Is there anything better than a delicious pizza? What about a delicious pizza with the perfect cheesy topping!
But when it comes to the cheese on our favorite pie, there’s a lot of debate. So what is the best cheese for pizza? Never fear – we’re here to help guide you through the options!
So if you’re ready, sit back and prepare to learn more …
What makes a good cheese for pizza?
To start with, let’s think about what makes a cheese work well as a pizza topping.
First and foremost, of course, this is all about the flavor. You’re going to want something with enough presence not to be overpowered by the tangy tomato sauce. And you’ll also want a taste that will work well with any other toppings on your pie.
Another important factor to bear in mind is how well the cheese melts. When your pizza comes out of the oven, you want your cheese nice and soft, contrasting with the crispy base. And that will also allow the flavor to melt into your other toppings for a delicious combination.
Depending on how you’re using your cheese, you may also want it to go brown. That can give your pizza an attractive golden glow.
So with that in mind, what cheeses make the pizza grade?
The best cheese for pizza
The most traditional of pizza cheeses, mozzarella can be used as a topping in different forms. Thick discs of fresh mozzarella will impart a delicious creaminess to your pizza. It works well with the tomato because it’s so different, complementing the tart sweetness of the sauce.
Mozzarella and tomato are so well loved as a combination that they’re eaten in many non-pizza forms. Italians will often snack on a tomato and mozzarella salad. Add in some basil and olive oil, and you have the caprese salad, another famous export from Italian cuisine.
Fresh mozzarella works beautifully as a main topping to your pizza. We’ve heard some online reviewers, though, complain about the moisture leaving the crust soggy. Personally, we’ve never experienced that problem.
But if you’re concerned, just dab your mozzarella slices with kitchen paper before placing them on your pizza. Space them out across the top, and you won’t have to worry about excess moisture causing problems.
If, however, you want your cheese to provide a background to other flavors, grated mozzarella is a good alternative. For this, you’ll want a low moisture form of the cheese. And if it’s still not firm enough to grate easily, you can pop it into the freezer for a few minutes first.
Whether grated or freshly sliced, mozzarella will melt beautifully on your pizza. And it will give your topping a chewy elasticity, which works brilliantly against a crispy crust.
For many people, the search for the perfect pizza cheese will stop at mozzarella. But if you prefer something with a stronger flavor, there are plenty of other options out there.
Cheddar is America’s favorite snacking cheese, so it makes sense that it will also go down well on pizza. And if you choose a mature, extra mature or vintage option, it will add plenty of punchy flavor.
If you’re using cheddar cheese, grate it, don’t slice it. You can be as generous with your topping as you like. But remember: if you use loads of cheese, you will get puddles of oil when you bake your pizza. They’ll evaporate if you cook your pizza for longer – but watch out that the edges don’t burn.
A strong cheddar is a great option for pizzas where you want the cheese flavor to take center stage. It also works well with other cheeses. And despite being strong, it will complement pretty much any meat, fish or vegetable too.
3. Goat’s cheese
Goat’s cheese is another excellent choice for those looking for a stronger flavor. It’s salty, tangy and delicious. And it works brilliantly alongside the sweetness of roast peppers and onions on a vegetarian pizza.
Goat’s cheese should be placed on your pizza in discs, sliced just at the point it’s ready to go into the oven. It melts beautifully, and it will also brown in the heat. It will make your pizza look so good, you’ll have trouble keeping your hands off it until it cools down!
Be warned – we have seen some places recommend treating goat’s cheese in a similar way to cream cheeses like mascarpone. This is madness! Goat’s cheese may have a softer texture than cheddar, but that’s where the similarity to cream cheeses begins and ends.
Goat’s cheese has a strong flavor, which needs to be treated with respect. Don’t overdo it – a few slices will be enough to add piquancy to your pizza. And take care when choosing what other toppings you pair it with too. It’s best to use it in place of meat or seafood, rather than alongside them.
