A pizza is not a pizza without a large handful of grated cheese topped and melted onto it. The cheese of choice is mozzarella, a stringy and sometimes gooey white cheese. Unlike some of your sharper cheeses such as swiss or cheddar, mozzarella has a less pronounced but enjoyable taste.
There are two types of mozzarella that are acceptable for pizza: low moisture, which has a moisture content less than 50%, and high moisture, which has a moisture content of more than 52%. The low moisture version tends to have a longer shelf life therefore is what you find commonly in the grocery store. The latter is more popular for the pizza and restaurant industry.
Most mozzarella you see today is made in the U.S. from cow's milk, but traditionally it was produced from water buffalo milk, which had been cured. According to legend, this cheese first came into being after cheese curds fell into a bucket of hot water. You can still find some of the traditional "water buffalo" mozzarella made in such Italian places as Battipaglia and Caserta which is located just South of Naples. In addition it can be found at many Italian specialty food stores across the U.S.
In order to top your pizza, the cheese should be grated, and not sliced. This allows for more even cooking and better distribution. Care should be made not to overcook the cheese so that when a slice of pizza is served, the mozzarella has a soft elastic consistency. If the cheese is brown and has a crispy feel then you loose some of the taste and texture that helps make pizza so enjoyable.
Some other Italian cheeses that can be used are the following:
Other cheeses gaining popularity as a pizza topping include the following:
- Monterey Jack
Swiss Today it is acceptable to use a mixture of different cheeses, but beware that they loose much of their distinctness when cooked together.