The 3-Cheese Formula for Better Homemade Pizza

updated Sep 8, 2020
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Credit: Joe Lingeman

Have you mastered homemade pizza dough and memorized the recipe for no-cook pizza sauce? If so, then the only thing between you and the perfect pizza is the cheese. Traditionalists scoff at anything but fresh buffalo mozzarella, while other pizza makers throw caution to the wind topping their pies with any cheese that melts. I noticed that the pre-shredded cheeses made for pizza all had one thing in common: They didn’t rely on a single style of cheese. In fact, most of those cheese blends were a combination of three or more cheeses.

After some investigation and experimentation, I’ve determined that the best pizzas are always topped with a minimum of three cheeses. Here is the ultra-cheesy formula for the best homemade pizza.

1. A Fresh Cheese for Creaminess

Fresh mozzarella is the star of Margherita pizzas, but even with the freshest San Marzano tomatoes and special-ordered 00 flour for the dough, pizzas topped with fresh mozzarella alone can sometimes fall flat. Fresh cheeses like water-packed (or shrink-wrapped) mozzarella, small spoonfuls of ricotta, and even goat cheese are a luxurious, milky addition to any pizza. Add these cheeses at the end of cooking, or after the pie comes out of the oven for best results.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

2. A Semi-Hard Cheese for Coverage

This is the category of cheese that you shred with a box grater, has the widest variety, and is where you can truly personalize your pizza. Choose from blocks of part-skim or whole-milk mozzarella or fontina cheese or opt for provolone, cheddar, or Gouda. It is best to buy blocks rather than pre-shredded because the shreds are usually coated in anti-caking agents to maintain the integrity of the pieces in the package. Shred your own on a box grater or using the shredding blade of a food processor for the gooiest melted texture.

Credit: Naomi Tomky

3. A Hard Cheese for Finishing

Don’t even think about serving a slice of homemade pizza without adding a layer of freshly grated hard cheese. Featherlight wisps of Parmesan or Asiago are the finishing touch with a nutty, salty flavor. Use a rasp grater, like a Microplane, to shower the slices with pieces of cheese that melt immediately onto the golden crust and melted cheese. Or grate the wedges against the star-shaped side of a box grater for larger, pebble-sized pieces of cheese for greater impact.

What is your favorite combination of pizza cheeses? Share your thoughts in the comments below.