Cheese First vs. Sauce First

Sauce first, then cheese first. Completely different results. Both delicious.

I made these two pies over the weekend with the exact same ingredients yet the first was topped with sauce followed by cheese and the second started with cheese and sauce came last. They look and taste completely different! Starting with sauce makes sense because pizza began as a peasant food and the high cost of cheese made it more of a garnish than a main event. As costs decreased, cheese proportions increased and became what we see today as a typical “New York Style” pizza. But cheese is a great base because it protects the crust from getting gummy.

I love doing cheese first because it melts right onto the crust and you get little to no cheese drag: when your bite pulls a blanket of hot molten mozzarella off the slippery surface of a saucy pie directly onto your clean face and shirt. It also means that the surface sauce is more susceptible to evaporation, so it tends to thicken and sweeten. This order is sometimes referred to as tomato pie, as at Delorenzo’s in Trenton, NJ, but it’s also the preferred method at New York joints like John’s on Bleecker Street, Sam’s Restaurant in Brooklyn, Arturo’s in Greenwich Village and Totonno’s on Coney Island.

600g flour (I used Pillsbury bread flour for this batch)
396g water
13g salt
6g dry yeast

Starting with the water (room temp), add yeast then flour. Mix in salt and fully incorporate all ingredients. Give it a few minutes to rest while you check the mail and then knead it until smooth and springy. Cut into 4 even pieces and round into balls. Store for 1-3 days in sealed container inside refrigerator. I used mine after 2 days and it was lovely but I bet it would last 5 if push came to shove.

If you want to get a bit more depth, you can mix together 50g or flour and 50g water plus a pinch of yeast (~1g) 10-12 hours before making your dough. I did that before heading out to do a pizza tour, then when I came back 10 hours later the mixture had more than doubled in size. (Room was 71 degrees F so a warmer room will rise faster, cooler room rises slower.) I added this mixture to the remaining ingredients in the recipe (550g more flour, 346g more water, 5g yeast) and continued with the process. This allows for some fermentation to occur in advance with just about a minute of prep time. There’s no salt in the preferment because it slows down yeast fermentation. I did this preferment for the crust you see in these photos. It would be more effective if you could have tasted it. Not as much flavor as using a starter, but still really tasty. 


Pizza Tours

Walking Pizza Tours

Sunday Pizza Bus Tour

Private Pizza Tours

Virtual Pizza Classes

Scroll to Top