealanders would be able to enjoy the experience of mozzarella that he had as a child growing up in Puglia. But available here in New Zealand with all the benefits and flavour provided by quality, locally-sourced milk.
Next on the list for Massimiliano is looking at Il Casaro’s impact on the environment and reducing the amount of plastic used in the factory and introducing biodegradable packaging.
Undoubtedly one of our best local producers, Massimiliano’s fresh, effortlessly creamy cheeses are a delicious tribute to New Zealand milk, Italian talent and traditional cheesemaking techniques.