Monday, September 27, 2010


The difference between a bad pizza, a good pizza and a really fantastic pizza can be summed up in one simple word.


If you go out and have a really good pizza, and can't really pinpoint what this one has that another one doesn't, chances are, it's the cheese. Good pizzarias guard three things jealously: their crust recipe, their sauce recipe, and their cheese blends.

Most people assume that "pizza cheese" is mozzarella, but mozz is only a part of the story.

See that? That's the good stuff. Fresh mozzarella. But I've got a secret. Not that great for pizza. Oh, it's got a place in the pizza pantheon, namely on the Margherita pizza, with sliced uber-fresh tomatoes and basil leaves. That's divine, but it's also high art, not really the kind of thing that goes with movie night or tailgating.

The more familiar mozzarella is what we know from the inside of a million pizza boxes and tubes of string cheese and molten hot crunch coated sticks of deep-fried goodness. It's drier than fresh mozz, and melts into delicious webs of stringiness.

And then, there's provolone. Shredded and mixed with the mozzarella, it's a fantastic way to add more flavor to the mild taste of the other cheese. Provolone has a slight nuttiness, and is sometimes smoked. As it ages, it becomes more sharp. Sliced provolone is great for creating layers of flavor in your pizza. Place a blanket of slices over your crust, then top with sauce and shredded cheese to keep crust from getting gummy.

Shredded parmesan is very different from powdery grated parmesan. It melts like mozzarella, but has a real flavor punch. A little goes a long, long way. I buy a quarter pound chunk of fresh parm every month. I use it in a lot of stuff, but those four ounces last and last.

A simple cheese pizza is one of my favorite things. Nothing extra. Nothing fancy. Just a couple kinds of cheese, tossed together on some bread with a little sauce. I can give you this easy formula for pizza success:

1 crust + 5 slices provolone + sauce + 1 c. shredded mozzarella + 1/2 c. shredded parmesan.

Easy to add any topping you want, but trust me. Just once, keep it simple. Stop and savor the cheese.


  1. Mmmmm cheese. One day I felt adventurous and put crumbled chèvre on a spinach and mushroom pizza I threw together. I loved that tanginess - so good.

  2. Goat cheese is great on a pizza, but it's definitely one to use in conjunction with something else since you don't get that good, cheesy meltiness with it. I bet it was great with the spinach and mushrooms!