Building a pizza is not just about diverse toppings, it’s about the right balance between the quantity, flavor, and types of toppings. Get everything right and you will have yourself an excellent pizza at home!
How to layer a pizza? The journey of a pizza begins with the base. Start with a soft and delicious dough. Form the shape of the pie, then add pizza sauce and the vegetables, followed by the meat, and bring everything together with a thorough layer of shredded cheese!
Learn the art of pizza making at home, what it takes to make a great pizza, how to assemble a balanced pie, and more!
How To Build A Pizza
The origins of pizza are quite humble.
It was invented in Naples, Italy in the 18th century and was an affordable food option for the work-class Neapolitans.
The original recipe called for a flattened dough that was topped with a layer of thick tomato sauce with herbs, fresh basil leaves, and sliced cheese—that’s it!
This combination of ingredients provided enough nutrition and energy to keep the working class going and was seen as a popular food item in Italy. It was only during the 1940s that the humble pizza was elevated to superstardom!
Brought in by Italian immigrants in the USA, it took only a few decades until pizza pies were solidified as a cornerstone of the American diet.
Today there are about 80,000 pizzerias across the USA with more popping up every month. The same love for pizza can also be seen in other regions of the world too.
Every region has its own version of pizza. Some use different toppings, some use different types of dough, but almost all of them have a fixed order for all the toppings.
Pizza Topping Order
To make a great pie at home you need to start from the top (or the bottom). Let’s look at the components of a disassembled pizza first:
Getting the dough right is an absolute necessity, especially when you want to make Neapolitan pizza.
The dough is the canvas upon which we will build our pie and it is the one ingredient that will carry the flavor and texture of every other ingredient!
There are generally two routes that you can take when it comes to the dough:
The first option requires you to make your very own pizza dough. The good news is that making pizza dough is very easy and all it requires is a good recipe. Here is one that is quick, easy, and will make great-tasting pizza dough!
The benefit of making pizza dough at home is that you can tweak the ingredients any way you like and skip harmful preservatives and “enhancers”.
Also, once you get into the habit of making pizza dough at home, you can play around with the ingredients and try out different things with the dough to get a better overall flavor and texture from it.
There is nothing wrong with using store-bought pizza dough. In fact, most mass-scale pizza brands use frozen doughs that arrive via a delivery truck from the factory.
The trick, however, is to pick a dough brand that best fits your preferences.
There are plenty of pizza dough brands in the market. Some use cheap or low-quality ingredients while others may use stabilizers and enhancers to make their subpar product taste great.
If you do want to use store-bought dough for convenience then we recommend going with a well-reviewed and reputed brand like this one.
Pre-made pizza doughs are a great way to quickly assemble the pie without worrying about proofing the dough or getting all the ingredients right.
But if you are looking for an overall great tasting and fresh pizza, then we highly recommend that you at least try to make the dough at home.
Once you have settled on the right type of dough for your particular needs, you can move on to the pizza sauce.
The pizza sauce is typically the first thing that should go over pizza dough. The sauce works to hydrate the base of the dough and to keep it from drying as it cooks from underneath.
It also adds a tangy and herby flavor that works in tandem with the rest of the ingredients.
There are many types of pizza sauces. Some are traditional with simple ingredients like canned tomato sauce, herbs, salt, and sugar. Others can have more ingredients and flavor enhancers to elevate the overall flavor of the pie.
If you are unsure about how to go about making the pizza sauce then you can also settle with commercial pizza sauces.
Browse through the sauce aisle at your local grocery store and find a pizza sauce brand that is all-natural and contains the least preservatives.
Remember, some brands may use corn syrup, preservatives, and artificial flavors to “improve” their product.
If you want to keep things traditional and healthy then we recommend staying away from the overly commercial and mainstream sauces. For example, try out this natural and authentic Italian pizza sauce!
Now that we have the dough and the pizza sauce, it’s time to look at the toppings. This step is also where most people tend to go overboard.
Contrary to popular belief, “more” does not equate to better in the world of pizza toppings.
The right type of pizza is the one with a balanced quantity of toppings and flavors. Too many toppings can result in an overly drooping pizza that either doesn’t cook through or becomes soggy.
Too little may take away from the overall perceived quality and flavor of the pizza. This is why you need to look at things in moderation.
Start with the basics! Pick out the right vegetables like onions, olives, and peppers. Thinly slice them and try to mimic the presentation of your favorite pizzeria for the best results.
Once you have all the vegetables, you can then move on to the meat toppings!
Start with cubed pieces of chicken meat, sliced pepperoni, or any other protein of your liking. The key here is to spread the toppings starting from the edges and then working your way to the middle.
This way you won’t overload the pizza and it will also prevent the toppings from cluttering at the center.
A handful of toppings should be more than enough for a medium-sized pizza but since you are making pizza at home, you can add more toppings as per your preference.
Please note, however, that when adding heavier toppings like big chunks of meat, you may want to limit yourself or risk dealing with “loose” toppings.
This is understandably the favorite part for many people.
The reason cheese is added on top is for two reasons:
- It protects the toppings from drying.
- It exposes the cheese to direct heat, which allows it to melt and spread.
There are many different ways to add cheese on top of the pizza but the best way is to ensure that you evenly coat all of the toppings to prevent them from drying.
DO NOT bury everything under a ton of cheese.
