Create a custom blend of cheeses that will make your pizzas unique and unforgettable

Virtually every type of cheese can be used to create a more delicious pizza, but some cheeses make better blends than others.



Kara Hoffman

There are nearly 70,000 pizzerias in the United States, so it can be an ongoing task to set yours apart from the one down the street. Amidst the flurry of social media, email marketing, signage and promotions, did you ever consider what your cheese can do to help your business stand out?

While mozzarella will always be the cheese of choice for pizza, many pizzeria operators have discovered that using a custom blend of cheeses gives their pizzas a unique taste that customers notice—and crave.

Cheese blending offers both functionality and flavor, says Mark “The Cheese Dude” Todd, culinary consultant for the California Milk Advisory Board in Modesto, California. “Different cheeses will give you the stretch, coverage and browning you need as well as build a unique flavor profile,” he says. “The good thing is, there’s virtually no cheese you can’t make work on pizza.”

According to Ed Zimmerman, president of The Food Connector in Petaluma, California, the most popular cheese blend used by most pizzerias is a mix of mozzarella, provolone and Parmesan. “Cheese is the ‘center of the plate’ for pizza,” Zimmerman says. “The more an operator can differentiate himself and add value, the more consumers will notice that difference and keep coming back.”

Ruth Gresser, owner of Pizzeria Paradiso (eatyourpizza.com) in Washington, D.C., and Alexandria, Virginia, and author of the upcoming book Kitchen Workshop—Pizza, agrees that cheese should never be an afterthought. “Think of the cheese as a variable topping, not as a given,” she says. “When creating pizza combinations, it’s important to consider cheese—or cheeses—that enhance the other toppings; focus on flavor, texture and the pizza as a whole.”

“Any blend that features higher-flavor products, such as Asiago, Fontina or Parmesan, will wow customers. The key is to add enough to actually taste the other cheeses.”
—Ed Zimmerman, The Food Connector

Blendables

So are you ready to do a little experimenting? “Every cheese blend usually starts with part-skim mozzarella, or ‘pizza cheese,’ as its primary component,” Todd says. “Part-skim mozzarella melts, flows and browns well, so it’s a good bulk cheese.” The standard blending ratios are 80/10/10 or 80/20, with the typical additions being cheddar, provolone, whole-milk mozzarella and Monterey Jack. “If you want to set yourself apart, use 80% part-skim mozzarella, 10% cheddar, and 10% of something with a lot of flavor, such as blue cheese, smoked mozzarella or pepper Jack,” he advises. “Even if you get a base blend from your distributor, you can still add in your own special cheese to maximize the flavor.”

For her part, Gresser is a self-described “Gorgonzola girl.” She adds, “That’s an important addition to our Quattro Formaggi, which is actually a five-cheese pizza, with the other four being mozzarella, Pecorino Toscano, Fontina and Parmesan. I’ve tried mascarpone as a foundation for a pizza, and I find it too runny, but mixed with cream cheese, it’s perfect.”

When considering cheese blends, many pizzerias leave it up to the pros to blend their cheese, since cheese manufacturers and distributors can now provide small batches that are highly customized. “Custom blending from a manufacturer will produce a more consistent and food-safe product,” Zimmerman says. “Most operators don’t have the proper equipment to shred and blend in-house; the cheese is too thick and, without weighing, pizza makers will apply too much.”“Mozzarella has to carry the majority, so it determines the flavor,” Zimmerman notes. “Also, mozzarella tends to be the least expensive, so it balances the cost. I love 50-50 mozzarella and provolone; it really kicks in the flavor. Any blend that features higher-flavor products such as Asiago, Fontina or Parmesan will wow customers. The key is to add enough to actually taste the other cheeses.”

Say Cheese!

If you’re going to spend time blending your own cheeses—or pay someone else to blend them for you—don’t forget to market this new offering to guests and potential guests. A house blend will differentiate your pies from your competitors’ fare. “Promote, promote, promote on everything—menus, online ordering, signs in the store,” Zimmerman says. “’Welcome to ABC Pizza—Home of the X Blend.’”

In addition to marketing your cheeses, let your customers have access to them anywhere they want on your menu, making full use of your inventory. “List the cheeses you use in the premade specialty pizza section as well as in the build-your-own section of your menu,” Todd suggests. “Give customers the opportunity to experience your ingredients wherever they want them—on pizza, sandwiches, salads, etc. You’ll make better use of your inventory, and your customers will have a more customized food experience.”

Testing the Limits

Combining and blending cheeses can be a lot of fun, but even cheese has its limits. Use too much or too many, and you end up losing money and flavor. Most agree that there’s a limit to how many cheeses you should use at the same time before the cheese loses its distinction (goodbye, 10-cheese pizza), and there may even be a few cheeses that are best left unblended. “I like using buffalo mozzarella alone,” Gresser says. “I find that if I use it with other cheeses, the subtle flavors of the buffalo get lost.”

There are hundreds of cheese combinations depending on the flavor you’re seeking and the function you desire. Toppings add a whole new element when you consider the nuances of savory and sweet when combined with different blends. There’s not much that won’t work, so have fun with it and show your customers all that cheese can do.

Liz Barrett is PMQ’s editor at large.

Edit Module

Tell us what you think at or email.

Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Related Articles

Recipe of the Month: Roasted Cauliflower and Prosciutto Pizza

Polly-O crafts a flavorful treat with this pie featuring roasted cauliflower, prosciutto, garlic and Parmesan

Pizza Without Borders - Competition Heats Up in the Eastern Bloc

As more pizza competitions and associations pop up in Russia, Bulgaria and Poland, the quality of pizza and prestige of the pizzaiolo continues to rise.

The Chef's Corner: Scott Wiener Q&A

PMQ test chef Brian Hernandez discusses the ins and outs of Scott Wiener's pizza tours, his experience with the pizza industry, and what's next for the pizza-crazed entrepreneur.

From the Editor - A New Year and a New Look For PMQ

This month we focus on the explosive growth of Artichoke Basille and roll out a new look for the magazine!

Product Spotlight: January-February 2018

Dough trays, tomato strips, yeast, menus, ovens and more.

Extra! Extra! Read all about the Pizza Press, a unique fast-casual chain in Southern California

At the Pizza Press, pizza makers are the “editors” and customers get to “publish” the pie of their choice.

Take a hike: How to cope with a higher minimum wage

A pizzeria owner in Washington state offers a four-pronged strategy for staying profitable in an era of rising labor costs.

10 tips for adding a take-and-bake option

Tom “The Dough Doctor” Lehmann walks you through the steps for modifying your dough formula and procedure.

The Chef’s Corner: Scott Wiener and the Mo-Heato

The popular owner of Scott’s Pizza Tours isn’t a professional chef, but this recipe will make you think otherwise.

All ‘Choked Up: How a couple of East Village pizza guys became Food Network stars

Artichoke Basille’s has boomed from a shoebox-size Manhattan underdog to a 12-store media magnet—and now sets its sights on franchising.
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module
Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags