This will be my 4th post in my pizza series. If you have missed my prior posts, I hope you will check them out. Here is what you will find…
Pizza Blog #1:
- A brief history of pizza
- My Pizza Sauces recipe
- Recommendations on my favorite brands of tomato products
Pizza Blog #2:
- Italian pizza styles
- Different kinds flours you can use
- Dough proofing and yeast
- Ways to mix your dough
- My Pizza Dough recipe
Pizza Blog #3:
In this 4th Post we will cover the following…
- Mozzarella Cheese information and recommendations
- Other excellent pizza cheeses
- Provide a few more of my favorite pizza combination recipes
Mozzarella Cheese Styles and Information:
You all know that a great crust, properly baked, and an excellent sauce are key to great pizza. The third key in my opinion is high quality cheese. And mozzarella is king when it comes to pizza. The melting characteristics and flavor work perfectly.
There are multiple types of mozzarella. The two most common here in the states are…
- Fresh Mozzarella which has a shorter aging and is considered a High Moisture Mozzarella. Fresh Mozzarella comes in a cow’s milk version which is made worldwide, or a Mozzarella di Bufala, a very rich and creamy version made from the milk of water buffalo in the region of Campania. The latter is harder to find and more expensive but if you have never tried it you should. I have found it at Costco as well as at many specialty cheese counters.
- Standard Shredding (or pre-shredded) Mozzarella, which is usually labeled Low Moisture Mozzarella. This is a cow’s milk mozzarella and comes in Whole Milk (my preference) or Part-Skim versions.
I love both styles of cheese but have a slight preference for, and primarily rely upon, standard shredding mozzarellas, unless I am making Pizza Margherita, in which case I like to use fresh mozzarella.
In the states, I believe that the best mozzarellas come from Wisconsin. This is based on my personal blind tasting of multiple cheeses over my decades in the pizza business. Wisconsin cheeses are the most consistent in flavor and moisture content. That said, there are excellent cheeses from other regions.
For my catering and classes I still buy the cheese I used at Frankie’s, a Wisconsin mozzarella made by a company called Vantaggio. Because I buy smaller quantities I generally meet my supplier at one of his accounts and we swap from his black SUV to mine. It feels like I am doing a drug deal! But whatever it takes to get the best cheese on the market. Unfortunately this cheese is not available to the public.
My mission… a quest to find the best mozzarella available to you… the everyday pizza aficionado who wants that same amazing quality but is consigned to buy their cheese from a grocery store.
So I tested multiple brands of mozzarella available in grocery stores in the area where I live in Redmond, Washington, which is across the lake from Seattle.
My Mozzarella Recommendations:
First, a couple of disclaimers…
The cheeses I tested were all low moisture, shredding style cheeses. Someday I will do a test of fresh mozzarellas.
I did not purchase every cheese out there. I stayed away from the low-price cheeses, or one’s which I felt would be inferior. And I probably missed a couple of good brands because I did not go to every single store in the area. Nonetheless, here is what I tested and my results.
I tested five brands of mozzarella. I have rated them on a 10 point scale (using my Vantaggio as the Gold Standard… a perfect 10). Overall I was pleasantly surprised at the results.
Here are my findings from worst to best:
#5: Galbani Whole Milk Mozzarella… I had high hopes for this cheese which says on the label “Italy’s Favorite Cheese Brand” (though it also says “Product of USA”). It was good but not great. I found it to be a bit lacking in flavor and richness.
Score: 7.5 Price: $5.79 per pound at Fred Meyer though often on sale.
#4: Trader Joe’s Whole Milk Mozzarella… I love Trader Joe’s and most of their products. This cheese is better than the Galbani but did not quite stack up to the other brands. The flavor was very good but it lacked a little in creaminess.
Score: 8.0 Price: $4.99 per pound at Trader Joe’s
#3: Tillamook Part-Skim Mozzarella… the only version I found from Tillamook was a pre-shredded part-skim. I am a Tillamook fan and found this to be an excellent cheese for the price. It was rich and creamy with excellent flavor. It’s only draw back was it got slightly rubbery as it cooled, probably as a result of the lower fat content.
Score: 9.0 Price: $4.99 per pound at Freddie’s
#2: Boar’s Head Whole Milk Mozzarella… I have a friend who operates a Boar’s Head distributorship so I really wanted this to win and it almost did. This is a rich and creamy mozz with excellent flavor. It was slightly oilier after cooking but otherwise a superb cheese.
