The best pizza? We present a proven recipe and some interesting facts about this popular dish
Pizza resembling the shape of the one we know today, was born in Naples. This is one of the reasons why every year the city at the foot of Mount Vesuvius attracts so many tourists to itself. But it turns out that the wheat pancake “picea” (Latin) was known much earlier. In the article you will find the history of this dish and a simple recipe for the best Neapolitan pizza.
Pizza with Italian roots was one of the fastest, simplest and cheapest dishes, which were fed to the Neapolitan, poor community. However, the delicacy somewhat resembling pizza was eaten much earlier, among others in ancient Greece and Egypt. According to some sources a dish in the shape of this popular pancake was already prepared by the ancient Babylonians. It is worth remembering that tomatoes (and thus one of the main ingredients of pizza) were brought to Europe as late as in the 16th century. So how did pizza as we know it today appear in sunny Italy?
Neapolitan pizza — history of the dish in a nutshell
The aforementioned Naples — apart from the amazing atmosphere of this place (which you either love or hate), it is there where we can eat the best pizza in the world. It’s definitely a must for all those who call themselves lovers of this simple dish. Queues form to famous, legendary restaurants (e.g. L’antica Pizzeria Da Michele known from the film “Eat, Pray and Love”). Waiting time for one of the two items on the menu there (Marinara — version without cheese, Margherita) is even a few hours. This, however, does not discourage tourists who are able to devote even half a day to try this delicacy. And no wonder — despite the fact that Naples hides brilliant pizzerias on every corner, for the sheer climate of these iconic places, really worth this (longer) moment of waiting.
There are a few important rules that a true Neapolitan pizza must follow. The thin, soft and tender pie made of water and type 00 flour should have a maximum of 4 mm and high, plump edges with black blisters. When combined with tomato sauce, mozzarella and basil, the famous Margherita is created. Sometimes the highest quality olive oil is also added to it, creating Margherita Extra. Of course, the colors of the pizza are not random — green, white and red are the colors that adorn the Italian flag.
Who is responsible for the shape of the popular Italian pizza that we still enjoy today? Raffaele Esposito, the chef of Pizzeria Brandi in Via Toledo. It was him who, in 1889, for the first time gave this delicacy to Queen Margherita, who immediately fell in love with the dish. The name Margherita comes from her name. It didn’t take long for it to be appreciated by people outside of Campania as well.
The most popular types of pizza
Nowadays, almost every Italian region offers us its own version of pizza. Still, the Neapolitan one is considered by many as the only correct and… the most delicious. There is even an Italian federation, Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana (AVPN), which watches over and certifies restaurants from all over the world. Neapolitan pizza is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Other popular pizza varieties include Roman pizza (with thicker crust than the Neapolitan one), American pizza (e.g. for slices or New Yorker, which can be folded in half) or — probably the best in the world — our mother’s pizza (usually on thick yeast dough, with lots of cheese, mushroom stuffing, onions and… whatever mom had on hand).
There is only one queen — if we were to eat only one pizza for the rest of our lives, it would be Neapolitan pizza. Which doesn’t change the fact that in Italy, almost every region has its own interpretation on pizza and they are all great. Definitely worth a look is the Roman slice pizza — quite thick, soft on the inside, crispy on the outside, with a gluten mesh on the inside — it’s one of our biggest favorites.
Unfortunately, in order to make your own pizza like the Neapolitan one traditionally made for us by pizzaioli, you need a wood-fired oven with a dome shape. It allows us to bake our favorite pie in just 90 seconds (at a temperature of about 480 degrees). The truest fans increasingly decide to put it in their garden. But if you don’t have the opportunity to use it (like most of us), we have a surprise for you. We present you with a proven recipe for good pizza. We guarantee that in this home version it will be as delicious as the Italian one.
Simple recipe for Neapolitan pizza — step by step
Below you will find a simple recipe for pizza from Naples, which you can easily prepare at home. You’ll need a cast iron skillet or pizza stone, an oven with a grill function and a few quality ingredients.
Ingredients for 1 portion of Neapolitan pizza dough:
- 250 g of type 00 or 0 flour
- 150 ml filtered or mineral water
- less than 1/4 teaspoon of dried yeast
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
Ingredients for 1 portion of Neapolitan pizza sauce:
- canned tomatoes (San Marzano or pelatti variety)
- clove of garlic
- a ball of mozzarella di bufala
- pinch of salt and sugar
- fresh basil leaves
- your favourite ingredients (anchovies or capers are especially recommended)
How to prepare Neapolitan pizza:
- Pour room temperature water into a large bowl, then pour in the dry yeast.
- Stir thoroughly (until the yeast is dissolved).
- Add half of the flour and mix the ingredients (until the dough becomes homogeneous).
- Slowly add the rest of the flour and salt to the dough.
- Knead the dough by hand (it will be quite lumpy in consistency).
- Cover the dough and let it rest for about 24 hours at room temperature.
- The next day, turn the dough out onto a floured work surface.
- Make a ball of dough and wait a while, leaving it to rise (about 5h at room temperature or another 24 hours in the fridge).
- Time for the simplest part — the sauce! If the canned tomatoes are thick, drain them from the water and then blend. Add pressed garlic, sugar and salt (you don’t have to cook it).
- Before baking (about 30 minutes) make sure your oven is at the right temperature — the higher the better (if you can, turn on the fan and grill function).
- Dust the dough ball with flour and knead the center.
- The most common mistake — don’t roll the dough, just stretch it! Pizza does not have to be perfectly round — unevenness will only add to its character.
- Let the edges of the dough remain a bit thicker.
- Spread prepared sauce on the dough.
- Tear the mozzarella into small pieces and place them unevenly on the pie.
- You can also drizzle some olive oil on the top.
- Place the pizza on a stone / cast iron pan and bake the pizza at maximum temperature (preferably 250/300 degrees) for about 4–5 minutes.
- Remove the pizza from the oven and wait a minute.
- Sprinkle the pizza with fresh basil leaves.
- Enjoy! Feel like on vacation in sunny Italy.
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