The goal here is to majorly cover all of the toppings, which means that some toppings like onions and peppers can stick out. This is acceptable!
Keep in mind that adding too much cheese will also increase the moisture content in the dough which may lead to a soggy pie.
Furthermore, while the cheese is usually only added on top of the toppings, in some cases, like when making a Sicilian pizza, which is famous in Chicago, you may add the cheese directly over the crust.
The idea behind this is that the absence of moisture and wet sauce causes the pizza crust to cook better.
Every type of cheese has a different moisture level which can directly affect the crust. Here are a few types of pizza cheeses with varying moisture levels that you can try:
Types Of Cheese For Toppings
There are several types of melting cheeses that you can add as a topping. We recommend trying classics like mozzarella, cheddar, provolone, parmesan, gouda, and more.
Remember, each cheese has a different moisture level and can affect the overall quality of the pizza. For example, mozzarella has a high moisture content but you can find various types of mozzarella with different textures.
There are also several generic “pizza cheese” products that you can try. These are just mozzarella blocks that are made to have a better stretch and less moisture.
If you want to experiment with different flavors then we recommend combining various types of cheeses. For example, cheddar and mozzarella go very well together.
The sharp flavor from the cheddar and the rounded milky and slightly tangy flavor from the mozzarella will complement each other with any topping.
Visual Guide For Pizza Topping Order
|1st||Pizza Dough||Make the dough at home using a simple recipe. You may also use any store-bought frozen dough to save time.|
|2nd||Pizza Sauce||Spread out the pizza sauce over the dough. If making a Chicago-style pizza, add the cheese before the sauce.|
|3rd||Toppings (Vegetables)||Start with the vegetables. Use thinly sliced vegetables to cover up the pizza evenly.|
|4th||Toppings (Meat)||Add a few slices of pepperoni, chicken, or meat. If using minced meat, start small and add a light sprinkle and adjust accordingly.|
|5th||Cheese||Add mozzarella or a combination of pizza cheeses over all the toppings!|
Making Pizza at Home
Here are detailed step-by-step instructions on how to make pizza at home:
- Preheat the oven to 400°F. You can use the maximum settings on your oven but you may need to keep a closer eye on the pizza as it cooks. Also, if you are using a pizza stone then it would be a good idea to preheat it too!
- Prepare the homemade pizza dough by flattening it with a rolling pin or manually stretching it out in a pizza pan with a little oil at the bottom. Use a pre-made frozen pizza dough, if you don’t wish to make the dough at home. Additionally, you can add a bit of flour, oil, or semolina over your workspace so that the dough doesn’t stick while you add weight (toppings) over it.
- Add the sauce! Apply 2-3 tablespoons of the sauce (or as needed) and then use the back of the spoon to spread out the sauce in a circular motion. This will ensure that you coat all of the pizza’s surface evenly. In the case of frozen dough, once you have applied the sauce, let the pie sit for a while. This will help the sauce penetrate through the top layer and improve the overall flavor of the dough.
- In the meanwhile, cut all the required vegetables and then apply them over the sauce layer. Make sure you go in a circular motion to cover the corners and the center evenly.
- Now add the proteins using the same strategy. Do not overcrowd all the ingredients and try to add the meat as evenly as possible.
- Time to add the cheese! If you aren’t making a Sicilian pizza then you may proceed with adding the cheese on top of the toppings. Spread the cheese over all the toppings to cover as much area as possible.
- Put the assembled pie in the oven and then let it cook for about 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. If you are using homemade dough, we highly recommend that you apply an egg wash around the folded edges to create a golden-brown crust.
The idea here is to spread out the shredded cheese evenly instead of burying all the toppings under it.
Remember, high-moisture cheese like mozzarella may make the pizza and toppings soggy! So, try to add a few handfuls at a time for the best results.
Slice up the pizza while it is hot and enjoy the best homemade and properly assembled pizza!
Assembling a pizza may seem easy but in reality, it is way easier to overdo it! Now that you know how to properly prepare a homemade pie, here are some related questions!
Can you add frozen toppings to pizza?
Yes. You can add frozen toppings to the pizza, but you should only do this when you don’t have the time to defrost the toppings.
Adding frozen toppings may increase the overall cooking time and you might overcook the thawed ingredients first vs the frozen toppings.
This is why it is always recommended that you thaw all the ingredients before adding them to the crust!
However, when it comes to pizza cheese, you can use cold or even frozen cheese on pizzas because the cheese is the first thing that will cook due to being exposed to direct heat.
Should you freeze an uncooked assembled pizza?
Yes. You can prepare the pizza in advance and store it in the freezer for later use. This strategy is great for when you want to prepare several pizzas for a party.
Just pop them out of the freezer, let them sit for about 30 minutes, and then bake them as intended.
You can even freeze cooked pizza in the same way too! Keep in mind though, the best way to store an assembled pizza is to first half-baked it and then freeze it.
This way you can heat it and cook it at the same time without over-drying or overcooking it.
Can you use uncooked toppings on pizza?
The best way to get the most out of the flavor and texture of the toppings is to use half-cooked or fully cooked meat. The reason why we don’t recommend using raw meat is that it may contaminate the dough and the other toppings.
Always use freshly cooked meat or packaged pizza toppings for the best experience. Smoked meat can be used as it is since it is usually precooked or cured.