1. Fresh cheese. Back away from the pre-shredded cheese packages people! Shredding your own cheese truly makes a good pizza great. Buy a block of cheddar, colby jack or mozzarella and shred away. You'll be amazed at the improved quality of the fresh cheese. Or, if you have really fresh mozzarella slice it into thin slices and lay it across the pizza (see picture below). It becomes ooey gooey goodness! Or, crumble fresh goat cheese, feta or blue cheese on a pizza to up the flavor and specialness. When an ingredient is this important to a dish, why not use the best?
2. Carmelized onions. A pizza goes from standard to gourmet fare when one of the ingredients is cooked. Carmelized onions are my favorite. Just slice it up, sprinkle with kosher salt, and sautee in olive oil until brown, soft and sweet. At the end of cooking I like to add a pinch of dried Italian herbs. You can also grill or roast different veggies to add to a pizza, and the flavor quotient soars! The deep flavors of cooked veggies contrast nicely with the fresh ingredients, and the soft texture is scrumptious.
3. Extra virgin olive oil. I rarely cook a thing without it. To make a prepackaged crust taste fresh brush it with some good oil before adding the sauce and toppings. You can also sprinkle the outside crust with sea salt, which adheres to the oil and provides a nice texture and great flavor. I also always drizzle my homemade pizza with a splash of oil before serving. I often go easy on the cheese, and this extra hit of oil makes the pizza moist and flavorful.
4. Fresh herbs. To finish a pizza with fresh herbs is to add the perfect accessories to your outfit. You'd miss them if they weren't there! My three favorite herbs to add to any pizza are basil, rosemary and oregano. I find the rosemary and oregano are best when cooked with the pizza, but the basil should be added raw right before serving. Ahhh fresh flavor!
5. Something salty. This can mean so many things, but for me, if there isn't a salty ingredient on my pizza I feel like something is missing. My favorite salty ingredients include olives, prosciutto, pepperoni/salami and Feta cheese. If you're not using any of these ingredients then sprinkle your pizza with a bit of sea salt for a nice briny flavor and interesting texture. And always, always finish your pizzas with a generous sprinkle of freshly grated Parmesan cheese.