THE FANTASTIC 5 – The Basic Tastes on Pizza: Umami, Sour, Bitter, Sweet and Salty.

A quick guide on how to use the five basic tastes for smashing (and profitable)topping combinations and our BRAND NEW TOPPING RANGE.

The perfect Pizza dough results from flour, water, yeast and time. There is a science to it. The key to why Pizza tastes so good also lies in science.

Topping a Pizza, more science. It’s the blending of the five basic tastes — savoury (or umami), sour, sweet, bitter and salty

In plain English, our mouth, and most specifically our taste receptors, can distinguish between the tastes and perceive them in different ways. They send signals and stimulate the brain.

If you want to seek the best balance of the five tastes on Pizza in action, well is about the experiment: professional Pizzaiolos, spend several months perfecting their Pizza topping combinations.

Here there is some interesting new combination we have to see:

  • spicy garlic sauce, red onions, white cheddar crown, grilled mushrooms, prime-aged fillet mignon, roasted peppers, scallions and finished with a balsamic glaze
  • Grilled peach, Parma ham, asparagus and chilly flakes
  • figs, Pancetta, caramelized onion, rocket salad, goat cheese, diced mozzarella and balsamic glaze, (no sauce)
  • Smoked mozzarella, Nduja, Schiacciata Spicy Salamy, creamy ricotta, shaved Manchego and oregano.
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Many Master Pizza chefs will tell you that every Pizza should have at least three of the five profiles.

And different studies are backing this theory.

A few years ago, Purdue University introduced a sixth taste: Oleogustus or Fat.

Some have suggested adding “spicy” to the list. Capsaicin in spicy ingredients causes a burning sensation. Many love the “flavour” and spicy might just fit the criteria to be a basic taste.

When it comes to menu development, think of the five tastes as the pillars for flavours.

Each has a role to play to create the best Pizza combination: bear in mind they will stand out from, complement or counterbalancing each other.

Let me break down each taste:

  • Sweet. Sweetness plays a powerful role on Pizza. The tomato sauce certainly has an element of sweet from the tomatoes, which also happen to fit into salty and Umami, as well. Sweetness can be used to bring out the flavour in ingredients or calm spicy toppings.  Usual suspects include sweets like fruit, sugar, honey. There are other ingredients you may not classify as sweet. But they are, like caramelized onions, sweet potatoes, roasted peppers, grilled courgettes, squash, basil and balsamic vinegar.
  • Sour. Looking for that punch of flavour. That is where sour comes in. It can counterbalance sweetness or heat. When it comes to sour, think most vinegars, citrus and tart fruits, pickled vegetables, and cultured dairy products.
  • Salty. Saltiness is very important to Pizza. It enhances everything else. It also counterbalances bitterness. Cured meats, anchovies, olives and most cheeses fall into the salty category, sundried tomatoes and grilled artichokes
  • Bitter. This is one that may not resonate at first glance. Although it is used to send a warning that something has surpassed its expiration or is toxic, a “good” bitterness can cut the sweetness or richness. Some common bitter ingredients include parsley, kale, rocket salad, escarole, radicchio, and Brussels sprouts.
  • Umami. This is the taste that completes the profile with that perfect savoury component. This is the newest of the tastes. Umami was identified by scientists in 1908. Grilled mushrooms, tomato sauce and most cheeses, especially Parmesan, hit the umami notes (and also our Vegan Mozzarella…)
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Mix and Match

Creating the perfect Pizza topping combination is a game of mixing and matching flavours. You take the component of each taste to find the right balance. Toppings are endless. Many pizzerias offer 40 or more options. You know you have a perfect Pizza from taste. Instead of listing ingredients, a balance that next speciality Pizza using the five tastes.

What if a combination is…

·      Too bland? Explore ingredients that are sweet, salty, or savoury.

·      Too salty? Hit it with a sweet topping.

·      Too sweet? Finish it with a bitter green or a sour ingredient.

·      Too tangy? Sweeten it up or add an umami element.

·      Overpoweringly savoury? Add sweet, sour, or bitter ingredients.

Do you need help with your pizza menu development?

Our Chefs and Pizza Specialists at PizzaSi are happy to help, ESPECIALLY now, that we have a BRAND-NEW TOPPINGS RANGE:

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Italian AFFETTATI / Cured Meats:

  • Prosciutto – Parma Ham
  • Real Spicy Nduja
  • Schiaccitata – Italian Finest Pepperoni
  • Salami Napoli
  • Pancetta – Italian Finest Bacon
  • Cotto – Cooke Italian Ham
  • Speck – Smoked “Parma” Ham

Italian Grilled Vegetable:

  • Grilled Courgettes
  • Roasted Peppers
  • Sundried Tomatoes
  • Mixed Olive
  • Grilled Artichokes

Italian Sauces

  • Green Pesto
  • Truffle Sauce
  • Red Pesto

And don’t miss our Vegan Mozzarella for Pizza!

In Pizza We Crust