On September 5, we were celebrating the National Pizza Day. As you might already know, our way of celebrating often involves cook-offs and experiments in the kitchen.
If you’ve been following our blog, you must have noticed that pizza dough has already been on the repertoire. Back then, we tested different types of flours and prepared thick & thin crusts. After a few fiery arguments about which type of pizza dough is the best – the Chicago deep dish or the typical Neapolitan variety, and whether it should be left plain or complemented with herbs (some of us insisted on stuffing the crust with cheese!) – the only conclusion reached was that tastes should not be discussed.
DISCOVER GREAT RECIPES, TIPS & IDEAS!
This time, we decided to experiment with alternative pizza toppings and different cooking methods. However, as we are suckers for research and history, before presenting our findings in the form of amazing pizza recipes, we are taking you on a tour through Pizza World.
What is pizza?
Of course, you know what pizza is. It’s…well, pizza. Here is a much smarter description of everyone’s favorite Italian invention: Pizza is a yeasted flatbread usually topped with cheese & tomato sauce. Sometimes various meats, veggies, and condiments are added as toppings and then the pizza is baked in the oven.
Where did the name come from?
The word ‘pizza’ dates from a Latin manuscript originating from the 10th century Central Italy. It probably originated from the Greek word ‘pitta’ which referred to a round oven-baked flatbread eaten plain or with toppings.
Who invented pizza?
We all know it was invented in Italy but can we trace the very city that gave us this fantastic food? Ready for a quick time travel?
– Believe it or not, the earliest forms of pizza date from the Neolithic age, when people added various ingredients to breads;
– In ancient Greece, bread was often complemented with olive oil, cheese, and herbs;
– In Persia, 6th century BC, soldiers ate flatbreads topped with cheese and dates;
– Early pizza is also mentioned in the ancient Roman poem “Aeneid” as a round pita bread topped with veggies.
Pizza as we know it today comes from the Italian city of Naples. It is believed that the earliest form of modern pizza was invented in the 18th century. The toppings back then included hops, garlic, cheese, lard, salt, and basil. As you might have noticed, tomatoes were nowhere to be found! They were first introduced in pizza Margherita in the late 19th century. The legend has it that this pizza was invented in honor of Queen Margherita and was made with the intention to include the colors of the Italian flag: tomato (red), mozzarella cheese (white) and basil (green).
Pizza quickly became popular in its homeland but mostly among the poor. Upon his visit to Naples, Alexandre Dumas, the author of “The Three Musketeers”, noted that the poor ate only watermelon in summer and pizza in winter.
Many street stands and pizza bakeries soon popped up throughout the country. Fast forward three centuries later, pizza has conquered the whole world and in 2009 it was proclaimed a Traditional Specialty Guaranteed dish.
Pizza in the USA
Quick history of pizza in the States:
- Pizza was brought to the States by Italian immigrants in the 19th century. At first, it was only eaten by Italian working class immigrants.
- The first pizza restaurant was actually a grocery store that included pizza in its repertoire. It started off in 1905, in NYC.
- After NYC, Boston, New Haven, and Trenton started selling pizzas, at first as whole pies and since the 1930’s as separate slices.
- The first records of the famous Chicago-style deep dish pizzas date from 1943.
- Soon, popular pizza chains like Pizza Hut, Domino’s Pizza, and Papa John’s opened, followed by take-and-bake pizzerias which assembled the pizza in the store and then sell it to customers to bake at home. Some take-and-bakes sold fresh pizza dough along with the basic ingredients and sauces, to complete at home before baking.
- In fact, it was the Domino’s Pizza that introduced the famous “30 minutes or less” guarantee in the 1990’s. Their competitors, Pizza Hut, went a step forward by delivering the first pizza to the International Space Station in 2001!
- It didn’t take long for pizzas to enter the supermarkets & grocery stores in chilled and frozen versions. However, the first frozen pizza, which was introduced in the 1960’s tasted like cardboard until Rose Totino improved its taste. The most popular frozen variety is the frozen pizza with a self-rising crust and topped with raw ingredients.
Today, pizza is one of the most consumed foods in the States. According to statistics, 40% of the Americans eat pizza at least once a week. That means that 350 slices of pizza are devoured each second!
The Secrets to a Perfect Pizza
If you’ve read our article on pizza dough, you must have discovered a ton of secrets to making it perfect. Well, here is another one – dough-spinning. Spinning the pizza dough is not simple at all. In fact, there is a professional competition in acrobatic dough-spinning held every year at the World Pizza Championships. But there’s more to it than just showing off. Spinning makes the pizza dough spread evenly, retain moisture, and form a uniform crust.
Pizza newbies often end up with a gooey layer between the topping and the crust. This results from undercooked pizza dough, a dough that doesn’t contain enough yeast, or from the use of cold toppings. So, bear these three factors in mind next time you decide to make homemade pizza.
Have you ever wondered why restaurant pizzas taste so good? It’s because they’re baked in stone-brick or electric deck ovens. Fancier venues use coal or wood ovens for an even greater taste! Luckily, the brick oven effect can be closely reproduced at home by baking in a regular oven or, even better, on a pizza stone.
