Cheese for homemade pizza
In my never-ending quest for the perfect homemade pizza, I've posted, read, and learned from this board for many months. I'm now very happy with my crust; my pizza stone and KitchenAid mixer were responsible for much of the improvement. We've discussed canned sauce (nothing IMO beats Dom Pepino's) and canned tomatoes to make sauce (I'm back and forth between La Bella San Marzano and Muir Glen organic as to which is best--perhaps I should try blending them), now I'm trying to perfect the cheese topping.
I've tried all kinds of cheese blends to achieve the robust flavor I'm seeking. Many brands of Whole-milk Mozzarella (of course), fresh Mozzarella (too bland and too watery), sharp Provolone, Asiago, Parmesan, Grana Padana (sp?), Cheddar, Monterey Jack, Romano, and others have found their way on top of my pizzas in manifold combinations. Nothing truly satisfied until my newest discovery:
Cappiello brand whole-milk Mozzarella.
By itself it is flavorful enough to carry the day. All the fiddling I've tried with cheese combinations, and what I really needed was the right Mozzarella. My kids now rate my pizza "best around" instead of just "pretty good" since I've started using this. I buy it at Wegman's (it sits right next to the $9.99 foil bag of imported bufala that proved no improvement on my pizza), and according to the label it's made in Schenectady NY.
I'm always open to new suggestions, what do other Chowhound pizza-makers use on their pies?
I love the subtle edge that ricotta adds to a blend.
What do you use for HERBS in your sauce ??
Also, whatever your cheese blend or sauce, salt is like a "flavor rheostat" that can really amplify the flavor until you reach the point where it's "too salty" and have to back off.
re: Chicago Mike
Around here (NE Penn), ricotta is used on white/broccoli pizzas. I like it somewhat, but it's almost too heavy and satiating for my taste on a pizza.
Funny you should mention salt, the Cappiello cheese is noticeably more salty than other mozz's I've tried. But that alone doesn't account for the flavor that approaches (dare I say it) the cheese flavor of a DiFara's pie.
As for the sauce, I use a number of things in tiny amounts. I like a sauce that says "TOMATO!!" in bright tones. With a can of Muir Glen, I'll sautee half a small onion and a clove of garlic in olive oil. That goes in the blender with a couple of tomatoes (I use the tomatoes only, not the juice in the can) and a pinch of salt. I'll then quickly blend almost all the remaining tomatoes. This all goes in the pot, I cook for only 10-15 minutes. To the pot I add a small bay leaf, a small pinch each of dried oregano, dried basil and black pepper. The last 2 or 3 tomatoes I blend quickly with 2 fresh basil leaves. This goes in at the end of the cooking after turning off the heat. I also add some ex. virgin olive oil at this point. My main points are don't overcook it, and use very little of the ingredients other than the tomatoes (OK, I'll admit sometimes I'm heavy-handed with the olive oil).
I've found this sauce/cheese combo has a flavor that compares favorably with the best pizzerias I've tried. I'm always open to suggestions, criticisms and new ideas however. I doubt I'll ever be satisfied, there's always a way to improve the results.
I've found this sauce/cheese combo has a flavor that compares favorably with the best pizzerias I've tried.
Also, to me one of the keys is the BALANCE of sauce vs. cheese. When you taste the pie you should be able to get the desired taste blast of BOTH ingredients.
Disappointing pies are almost always "out of balance"... either something in the sauce overwhelms the flavor or you can't really taste the sauce or the cheese blend is too delicate...
Once you get each the way you like it, the balance between the two is crucial IMO.
My favorite topping for homemade pizza (on the grill of course) is carmelized onions, arugula, pine nuts and goat cheese.
Add a hint of basil and that combination just screams out for Sauvignon Blanc which goes so well with virtually all those ingredients!
You could also use your pie as the "foundation" for some interesting seafood toppings (crab, shrimp, lobster)... would just keep getting more awesome with Sauvignon.
Most Whole Milk Mozz are good options, you can use the low fat version, but look for the "low moisture" variety.
You might opt for mixing in either some provolone, jack or better yet dry jack (if you can find it)
Some good advise would also be to go light on the sauce so that the cheese melts and you won't have to use as much cheese or toppings. You'll be able to taste all ingredients of the pizza if you do this.