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Most of us would be hard-pressed to name 101 cheeses, let alone be able to squeeze them all onto a single pizza.
But that's exactly what one Portland, Oregon, pizza place — Scottie's Pizza Parlor — accomplished this past week, with its "Centouno Formaggio" pie, which is poised to clinch a world record for the pizza with the largest number of cheeses ever. It's inspired by the 99-cheese pizza of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fame, but don't be fooled: The pie, which owner Scottie Rivera came up with for a pizza-week celebration in the city, looks ordinary, but is a serious artisanal feat.
Here are just some of the cheeses that made it possible — and, we're noting, this isn't processed cheese, this is a pile of real artisanal cheese right here. So how did he squeeze all that cheese onto a pie without making it look like a hot mess? He did it in three layers and broke it down for TODAY Food here:
• Cheese #1: Aged whole-milk mozzarella topped every pie.
• Cheese #2 to #56: Next up was a 55-cheese blend, including loads of nutty Alpine cheeses, earthy goat's milks, creamy sheep's milks from obscure, artisanal creameries, as well as high-end versions of familiar varieties like pecorino, Monterey Jack, Muenster and sharp cheddar.
• Cheese #57 to #91: A dollop of house-made ricotta was combined with 35 other soft cheeses, including lots of creamy ones like brie and taleggio.
• Cheese #92 to #101: Yes there's more: A 9-cheese blend of grated, dry cheeses, such as Manchego, Parmigiano-Reggiano and Grana Padano — and a frico crisp of baked Parmigiano-Reggiano.
• Bonus cheese: Aged, part-skim mozzarella, baked inside the crust was served for one day only.
Hard-core cheese lovers can check out the whole list of cheeses and creameries in thorough detail here.
Over the course of the week, the shop turned out about 1,000 of the special 101-cheese pizzas, and prepping them took a lot of work, with staffers pulling lots of late nights and early mornings. The first night, Rivera and his wife stayed up until 4 a.m., making the ricotta, 80 pounds at a time, in giant steam kettles.
And it's not just the cheese that got all the love: Rivera's pies are all made on naturally leavened sourdough crust with regionally grown wheat, and topped with organic tomato sauce.
"It's a really interesting slice to eat," Rivera told TODAY Food, explaining that they wanted the overall effect to be subtle.
"At first bite, it's kind of like any other cheese slice. But then you slow down and go, 'Wow, this has character. Every bite is different for sure, especially when you get halfway through, to the dollop of ricotta. It has this smooth texture against the crispy crust and this little bit of funk, but we wanted to keep it pretty smooth with a little acidity and brightness to it." (Little touches, like the lemon in the ricotta, kept it from being overly rich and heavy.)
And yes, "all of us here" at the shop are Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fans, Rivera says: On a wall of memorabilia at the restaurant are people's heroes, with 8-by-10-inch photos of the turtles alongside the likes of Spike Lee, Albert Einstein, Bill Murray and Julia Child. (For the record, Rivera's favorite turtle is Leo: "He's a leader, driven by morals, justice and nonviolence, but also not afraid to kick back and chow down on a pie," he notes.)
Here's Rivera (center), celebrating with his staff after a week of turning out the 101-cheese pizzas, which they documented and are submitting for a Guinness World Record for most cheeses on a pizza:
For every food trend, there's often an equal and opposite reaction, which seems to be the case with pizza toppings right now.
Recently, we talked about crimes against pizza — toppings like Peeps, lettuce, and the much-debated pineapple — but this painstakingly crafted pie is all back-to-the-basics, even if it was inspired by the TMNT.
"We want people to realize, we're a serious pizzeria," Rivera said. "This was a fun, ridiculous endeavor, but we are actually passionate pizza makers."