The History of Pizzas

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pizzaIn Naples one summer, around the late 1800's, Queen Margherita of Savoy was residing with her family in Capodimonte Park. She had heard a lot about pizza and decided to try it for herself. The local pizza maker was summoned and he served her a pizza with a newly invented topping. From then on, the tomato pulp, Mozzarella cheese and fresh basil pizza has been known as Pizza Margherita.

Until this time, pizza had been sold in the streets to people at breakfast, lunch and dinner. It was cut from a large tray that had been cooked in the baker's oven and had a simple topping made of mushrooms and anchovies.

As pizza became more popular, stalls were set up where the dough was shaped as customers ordered. Various toppings were invented including tomato, which had arrived from the New World. This soon developed into the opening of the Pizzeria, an open air place for folk to congregate, eat, drink and discuss. This has gradually become the pizza parlour we have today - which enjoys constant popularity - although the flavour of a pizza made, baked and eaten in the open air is unbeatable.

The dough base of the pizza has been baked in other countries of the Mediterranean for just as long. The French have their own Pissaladiere recipe; for the Middle Eastern countries it's pitta bread and Spain uses the dough as a pastry for spicy savoury fillings. Even as far as China the same dough is steamed and served as individual stuffed snacks.

Although enjoying steady and constant popularity, it seems the pizza is now becoming a sophisticated, fashionable food with exotic toppings or turned into unusual shapes, large and small, with exciting fillings. Who knows what will happen to the pizza in years to come!

Ingredients

The traditional pizzas of Italy rely on the wonderful Mediterranean ingredients that are so plentiful - sun-ripened tomatoes, thick olive oil, fresh herbs and cheese are the most well-known, but all sorts of other ingredients can be used as well. There may be some ingredients that you are not familiar with.

Olive oil. Indispensable for making a genuine Italian pizza with the authentic flavour.

Olives. Both green and black are used. Olive pulp is made from crushed black olives and is obtainable in jars from Italian food shops and delicatessens.

Capers. These buds from a flowering plant have a delicious, though distinct flavour, so should be used with care.

Oregano (wild marjoram) is used on many pizzas. Use fresh wherever possible.

Thyme can be used fresh or dried.

Parsley, both flat and curly is used. The small render sprigs should be chosen and don't consider using the dried type for pizzas, the flavour is not nearly as good.

Basil is quite the best smelling of all the Italian herbs. Use the fresh type whenever possible.

Sweet marjoram is added to pizzas after they are cooked.

Sage should only be used fresh.

Mint should only be used fresh.

Black peppercorns should be used freshly ground as the aroma disappears very quickly, from the ready-ground type.

Nutmeg should be used freshly ground, to obtain the best flavour.

Chillies may be used in fresh form, or use whole dried or crushed type. Remember that chillies vary considerably in size and heat factor, so start with a small amount and gradually increase it.

Dried tomatoes in oil are a wonderful way to preserve tiny tomatoes. These have an unusual, distinct flavour and are available from Italian food shops and delicatessens.

Cheese. Mozzarella, Parmesan, Pecorino, Gorgonzola and Ricotta cheese are all used in traditional pizzas. (Parmesan and Pecorino are at their nicest when freshly grated from a solid piece.)

Equipment

Flat pizza tin. Metal is essential to conduct the heat and ensure that the base of the pizza is crisp.

Baking sheet. Can be used as an alternative to the flat pizza tin, however, a rim should be formed at the edge of the dough to keep the filling in place.

Rectangular tin or Swiss roll tin. For making the traditional Roman pizza or any that you wish to serve cut in squares.

Deep pan pizza tin. For the thick dough variety of pizza. A sandwich tin or pie tin may be used instead.

Pizza cutter. Makes the job of cutting a pizza far easier than using a knife.

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