Ruby Goss

Senior Food Editor at Kitchen Stories

instagram.com/ruby.goss/

This article is part of “The Pizza Issue”, our month-long dive into everyone’s* favorite food. We’re sharing playful new recipes, talking pizza tools and toppings, and answering all your burning (but hopefully not burnt) pizza questions. Join our pizza party by checking out this link for an overview of all our latest stories and recipes—and don’t forget to follow us on Instagram for behind the scenes, extra pizza content, and so much more!

Pizza: It’s synonymous with cheese, whether your mind strays to oozy swimming pools of mozzarella on your Neapolitan pizza or the overblown cheese pulls from the Pizza Hut ads of yore. But what is the best kind of cheese to use on homemade pizzas—and what order should you pile it on for optimally stringy results?

The most obvious choice is mozzarella—specifically buffalo mozzarella, born in Naples, Campania, the cradle of modern pizza. But there are of course, more choices to be made.

All the 12 cheeses listed below are equally delicious (if you want more: see this definitive guide to Italian cheeses) on dough, but all do not melteth equally—especially in a home oven. Magnificently melty or not, they are still worthy of gracing your pizza palette if you know exactly how to use them—on which pizza styles, in what order, and which toppings they marry best with. 

Why should you trust a word I’m saying? I had the pleasure and the burden of being plied with an array of cheesy pizzas (thanks to our chef Hanna) and tasted and graded each iteration in too-few digestive hours. In hindsight, it was possibly the cheesiest joke I’ve ever made, and trust me, I’ve said a few in my time. I thought I’d been put off cheese for good, but the following week, when we pulled out a perfectly golden cacio e pepe pizza out of the oven on set, I was ready to dive right in. I guess I had the last laugh after all.

Here are the best cheeses to put on homemade pizzas, each tested for their melting moments and flavor factor. Plus find out exactly when to put them on your pizza.

Easy cheesy: Before we begin, save this infographic to remember the cheeses that melt best on pizza

1. Buffalo mozzarella

A creamy bauble of delight, the creme de la creme of pizza cheeses, in my (or dare I say our?) Neapolitan-focused minds, has to be rich mozzarella di bufala, known to purists world-over as “true” mozzarella. As the name suggests—it’s made of the creamiest buffalo milk from Campania.

Does buffalo mozzarella melt well? Yes. This is the cheese you will recognize as little pools of stretchy creamy delight on your pizza.

How to use buffalo mozzarella on pizza: On the note of pooling, as our conventional home ovens don’t get as ripping hot as a stone pizza oven, this cheese can also leave liquid patches on your pizza making some areas likely to go a little soggy. To remedy this, tear up your mozzarella by hand (in my opinion, the most satisfying way to work with it) and sit the pieces in a sieve prior to cooking to dry them out a little. At this point, I often sprinkle them with a little salt, too. Buffalo mozzarella works best on Neapolitan style-pizzas, paired with tomato sauce and basil for your classic Margherita (or upgraded with lemon and Parmesan alla Lisa, my favorite new trick). You can also create a comfy little bed of low moisture mozzarella (more on that below) for the fresh mozzarella to sit on.

2. Fior di Latte

Ever picked up a pizza menu and needed a quick translation of Fior di Latte? Don’t let the name confuse you, the poetically named cheese (it would translate into something like “Flower of Milk”) refers essentially to a mozzarella cheese made with regular cow’s milk, rather than buffalo milk. It’ll be a bit less tender and creamy—but unless you’re side by side testing, this will entirely escape your notice.

Does Fior di Latte melt well? Yes, like it was born to, it’s mozzarella, after all. 
How to use fior di latte on pizza: Exactly as you’d use buffalo mozzarella, see above. 

Did you know you can make mozzarella at home? Watch Hanna make it from scratch in the recipe below!

Homemade mozzarella cheese

Homemade mozzarella cheese

→ Go to recipe

3. Low-moisture mozzarella

Low-moisture mozzarella is a pretty self-explanatory choice for your pizza. I’ll always remember it picking up hefty vacuum-packed blocks of it at the supermarket back home in Melbourne (shout out to Piedemonte’s) ready to be loaded onto pizzas or gobbled when no one was looking, but here in northern Europe it’s usually available only pre-shredded—which, for scattering over a pizza, is a great, ready-to-go choice.

