Cheese on Your Pizza    

Ah, cheese...for me, it is one of the best tastes in the world. And when it is crowning the top of a beautiful pizza crust and a perfect sauce, well, what could be better? So, what cheese is best for your pizza? Well, it depends.

While there are over 400 varieties of cheese in the world, there are a few that are staples when making a pizza. Of course, mozzarella is king. Before the boom in the pizza industry, mozzarella was relatively unknown. Today, more than 1.75 billion pounds are produced annually, second only to cheddar.

Milder cheese are a good choice for your pizza, as you can add a decent amount without overpowering the other flavors. These types of cheeses include, of course, your mozzarella, but also cheeses like monterey jack, fontina, and provolone. Another nice mild, buttery cheese is Bel Paese, a semisoft Italian cheese made from cow's milk (Bel Paese means "beautiful country" in Italian. Another Italian cheese is Caciocavallo, produced south of Rome, with a taste similar to provolone.

If you want a stronger cheese flavor, consider these cheeses: colby, cheddar, edam, gouda, muenster, scamorza, swiss, gruyere, Parmesan, Romano, and asiago. Cheeses that are stronger still include bleu, goat, gorgonzola, brie, camembert, feta, English Stilton, Spanish Cabrales, and roquefort. As you use stronger cheeses, you will probably want to decrease the amount of cheese you use on your pizza, in order to keep the flavors in balance.

Of course, combining these cheeses is a great way to add variety and extra flavor to any of your pizzas. You need to choose combinations that use cheeses that compliment each other and that give a good balance of melting texture and flavor.

Ricotta is also nice to use on pizzas. Since it has a higher water content, you'll want to handle it a bit differently than other cheeses. First, set it in a sieve (line it with cheesecloth if the holes in your sieve are large). Place a small plate or saucer on it to add some weight. This will help press some of the water out. Let it sit for about an hour over a bowl to catch the liquid. After the hour, the cheese will be firmer and will have come to room temperature. You can now add the ricotta to your pizza and bake as usual.

If you are making a dessert pizza, you can use sweetened cream cheese or mascarpone. You can also use ricotta, after draining as above, sweetening it with some sugar or honey.

One unusual cheese is found only in the St. Louis, Missouri, area and is quite popular there. St. Louis style pizza uses St. Louisan Provel cheese instead of mozzarella. It is a processed cheese made with cheddar, Swiss, and provolone, and has a low melting point, making it nice for use on pizzas. It was developed to meet a demand for a pizza cheese that would melt easily, but still have a nice firm texture.