While there are a handful of different pizza styles that are available to eaters today, perhaps the purest form of pizza that is crafted and consumed is Neapolitan. The roots of pizza can be traced back to the coastal Italian city of Naples. The history of true Neapolitan pizza is a pretty interesting one considering it is the traditional Italian pizza. Here is a brief history, what makes it a truly unique style and some favorite variations.
Italian pizza as we know it today is flatbread that is topped with cheese and tomatoes (as well as many other toppings) and we know that it originated in Naples, Italy. But what is uncertain is the exact time in which tomatoes were introduced into the Italian diet from Peru and the New World. The late 1700’s is when flatbread “pizzas” started showing up with crushed tomatoes in addition to the cheese. The peasant food staple grew in popularity and eventually made its way to the table of King Umberto I and Queen Margherita of Savoy. Raffaele Esposito, a local Naples baker, was called on to bake pizzas for the King and Queen when the visited Naples in 1889. Raffaele crafted a pizza in the honor of the queen that included tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil. The colors of the pizza mirrored the colors of the Italian flag and was an overwhelming hit with the King and Queen. From that day, Margherita pizza has been one of the most popular variations of pizza.
What is Neapolitan pizza? There are some pretty strict guidelines that pizza makers must follow if they wish for their pizzas to be considered true Neapolitan-style. For starters, San Marzano tomatoes must be used and they are grown on the volcanic plains south of Mount Vesuvius. As for the cheese, it must be mozzarella fiordilatte (cow’s milk) or ‘Mozzarella di Bufala Campana,’ which is made from the milk of water buffalo raised in the marshlands of Campania and Lazio. Highly refined Italian wheat flour (type 0 or 00) is used to make that dough in combination with Neapolitan or fresh brewer’s yeast, water and salt. The dough must be mixed by hand or by a low-speed mixer and formed by hand. There should be fresh basil and extra-virgin olive oil and more pureed tomatoes than cheese leaving most of the sauce exposed. Baked by a wood fire (minimum of 800 degrees) for no more than 90 seconds, the pizza is finished and ready to be enjoyed. Those are the special requirements that must be met in order for a pizza to be considered true to the Neapolitan style.
- Pizza Marinara– topped with tomato, garlic, oregano and extra-virgin olive oil.
- Pizza Margherita– topped with tomato, sliced fresh mozzarella, fresh basil and extra-virgin olive oil.
- Pizza Margherita Extra– topped with tomato, sliced fresh mozzarella di Bufala, fresh basil and extra-virgin olive oil.
Over the years there are have been some very popular variations creations that seem to have left their mark on this style of pizza. While these do not fit under the “official” category, here are some other flavorful combinations.
- Romana– topped with anchovies, capers, olive, oregano, tomato and fresh mozzarella fiordilatte.
- Regina– topped with cherry tomato, arugula, parmigiano, prosciutto crudo and fresh mozzarella fiordilatte.
- Capricciosa– topped with mushroom, Parma cotto, olives, tomato and fresh sliced mozzarella fiordilatte.
- Formaggi– mozzarella fiodilatte, provola, parmigiano and gorgonzola.
- Diavola– salami, “pepperoncino” oil, tomato and mozzarella fiordilatte.
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