Traditional Italian Pizza
Did Italians make pizza? Well, it may be debatable whether they created it, but it’s safe to say they perfected it. There’s no doubt that the pizza we know and love in all its cheesy, saucy goodness was mastered by Italians. Luckily, you don’t need to hop on a long-haul flight to enjoy a mouth-watering traditional Italian pizza. Instead, you can create your own from the comfort of your home. From all the ingredients required to traditional Italian pizza types, we’ll take you through everything you need to know about making a pizza that can’t be topped (pun intended).
Who invented Pizza?
Exactly who invented pizza is a slightly contentious topic, but It’s fair to say it was a collaborative effort. Pizza’s roots go way back to ancient times when people in the Middle East baked flatbread in mud ovens. On top of that, the ancient Romans and Greeks ate flatbreads topped with spices and oil, which we now call focaccia.
However, pizza as we know it is believed to have been created centuries later, in the late 18 hundreds. Legend has it that baker Raffaele Esposito made pizza for Italian King Umberto I and Queen Margherita when they visited Naples in 1889. He added mozzarella cheese, tomatoes and basil to flatbread and called it ‘Margherita Pizza’; the rest is history!
How is Pizza Made in Italy?
It’s easy to think that there’s one universal type of traditional Italian pizza. As it turns out, the way pizza is made can vary greatly between different regions of the country. So, how is pizza made in Italy? Well, a signature Roman pizza is made with more water and tougher wheat than other varieties, so it can be stretched into different shapes while retaining its chewy texture. As a result, roman pizzas usually feature a thin yet flexible crust. Another trademark of Roman pizzas is seasonal toppings of local ingredients like anchovies, squash blossoms, artichokes, mushrooms and prosciutto.
Meanwhile, Milan may be one of the world’s fashion capitals, but it’s also making a name for itself in the pizza game. The city’s staple dish is mini pizza pockets known as panzerotti, which are usually filled with tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella and basil leaves.
Of course, it would be remiss not to mention the place where traditional Italian pizza originated all those years ago, Naples. The margherita pizza remains the crown jewel of the Neapolitan pizza scene, most commonly cooked within a wood-fired oven. Other popular types of pizza in Naples include pizza marinara with an earthy, rich tomato sauce and pizza alla pescatora topped with as much local seafood as can possibly fit on the base. So renowned is Neapolitan pizza that the European Union officially recognised it as a Guaranteed Traditional Speciality back in 2009.
What Makes an Authentic Italian Pizza?
So, has this cuisine captured a pizza your heart? In that case, you can learn exactly how to make authentic Italian pizza all on your own. The base is the first and one of the most important components of an Italian pizza. These pizzas require ‘00’ flour, a particular Italian pizza flour that is the most refined variety on the market. You can find 00 flour at all good supermarkets. In addition, Italian pizza bases also require the proportion of salt and yeast to flour to be pinpoint accurate. To top it all off, it’s recommended to leave the dough to rest for at least 10 hours after rolling it out. Allotting this time will help relax the gluten and increase the dough’s elasticity, which makes it easier to shape.
Authentic Italian pizzas should always include homemade fresh tomato sauce… unless you want to disappoint nonna’s everywhere. Preparing your own tomato sauce instead of using a supermarket variety is easier than you may think. All you’ll need to do is peel tomatoes (preferably the San Marzano variety) before blanching them with extra virgin olive oil, salt and fresh basil.
The core ingredients of tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese and basil are really just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to traditional Italian pizza toppings. Given the wide variety of flavours and textures within Italian ingredients, you almost can’t go wrong with whatever toppings you choose. Some of the most popular authentic ingredients include meats like Italian sausage, salam and prosciutto and vegetables such as artichoke, olives, red capsicum, zucchini, eggplant and onion.
Yes, mozzarella is a pizza staple, but it’s not the only cheese that will give you the authentic Italian experience. Whether gorgonzola, provolone, parmesan, fior di latte or buffalo is more your jam, the quality of the cheese is more important than the type.
Types of Italian Pizza
As we covered earlier, pizza napoletana, or neopolitan pizza, originated in Naples and consists of the usual suspects of mozzarella cheese, tomatoes and fresh basil. The dough is shaped into a round, relatively thin disk that produces a fluffy crust.
One of the other types of Italian pizza is Caprese. Originating in the Island of Capri, just off the Sorrentine Peninsula, this pizza features buffalo mozzarella, cherry tomatoes, fresh basil leaves and olive oil.
Pizza Quattro Formaggi
A simple yet deliciously decadent dish, quattro formaggi is exactly what the name suggests- a pizza topped with four different types of cheese. Believed to have been created in the Lazio region of Italy, this pizza traditionally features mozzarella and three other local kinds of cheese, like parmesan, gorgonzola or fontina.
Pizza Alla Palla
Pizza alla palla (‘paddle pizza’ in Italian) originated from a desire to use leftover dough in Roman bakeries. Unlike many other varieties of pizza, this style features a dough made of about 80 percent water, which makes it denser than average. The dough is also stretched lengthwise and served on a wooden paddle.
Looking to Create Your own Italian Pizza?
After reading all about how to make your own traditional Italian pizza at home, you’d have to be a weirdough to not want to try it. Letizza Bakery makes creating restaurant-worthy authentic pizzas easier than ever before with pre-baked gourmet bases. Our top-notch range of pizza bases comes in variations of classic and wholemeal or baked with garlic or olives in the dough, ensuring there’s something for everyone.
Shop our pizza bases online or at various independent supermarkets and delis today and discover the best homemade pizza you’ve ever had!