Pizzas can be grilled as well. Grilled pizzas are made of round and thin yeasted dough and then cooked directly over the grill fire. The dough is turned over once the bottom is brown, at which point the toppings are added on the baked side. The toppings are usually sliced very thin in order to ensure complete baking. Alternatively, larger slices and chunks can be cooked before adding them to the dough.
All You Ever Wanted to Know About Pizza Toppings
Cheese has been part of pizza since forever. Which type you use is entirely up to you. However, if you ask the scientists, they’ll say “Go for mozzarella”. After studying various types of cheeses and their cooking properties, food experts determined that mozzarella is the best choice for pizza. There are four different kinds of mozzarella used for pizza: fior di latte (made from cow’s milk), mozzarella di bufala (made from the milk of water buffalo), burrata (a fresh Italian cheese with creamy filling), and the type most commonly used in USA pizza restaurants, pizza cheese (whole-milk or part-skim mozzarella)
When choosing the best cheese for your pizza, bear in mind that it should have the following properties: melting, browning, stretchiness, as well as good amount of moisture and fat. Besides mozzarella, you can also opt for pecorino romano, provolone, and ricotta.
Classic Pizza Toppings
If you want to replicate the authentic Neapolitan pizza, opt for tomatoes and mozzarella di bufala. Other authentic Italian pizzas are:
– Pizza Alla Marinara, topped with marinara sauce;
– Pizza Pugliese, topped with mozzarella, tomato, and onions;
– Pizza Capricciosa, topped with mozzarella, mushrooms, ham, tomatoes, and artichokes;
– Sicilian pizza, also known as sfincione, a thick-crust pizza topped with tomato sauce and other ingredients.
In time, Italian pizzas have evolved and resulted in similar products like
- calzone (half-moon-shaped pizza dough folded around a filling);
- stroboli (tube-shaped dough rolled around a filling); or
- panzerotti (similar to calzone but fried).
In the US, common toppings for pizza include ground beef, pepperoni, chicken, ham, bacon, sausage, mushrooms, garlic, onions, and pineapple. However, the toppings vary depending on the region or city. Hence, today we can choose from Chicago, California, New Haven, Greek, New York, and Detroit varieties which can be deep-dish, pockets, stuffed, rolled, turnovers, rolled, or even sold as pizza-on-a-stick!
When it comes to toppings, Americans seem quite boring compared to other countries. Almost 40% opt for a plain cheese pizza, followed by other standard ingredients. Here are the top then topping choices in the US:
- extra cheese
- black olives
- green peppers
Pizza Toppings Around the World
The rest of the world is a different story. The fact that pizza can be topped with almost anything without spoiling its taste, allows regional ingredients and local foods to blend and create unique flavors. Here is some inspiration for when you decide to break the routine and venture into the unknown.
– Australia: bacon, ham, and egg; also pineapple, shrimp, and BBQ;
– Brazil: green peas, corn, raisins, boiled eggs, and hearts of palm;
– China: mini-hot dogs;
– Costa Rica: shrimp and coconut;
– France: bacon, onion, and fresh cream ;
– Germany: canned tuna;
– Greece: feta cheese, olives, oregano, onion, tomato, green pepper, and pepperoni;
– India: tikka chicken (marinated in spicy sauce), minced mutton, pickled ginger, paneer cheese, and tofu;
– Japan: Squid, eel, and teriyaki chicken with a sauce made of mayo, bacon, and potatoes;
– Netherlands: lamb, as well as the so-called ‘Double Dutch” – double meat, double onion, and double cheese;
– Pakistan: tikka chicken, achari chicken, and curry;
– Portugal, local garlic sausage or chorizo;
– Russia: a combination of several types of sea fish with onions called ‘mocaba’;
– Sweden: chicken, peanut, curry powder, but also fruits like pineapple and banana.
Our Roundup of Best Homemade Pizza Recipes
Chop the vegetables into small pieces and cook until crispy-tender. If you’re using broccoli, pre-cook the florets in water for about 3 minutes, then drain, and place on the dough.
Standard toppings like ham and bell pepper get a tropical twist with the use of pineapple. The best thing about this recipe is that if you have any leftover pineapple, you can save it for desserts or smoothies!
This is a standard homemade pizza with a twist! The crust is stuffed with Parmesan cheese and a rich topping which consists of sausage, mushrooms, bell peppers, and mozzarella cheese. We love this recipe because it is perfect for busy moms. In addition, this pizza allows you to include any leftover veggies like carrots and zucchini for extra nutrition!
Don’t let the name fool you; this is not one of those yucky healthy pizzas. The potatoes are seasoned with rosemary and smothered in melted mozzarella cheese. For an even creamier experience, use leftover mashed potatoes to spread over the pizza dough. Top with green onions, Cheddar cheese, and cooked bacon. Bake in a 450°F oven for about 15-20 minutes.
DISCOVER GREAT RECIPES, TIPS & IDEAS!
Beans, peppers, cilantro, and spicy seasoning create a chicken fajita pizza that will make everyone happy! To make the spicy seasoning and have it ready to use, combine a tablespoon chili powder, ½ teaspoon garlic powder, 1½ teaspoons ground cumin, ½ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes, and ½ teaspoon granulated sugar. Mix all the ingredients in a small bowl, then transfer to a small jar. Seal tightly to store.
Well, the National Pizza Month, October, is just around the corned but I think we’re well prepared!
May it be happy and delicious!