We all know a perfectly topped cheese pizza when we see it: melty, lightly browned, and just the right amount of stretch for a drool-worthy cheese pull photo. While many cheese-loving pizza enthusiasts are familiar with classic cheese toppings like mozzarella, fewer are familiar with off-the-beaten-path options like ricotta or mixed cheese blends.
This guide covers some of our favorite cheeses to top your pizzas with, suggested cheese blend options, and some cheesy pizza recipes to get you started on your way to Margheritaville.
Our Top 5 Cheeses to Use on Pizza
Every year, Wisconsin’s cheesemakers make nearly 1 billion pounds of mozzarella. Where does it all go? Well, a good chunk of it is destined to top pizzas across the country. But let’s take a step back: what makes mozzarella so good as a pizza topping? It comes down to a few factors.
For one, mozzarella has ideal melting and stretching properties. It has just enough moisture to brown and bubble without burning as the pizza bakes. In terms of flavor, mozzarella is perfectly milky and mild, while still maintaining enough richness to stand as a distinct flavor. Basically, mozzarella is a flawless base for any pizza.
What type of mozzarella is best for pizza?
In general, low-moisture mozzarella is our go-to for pizza. We recommend avoiding the pre-shredded stuff when you can. Pre-shredded mozzarella generally has additives like potato starch to give it a longer shelf life and to prevent pieces from clumping together. Unfortunately, the starch prevents it from melting into a smooth cheesy layer. Pre-shredded mozzarella can still be delicious but believe us when we say that high-quality mozzarella you’ve shredded yourself is a one-way ticket to pizza heaven.
Fresh mozzarella, the kind that comes in a tub of brine, can take your pizza to an entirely new level but takes some extra prep work to avoid creating a soggy pie. Due to the higher moisture content of fresh mozzarella, you’ll want to drain your cheese and let it dry for 20-25 minutes on a paper towel. Then, you can tear your mozzarella ball into small pieces to gently place on your pizza. If your dream dinner is a minimalist margherita pizza, look no further than fresh mozzarella. That’s amore!
Provolone is our favorite cheese to blend with mozzarella when making a pizza. Put another way, if mozzarella was Batman, provolone would be Robin. They’re both heroes on their own—but bring them together, and you’ve got an unstoppable duo. Provolone is a semi-hard cheese that develops an increasingly sharp flavor as it’s aged (typically around four months).
It’s a much drier cheese compared to mozzarella and while it can still serve as your solo cheese topping, we think it’s best when in the company of mozzarella. We recommend starting with equal parts mozzarella and provolone and then experimenting from there.
Cheddar is an underrated cheese option for pizza lovers. However, we would advise against using cheddar exclusively as a topping, tasty as it may be. Compared to the gold standard of mozzarella, cheddar doesn’t handle high heat very well, and overheating can cause the fats to separate from the solids. This goes double for aged cheddars.
If you want to try adding cheddar to your pizza, we would recommend starting with a base of mozzarella and then sprinkling in the cheddar of your choice to supplement. The rich and often tangy flavor of cheddar can be a great addition to pizza if it’s balanced with a meltier cheese.
Parmesan cheese is no stranger to pasta dishes—but what about pizza? Like other hard cheeses, parmesan is best enjoyed grated onto your pizza after baking. Due to parmesan’s low moisture content, even adding it to a cheese blend can result in bland and potentially burnt cheese. Some people also like adding parmesan to their pizza dough to infuse their crust with some extra umami.
Meet the wild card of our list. Ricotta is a light, yet creamy cheese that’s delightfully refreshing as a pizza topping. You can enjoy it as a solo topping, or better yet, blended 1:1 with another cheese like mozzarella.
Although ricotta is still a pizza topping underdog, it’s becoming increasingly popular. Try a bite and you’ll understand why. Next time you’re hosting a pizza party, try topping one of your pizzas with ricotta. You’ll be like that friend that introduced everyone to a band right before they got famous.
Three Cheesy Pizza Recipes for Inspiration
Mozzarella and Provolone Agrodolce Sausage Pizza
If thin-crust Italian-style pizzas are your jam, this pizza is sure to please. This pizza features a sweet-sour sauce known as agrodolce that gives this lightweight pizza a heavyweight flavor. For our cheese topping, we opted for a timeless blend of provolone and mozzarella.
Get the recipe for our Mozzarella and Provolone Agrodolce Sausage Pizza.
Hot Sausage Deep-Dish Pizza
This is the pizza that can turn deep-dish doubters into believers. Our deep-dish creation combines a base of mozzarella with Sartori Company’s fontina for some extra flair. Topping it all off is a small serving of parmesan to give even more depth to the pizza. You can opt for a part-skim mozzarella if you’re concerned with your pizza turning out too rich.
Get the recipe for our Hot Sausage Deep-Dish Pizza.
Chicken and Sun-dried Tomato Grilled Pizza
Topped with the trifecta of mozzarella, ricotta, and parmesan, this grilled pizza masterfully combines a plethora of different flavors and textures into one delicious experience. Mozzarella acts as a mild base cheese while ricotta and parmesan infuse sophisticated nuance into every bite.
Get the recipe for our Chicken and Sun-dried Tomato Grilled Pizza.
Can’t find your favorite cheese near you? You can get Wisconsin’s finest cheeses delivered right to your door with our continuously updated list of cheesemakers and retailers that allow you to order cheese online. Award-winning Wisconsin Cheese is just a click away.
Craving something other than pizza? Choose from our selection of over 300 recipes featuring Wisconsin Cheese. Don’t forget to share your creative cheesy creations with us on Facebook and Instagram.
What is the best melting cheese for pizza?
The undisputed king of meltiness for cheese toppings is mozzarella. Classic mozzarella has the ideal balance of moisture, elasticity, and fat content for meltability.
Can I make pizza with cheddar cheese?
Although cheddar is a popular part of many cheese blends used on pizzas, we would avoid using it as your only cheese topping. Cheddar does not melt well compared to cheeses like mozzarella or provolone. We would recommend using younger varieties of cheddar since they maintain their moisture for longer during baking.