A Guide to Making the Five Most Iconic Pizzas of All Time

updated May 1, 2019
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(Image credit: Stephanie Russo)

Trendy pizza toppings come and go, but few topping combinations are so everlasting that they become iconic pizzas in their own right. These are the pizzas you see at every pizza joint and on every delivery menu, and the pizzas we believe every home cook should be able to replicate at home. These are the five most iconic pizzas of all time!

(Image credit: Stephanie Russo)

1. Margherita Pizza

Margherita is the mother of all pizzas. This Neopaltian-style pizza has thin crust, fresh tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella cheese, and just a few leaves of basil. Margherita’s toppings are simple but they also have the power to be truly sublime in a way few other toppings can be.

How to Make Margherita Pizza at Home

Bake this pizza in a very hot oven or, better yet, on the grill. Rolling or stretching the dough thin for this pizza is paramount to get the crisp but still pliable crust, ensuring that the sauce and cheese just barely cook while the crust blisters. Fresh, in-season tomatoes are ideal for making the sauce, but use canned whole San Marzano tomatoes for the other 10 months of the year. Never cook the sauce for margarita pizzas. Fresh mozzarella should be sliced thick and laid in a patchwork over the sauce.

Get our recipe: Classic Margherita Pizza

(Image credit: Stephanie Russo)

2. Pepperoni Pizza

We’d wager that pepperoni is still America’s number-one, most-popular pizza topping. This singular topping even graces the pizza emoji! It makes sense if you really consider everything that is good about pepperoni: The salty and slightly spicy taste holds its own against waves of melty, gooey cheese and gets ever-so-slightly crisped in the hot oven in such a crave-worthy way that no one can resist pulling them straight from the smoldering hot pizza and dropping them directly into their mouths.

How to Make the Best Pepperoni Pizza at Home

Go all in on pepperoni when using it as the only topping. Make a single layer of pepperoni on top of the sauce before adding the cheese and another layer of pepperoni on top. Grease can be a concern with pepperoni pizza, so stick with part-skim mozzarella and Parmesan cheese for topping pepperoni pizzas.

(Image credit: Stephanie Russo)

3. BBQ Chicken Pizza

BBQ chicken is reported to be the invention of California Pizza Kitchen’s original pizza chef Ed LaDou in 1985. His original pizza creation was made with BBQ sauce, chicken, cilantro, red onions, and fontina cheese and remains on the CPK menu to this day. BBQ Pizza is beloved because it walks the border of sweet and savory and makes the best use of leftover chicken.

How to Make BBQ Chicken Pizza at Home

BBQ chicken pizza does not, as its name suggests, require a barbecue pit. Instead, use an equal mixture of smoky barbecue and tomato sauces. The cooked chicken can be cubed or shredded and must be held in place with a combination of cheeses: cheddar or Gouda and part-skim mozzarella are a nice mix. Whisper-thin red onion slices add bite and contrasting texture and flavor to the pizza.

Get our recipe: BBQ Chicken Pizza

(Image credit: Stephanie Russo)

4. Hawaiian Pizza

A combination of tomato sauce, cheese, ham, and pineapple that is as beloved as it is despised still makes our list of iconic pizzas. Hawaiian pizza was reportedly invented in Canada, not the American islands it is named for. Like BBQ chicken pizza, those who love it cite the sweet and savory combination as the biggest draw to this popular pizza.

How to Make Hawaiian Pizza at Home

While you’ll occasionally find rogue recipes for Hawaiian pizza with barbecue sauce instead of pizza sauce, a simple red sauce should be your base for this classic pizza topping. Skip fresh pineapple and instead go straight for canned pineapple rings and cut them into bite-sized pieces, just like the pizza place does. And for the ham, choose something from the deli such as black forrest or honey-baked ham sliced thinly and cut up for topping.

(Image credit: Stephanie Russo)

5. Meat-Lover’s Pizza

Meat-lover’s pizza is the hero of our iconic pizzas, as it holds the most toppings on a single pie: pepperoni, sausage, meatballs, and mushrooms all come together in this hearty, super-savory pizza. Meat-lover’s pizza is our go-to when feeding a hungry crowd.

How to Make Meat-Lover’s Pizza at Home

Meat-lover’s pizza needs a relatively thick crust to hold onto all of its toppings. Grease and moisture are concerns when it comes to baking this pizza pie, so par-cook or “dock” (that is, stab it with a fork a few times to create vent holes) before topping and baking. Meatballs, sausage, and mushrooms should be cooked before topping the pizza too, which helps prevent a soggy-bottomed crust.

Make our sheet pan version: How To Make Classic Sheet Pan Pizza