Your guide to pizza toppings
Whether you prefer simplicity or decadence, pizza toppings come in all manners of flavour. Going from spicy to mild, experimenting with ingredients can result in a wide variety of types and there is almost no end to the possibility of creativity. For centuries, local regions have put their own personal spin on their pizzas either by adding local ingredients or matching flavours in unique contrasts.
Depending on where you go, pizza topping changes accordingly. While Neapolitan pizza aficionados swear by scarce ingredients and lesser quantities, moving further south has pizzas thicker and their toppings heavier. Largely, it is a matter of preference, and a lot of people like both styles equally. Figuring out what works for you comes down to trial and error, which basically means eating a lot of pizzas.
Among the most famous and popular types of pizza are Pizza Marinara and Pizza Margherita, both sharing simple ingredients for toppings and a thin crust. Sharing namesake with Margherita of Savoy, Pizza Margherita was made as a tribute to her and a newly unified Italy, displaying all three colours of their national flag. Green from basil, white from mozzarella and red from the tomato sauce. Below we have compiled some of our favourite types of toppings from across the world – enjoy!
Ask a cheese lover what makes a pizza great and they will say cheese. Not surprisingly, the popularity of pizzas with nothing but cheese has been sky-high since the first open-air stands and pizza bakeries opened in Naples, and for good reason. It is not just mozzarella or Parmigiano Reggiano that are in high demand, other more regional varieties are sought-after globally as well.
For some an acquired taste, for others Gorgonzola is an absolute must have on pizza. Using milk from cows grazing on the plains of Lombardy near Tuscany, Gorgonzola shares likeness to that of most blue cheeses. Soft, creamy and intense it displays blue marbling than thinly streaks its white body. When melted, flavours blossom, perfect for both classic and modern pizza recipes.
Being closely related to Mozzarella, Provolone is a semi-hard cheese made from cow’s milk near Lombardy that turns mild, stringy and soft when baked. With Mozzarella and Buffalo Mozzarella being fresh cheeses, the main difference between these and Provolone is the texture, with Mozzarella being slightly softer when melted.
Some call it the king of cheese, its perfect umami flavour, ease of use and almost non-existing lactose content makes Parmigiano Reggiano a fan favourite among nearly all pizza lovers. Offering tones of caramelised butter and roasted hazelnuts, it perfectly combines bitter, savoury, salty and even sweet flavours. With some variants having aged for up to 36 months, this is royalty worth the wait.
Dig in to our Roasted Grape and Blue Cheese Pizza recipe for a taste of rich blue cheese and honeyed grapes.
Spices, greens and herbs have always been popular toppings, either as sauce or vegetal garnish. Today, nothing is too obscure, and everything is worth a try. Some add density and texture while others provide flavour and zest, no matter the type, vegetables are here to stay.
Cultivated nearly worldwide, olives are popular because they add salt and character to whatever they star in. They are especially great when needing to add a sense of freshness and presence of flavour both on your pizza and as a quick snack.
Also grown across the glove, many believe tomatoes to be the backbone of any pizza. While not necessarily the case, tomatoes are perfect for adding sweetness and juiciness to both the pizza sauce and as topping. Some are sweet, while others are tart, both are fantastic at giving depth and nuance to your recipe.
Among other popular vegetables are mushrooms, onions, peppers and spinach, all with their own unique taste and texture. Together with assortments of herbs such as rosemary, basil, thyme and oregano, each could headline a pizza on its own. Try our Cauliflower Pizza recipe for a vegetal take on both crust and toppings.
From dried hams to seared beef, the possibilities of meats on pizza are virtually endless. Whether you like it plenty or in delicate layers, meat lovers are sure to find something that takes their interest.
If Parmigiano Reggiano is the king of cheeses, perhaps this is the king of meats – Prosciutto di Parma is an Italian dry-cured ham served thinly sliced, often uncooked. Sometimes curing for 2 years, they reach a point of tenderness to where they almost melt on your tongue. Salty, savoury and complex it is the perfect topping for nearly all pizza recipes.
Perhaps one of the most well-known and popular spicy sausages to ever garnish a pizza, Pepperoni is inspired by the salamis of southern Italy. Comprising finely minced beef and pork often added ground chilli it is a go-to option for many pizza enthusiasts. When cooked it sears, becoming crispy with a slightly sweeter flavour.
Other popular meats include pancetta, a type of Italian bacon made from pork and anchovies, often served as flat filets in olive oil. Ground beef has also made its way to the hearts of pizza lovers, given the many possibilities in terms of combinations and availability. Have a go at our Grilled Tomato, Fig and Prosciutto Pizza recipe for a taste of unique contrasts.