by Alex Sawatzky
I approach building a pizza a lot like running a race. I start with good solid fundamentals to get me through most of the way, but I reserve a little something extra for the last stretch to ensure a strong finish.
Experimenting with different types of cheese is a great way to build a pizza that finishes strong and full of flavour.
Cheeses like Mozzarella, Etorki, and young Goudas melt really well and are important for building your base. These are your marathoners—they can go the distance, baked with your pizza from start to finish. Their relatively high moisture content gives them the stamina to withstand a hot oven.
While these marathoners will help get you a swoon-worthy cheese pull, they tend to be milder in flavour.
Conversely, a lot of cheeses that pack a flavour punch often refuse to melt, and may even burn when exposed to intense heat. These are your sprinters—best added during that final stretch, immediately after you take your piping-hot pizza out of the oven.
Harder, denser, older cheeses like Parmigiano Reggiano, aged Cheddar, and Asiago all put in excellent sprint efforts. I recently used my microplane to grate crumbly Lancashire over a freshly-baked apple and caramelized-onion pizza. The fine wisps of cheese melted easily and added a tangy sharpness that elevated the pizza to a whole new level.
Cheeses with more complex, nuanced flavours like Black Garlic Manchego and Truffle Manchego really shine on pizza when sliced thinly and added as a final touch. I love how the slices melt just ever so slightly, so you can still make out the gorgeous ribbons of black garlic and truffle while savouring their sweet, nutty notes.
With funkier, more pungent cheeses, it’s best to err on the side of “less is more”—you can always add more flavour, but you can’t take it away! While Bleu d’Elizabeth is a moderate-strength blue cheese, I’ve found that adding it too early in the baking process leads to the whole pizza being overwhelmed with the flavour of blue cheese. Instead, crumbling a little bit on at the end gives the pie a perfect funky kick without stealing the show.
The world of cheese is vast and provides virtually endless pizza possibilities. So go ahead and experiment! Find your favourite strong finishers to get you across the finish line in delicious form.
Passionate about running, visual storytelling, and making great pizza at home, Alex Sawatzky is the official pizzaiolo for TOMME.
Look for Alex's pizza-centric blog posts each month on tomme.ca. You can also find her on Instagram at @alex__sawatzky and @_alexandrawings.