Does low-moisture mozzarella melt well? Yes. This is one limber cheese that never forgets to stretch. As well as bringing stringy cheesiness, it bubbles and browns like a dream.

How to use low moisture mozzarella on pizza: Works excellently to yield crispy edges on a grandma-style pizza and is an excellent base cheese for any kind of cheesy pizza for unobtrusive creaminess, like with our new cacio e pepe pizza. To avoid it browning *too* much before your base cooks and crisps, scatter either the cheese on first and blob the tomato sauce on top, or make sure there is some sort of other topping to shield it a little from the oven’s heat.

Some honorable mentions before we leave Camp Mozzarella: I have to shout-out smoky scamorza (think of it as a smoked mozzarella-style cheese), which is my go-to if I’m looking to cut large medallions of a low-moisture, but super creamy, smokier-than-a-Muji-log-fire-candle cheese onto my pizza—check out your local Italian deli or cheese shop. While you’re there, look out for another firm, but creamy number: Caciocavallo alla the Sicilian pizza-style Sfincione. And if you just love your fresh cheeses, try stretchy Provola (not to be confused with aged Provolone, which as it happens, is also great on a pizza).

4. Burrata

Burrata is a typically Apulian fresh cheese that can be described most directly, if inelegantly, as a little bag of cheese filled with cream. The outer is a ready-to-burst mozzarella skin, the inside a mixture of mozzarella and cream—stracciatella.

Does burrata melt well? As it’s already liquid inside, there’s really no need to melt burrata—it just needs a little warming.

How to use burrata on pizza: Lay a burrata on your pizza as soon as it comes out of the oven. You can break it apart to distribute it, but we’re fans of just cutting it open in the middle and letting it do its thing, spreading creamy cheese lava where it wills.

For more spreadable cheeses to dollop on your pizza post oven try stracciatella itself or squacquerone, a cheese from Emilia Romagna that is as much fun to eat as it is to say.

5. Parmesan

You might think of it more as the cheese that graces your pastas, risottos and salads, but Parmesan’s ubiquity extends to pizza.

Does Parmesan melt well? As a hard cheese, it crisps up more than melts, but that in no way means it’s not also born to (pizza) party—Parmesan is here, as always, for a savory, salty boost, a cheesy MSG.

How to use Parmesan on pizza: As it’s not known for its melting qualities, we like it best grated onto the pizza as soon as it comes out of Dante’s inferno (in this case, your home oven).Lisa goes for a light microplaned shower, while Hanna on our shoot, kept it classic, using a vegetable pizza to shave Parmesan onto a fiery bed of arugula.

6. Pecorino

This cheese is close to my heart, as it’s the star of my recipe for cacio e pepe pizza. Pecorino is available as a hard, aged cheese (stagionato) or younger firm-but-flexi, nutty and creamy variant (semi-stagionato). For pizza opt for the latter!

5-ingredient cacio e pepe pizza

5-ingredient cacio e pepe pizza

→ Go to recipe

How Pecorino melts: A young Pecorino (thinking about patenting this name for whenever I feel the urge to enter a cheesy rap arena) melts excellently in the oven. If you happen to only get your handles on a harder Pecorino, grate it on finely for added flavor, as we do with Parmesan.

How to use Pecorino on pizza: Young pecorino can be grated or crumbled on a pie alone, or in combination with a milder cheese before it goes into the oven and you’ll have some beautiful, brown-flecked bubbling to look forward to. In the cacio e pepe recipe, we whisk up the grated cheese with a little hot water to create a cheesy sauce that can be poured onto grated mozzarella—a method that you use alongside other topping combinations.

7. Taleggio

This is one of my personal favourite cheeses, a washed rind, creamy cheese from Lombardy that is nutty and slightly sweaty—and I mean this entirely positively, in the sense of Parmesan’s signature whiff. If you like your creamy cheese to do something other to your palate than shout CREAM at you with the force of a mattress wholesaler ad (remember those?), this is for you. 