4. Pecorino Romano
Authentic Pecorino Romano is made in Tuscany from sheep’s milk. It’s aged for a minimum of eight months to develop its distinctive nutty flavor.
When made in the USA, the cheese has different characteristics, and is usually called simply Romano. It’s most often made from cow’s, rather than sheep’s milk. And it’s left for a far shorter time to mature. The result is a cheese with a milder flavor.
If you can get your hands on authentic Pecorino – savor it! And don’t put it into the oven when you bake your pizza. Instead, grate it in large shards over the surface when it comes out. Another great option is to toss it with arugula before spreading it on top of your pie.
5. Blue cheese
Blue cheese isn’t to everyone’s taste. But used in moderation, it can provide a delicious counterpoint to vegetables and nutty toppings. Think caramelized onions, mushrooms, spinach, walnuts and red onion.
And it can also work well with sweet flavors. Pear, prosciutto and crumbled blue cheese, for example, makes a delicious pizza topping.
Keep your pizza authentically Italian by choosing gorgonzola as your blue cheese. Its flavor can vary a lot, depending on how long it’s been aged. Young gorgonzola is soft and creamy, whilst more mature versions can be strong, bordering on pungent.
This is a cheese where a little goes a long way. But don’t be afraid of it! Pair it with the right toppings and it will deliver a genuinely superior pizza.
Toma translates as “farmer’s”, and it’s sometimes found in the USA under the label “farmer’s cheese”. You may find you need to look hard to find it. Artisan grocery stores importing their wares direct from Europe are your best bet.
But is it worth the effort?
We think so – especially if you’re making a Sicilian pizza. It’s a semi-hard cow’s milk cheese, made in Sicily and the northern regions of Italy. It’s pale yellow in color, with a creamy texture and creamy, buttery flavor.
It will go well with most toppings. And if you prefer to keep your pizza simple, it has enough flavor to stand alone with tomato sauce. It melts very nicely too.
7. Parmigiano Reggiano
Another Italian favorite on pizzas is Parmigiano Reggiano. And like Pecorino, this is a cheese that’s best put on your pizza after it’s come out of the oven.
But before saying more on this, a word on parmesan. Parmesan and Parmigiano Reggiano are not the same thing. The latter has a protected designation of origin. In other words, for a product to be called Parmigiano Reggiano, it must be made in Italy. And it must be crafted using a specific process.
Cheeses labelled “parmesan”, on the other hand, have no such requirements. They aim to resemble the original Parmigiano – but all too often, they fall flat.
In particular, we’d recommend steering clear of powdered parmesan of the kind you’ll find in large jars. Unfortunately, it tastes nothing at all like the real thing.
Now we’ve cleared that up, how should you use Parmigiano Reggiano on your pizza?
Our favorite way is to grate large shards on top of your pizza after it’s finished baking. That will give you a brittle texture, with a sharp, salty hit of flavor.
Some people prefer to grate it more finely and mix it with grated cheddar, applying it to the pizza before baking. It feels a shame to us, though, to dilute the flavor of what’s often known as the “king of cheese”.
Last but not least is another Italian favorite, provolone. This is another cheese that varies in taste and texture according to how long it’s been left to mature. Young provolone is sweet and creamy. More mature versions will be drier with a sharper flavor.
Both types melt well, and have a slightly stronger taste than mozzarella. They work particularly well mixed with mozzarella as the cheese layer in your pizza.
Deli provolone is another good option for pizza. The flavor here is much milder, but it too melts beautifully.
What’s your favorite cheese for pizza?
We hope you’ve enjoyed our tour of some of the best cheeses out there for pizza! Whether you want to stick to super-authentic options like toma, or mix it up with good old cheddar, they all have something to offer.
If you’re not sure which will suit you best, why not experiment? You’re sure to find something that suits you and your pizza. And you’ll have lots of fun along the way!