Score: 9.5 Price: $5.99 per pound at Freddie’s
Drum roll please…
#1: Rumiano Whole Milk Mozzarella… I had never heard of this cheese which I found at Whole Foods. It is expensive at $6.99 per pound. So the Boar’s Head or Tillamook both represent better values in my view. Nonetheless, if you don’t mind spending the bucks this cheese had the best overall combination of flavor, texture and mouthfeel. It was creamy, buttery, and had a great flavor though with a slight herbal flavor.
Score: 9.6 Price: $6.99 per pound at Whole Foods
Other excellent pizza cheeses:
When it comes to cheese on pizza, the sky is the limit. Do all the experimenting you want. If it sounds good to you it probably will be. Listed below are some of my other favorite pizza cheeses. It is by no means a comprehensive list.
Provolone: Provolone comes in a an Italian (aged) version, or a Deli version, usually found in a round log at your deli counter. The latter is slightly softer and more subtle. Both are excellent for pizza. Many pizzerias use a blend of mozzarella with some provolone added. It is one of the cheeses used on this Pizza Calabrese (recipe below).
Fontina: Fontina comes in an Italian version or a Danish version which is the most common. The Danish version has the red wax on it and works great for pizza. The Italian version is even better but hard to find and very expensive. It is one of the cheeses used on our Gourmet Vegetarian Pizza (recipe below).
Smoked Mozzarella (and other smoked cheeses): I like smoked cheeses in certain applications but in moderation. If used straight I find it overwhelms the pizza. At Frankie’s we had a Wild Mushroom Pizza on our Autumn menu to which we added a blend of half smoked and half regular mozzarella. Smoked Provolone or Smoked Gouda can also be excellent. We added smoked gouda to our BBQ Chicken Pizza.
Asiago: The salty, nutty, tangy flavor of this cheese is especially great with vegetable pizzas. Look for the fresher version (rather than the harder dry-aged version), which melts super well.
Parmesan: If you are going to use parmesan I recommend using the King of Cheeses, Parmigiano Reggiano. It is more expensive but a little goes a long way. The flavor is superior and these days it is easy to find. I buy it at Costco. Because aged parmesan is a drier cheese it is not a good melting cheese. I recommend mixing a little in with mozzarella.
Pecorino: There are various Pecorino cheeses which are made from sheep’s milk and come in younger, softer versions which are milder, or harder, aged versions. The most common is Pecorino Romano. It is very salty so if using it, balance it with a mellower melting cheese.
Goat Cheese: Goat cheese is very strong. I don’t care for it solo on a pizza. But when used as an addition to some mozzarella it creates magic. One of my favorite pizzas is our Frankie’s Pesto & Goat Cheese Pizza (shown). The recipe can be found in my Pizza Blog #3 https://frankieinthekitchen.com/2019/02/08/pizza-blog-3-making-incredible-pizza-at-home/
Ricotta: Creamy ricotta is very common on calzones (and in lasagna) but can also be excellent on pizza. If you use it I suggest small spoonfuls atop whatever other cheese you are using such as this Pizza Florentine (recipe below)..
Gorgonzola: Like Goat cheese or Ricotta, I do not recommend this cheese solo. It should be used in moderation. Check out my recipe for the Chicken Gorgonzola Pizza also found in my Pizza Blog #3 https://frankieinthekitchen.com/2019/02/08/pizza-blog-3-making-incredible-pizza-at-home/
Manchego: Manchego, a Spanish cheese, can be delicious on pizza. At Frankie’s we had a pizza on our Garlic Festival Menu called The Garlic Spaniard. It was topped with a creamy tomato sauce with a touch of hot sauce; mozzarella and manchego cheeses, hard Spanish chorizo sausage, Italian sausage, roasted garlic and red onions.
SUMMARY & RECIPES:
So that’s it for cheese suggestions. Below are a few of my favorite pizza recipes, most of which use combinations of these cheeses.
Buon appetito. May God richly bless your table with love, laughter, and great food!
Following are recipes for six of the pizzas we served at Frankie’s (2 per page). If you would prefer the recipes in PDF format, click the links below.
PDF Frankie’s Special & Gourmet Vegetarian
PDF Pizza Florentine & Pizza Calabrese
PDF Passion Pizza of Verona & Wild Mushroom-Sausage Pizza