Does Taleggio melt well? With a room temperature consistency that is firm but jiggly on a mild day and threatening liquidity on a hot day, it’s a cheese that you can just see wants to melt (as in this asparagus and taleggio risotto!).

How to use Taleggio on pizza: I personally don’t think Taleggio gets anywhere near enough credit for the cheese pulls it conducts. Break Taleggio up on your pizza, post sauce or as a supplementary cheese. As it’s a very moist cheese it can sit atop any other toppings with pride of place and will happily spread itself around once in the oven.

8. Gorgonzola

A veiny, marbled, blue cheese, Gorgonzola hails from its namesake town in Lombardy. Is the cheese that adds dimension to a Quattro Formaggi pizza. Essentially, it’s a cheese with personality—and the blue adverse (I am a woefully embarrassed member of this club) need note that its punch does mellow in the oven.

Does Gorgonzola melt well? Extremely well—it’ll spread so far that the only telltale sign are the errant clouds of blue left behind to mark the spot.

How to use Gorgonzola on pizza: For a cheesy pizza, pair Gorgonzola with a milder cheese like low moisture mozzarella (sitting, as we’ve now learned, the Gorgonzola atop) or even atop a base of crème fraîche. You can go one further and scatter arugula, slices pear, toasted walnuts, and artful clumps of Gorgonzola once your pizza is out of the oven.

9. Ricotta

A dense, creamy fresh cheese that simultaneously manages to seem light, ricotta makes a great grand finale to a pizza.

Does ricotta melt well?  No, not really. Like most other fresh cheeses, you should dollop ricotta onto pizzas as soon as they come out of the oven. 

How to use ricotta on pizza: Ricotta needs only to be spooned on and it will collapse gratefully into your toppings. It works excellently on vegetarian pizzas (ricotta is, usefully, also a vegetarian cheese) in combination with roasted vegetables. Naturally, it pairs well with honey and thyme, as with most cheeses, come to think of it—but my favorite pizza of late is a red-sauced number, with mozzarella (low-moisture) and spicy spianata, dressed with dollops of ricotta, a drizzle of honey and an extra sprinkling of red chili once it’s out of the oven. 

10. Cheddar

Cheddar and Monterrey Jack are popular pizza cheeses in the US, and the former is often found in Northern European premixed ‘pizza cheese.’ I was skeptical of this less-traditional choice, despite being a fan of cheddar everywhere else, so how did it fare when we tested it?

Does cheddar melt well? As you’ll know if you’ve ever called on cheddar for a grilled cheese or a burger, cheddar melts very, but often with an accompanying oily slick. Although it didn’t look too appealing on the cooked pizza, it certainly was tasty to bite into.

How to use cheddar on pizza: Look, it’s not really the cheese to choose for a Neapolitan-style pizza, use cheddar for cheesy pizza-inspired creations like pizza rolls or calzones, or combine a little with grated mozzarella in a cheesy, deep dish pizza for added flavor.

11. Gruyère

Gruyère is the flying flag of the Alpine cheeses and as such, is the prime choice if you’re going for a tarte-flambee style of pizza—for more on this style see this essential article.

Does Gruyère melt well? As we know from fondue to Croque Monsieur, this Alpine cheese is a real melter, supplying threads of oozy wonder.

How to use Gruyère on pizza: Use it grated as your base cheese (you can also spread your base with a little crème fraîche first) and pair with ingredients like speck, chives, caramelized onions, and even apple to finish. 

12. Gouda

Dutch Gouda features in a lot of pre-made European shredded cheese mixtures. Though it’s popular feature on my cheese boards, it wouldn’t traditionally be my choice for pizza.

How does Gouda melt? Really...good! Gouda gives you a bubbly cheese layer full of bronzed spots and melting pots.

How to use Gouda on pizza: Like Cheddar, use Gouda for pizza-ish recipes like doughy pizza rolls, or for when you want a great melting cheese for a lactose laden pizza. Like Gruyère, the flavor of Gouda is better suited to the kind of toppings you would see on a tarte flambée.

Have a favorite pizza cheese to share? We’ll see you in the comments!

More delicious ideas for you