Hi pizza fans! We talk a lot about dough, techniques, and recipes, but we haven’t really sat down and took a good, hard (or soft) look at cheese! It’s the foundation and my favorite part of any pizza. There were so many cheeses to talk about that this is only part 1 of our look into cheese. I’m starting out with pizza’s most popular cheese, Mozzarella.
The All-Star MVP, Mozzarella
Mozzarella originated in Italy and was made from the milk of water buffalos (mozzarella di bufala), but most of the Mozzarella available today is made from cow’s milk. It’s pretty easy to find brands of Mozzarella at your local grocery store in two varieties: fresh and low moisture. By low moisture, I mean the pre-shredded varieties or in a block. Pre-shredded cheese is tossed in cornstarch, which will cause it to brown quickly creating a crust instead of a melted, stretchy texture. Try shredding your own from a block, or use fresh Mozzarella for that pizzeria flavor.
Why we like it: Because of its fat content of 45% Mozzarella melts to become deliciously springy and stringy, adding a soft bed of salty goodness that will cradle almost any topping.
Cool fact! Mozzarella is not aged like most other cheeses. Fresh Mozzarella is best enjoyed within a few hours after being made. We recommend making your own at home! Low moisture varieties are made the same way, just kneaded and stretched in hot water longer to remove more moisture.
The Crowd Favorite, Parmesan
Parmigiano Reggiano is considered to be the perfect cheese by cheese connoisseurs. In America, we call it Parmesan and sometimes even “Italian hard cheese” if you really want to avoid legal issues and its flavor and texture can range dramatically. Don’t get me started about those little packets of powdered wannabes. But if you can find it at your local grocery store, go with the authentic block.
Authentic Parmesan is a hard cheese with a dense and grainy texture that should be grated or peeled as needed. Its strong and pleasant aroma is salty while its flavor is nutty, sharp and savory with just a hint of fruit. Delicious!
Why we like it: Adding Parmesan to any dish will enhance its savory flavor. For me, it’s like the salt and pepper of pizza making. You don’t notice it’s there, but when it’s missing, the pizza feels incomplete! Plus, it’s fun to grate fresh onto a beautifully finished meal and watch it melt in. Also it has a low fat content at 25% with a lot of calcium!
Cool fact! Parmesan is like Champagne in that to be officially Parmigiano Reggiano it has to come from a few specific provinces in Italy: Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena, Bologna and Mantua, and produced from cows free grazing on fresh grass and hay. Get more neat facts from the cheese makers themselves.
The Rookie, Burrata
If you have never made a pizza with Burrata cheese, you got to try it! It’s basically the butter of pizza cheeses and will take center stage on any pie. In fact, Burrata means “buttery” in Italian, where it originated in the Apulia region.
Why we like it: It is a great alternative to a dense layer of shredded mozzarella if you’re looking for something lighter. It compliments a thin, crispy crust very well because of its rich and creamy texture, giving you the satisfying textural contrast. Note: this cheese does have a lot of moisture in it. If you cook pizzas in a conventional oven, the lower heat with the wet cheese may cause your pizza to come out on the soggy side.
Cool fact! Burrata is a pouch made of Mozzarella when it’s still hot, filled with a soft, stringy mixture of curd and fresh cream called, panna. Traditionally it comes wrapped in asphodel leaves. How it’s made is a pretty fascinating thing to watch. Also, innovative cheese pioneers developed this cheese only about 50 years ago!
That’s it for part 1 of CHEESE! Everything You Need to Know. To me, cooking at home is just that much better when I know a bit more about the food I’m working with. If you have yet to experiment with different kinds of cheese on your pizza, give it a try! One of the best things about cooking pizza; it’s hard to make a bad one.