Italian pizza: origins, customs and recipes

What does Italian pizza represent for Italians 

Dear Insideaters, we don’t think you would find it hard to believe if we told you that almost 90% of Italians eat pizza at least once a week. But do you know that as much as 40% eat it twice a week and 16% even three times a week? These numbers come as no surprise. We are talking about one of the favorite foods in Italy, comfort food par excellence, the symbol of evenings with friends and family.

Anyone, having to organize a light and carefree evening, immediately thinks about the pizzeria to choose, based on the type of pizza they prefer, because in Italy there are many types.

But it doesn’t stop here, because pizza is also one of the most frequently prepared foods at home. In recent years, this habit has exploded. Many Italians have decided to follow online video recipes to learn how to make pizza well at home.

We can say that pizza is part of our culture and it will hardly be otherwise in the future. Of course, the ways of making pizza will change, indeed they are already changing for the better, because the study of raw materials is teaching us to prepare better, more digestible and tasty doughs.

The origins of Italian pizza 

But we must always remember the origins; Italian pizza is a dish born from the union of 4 simple ingredients for the dough (flour, water, salt and yeast) and enriched with equally simple toppings. Suffice it to say that the most famous of Italian pizzas, pizza Margherita, includes only tomato, mozzarella and fresh basil, but there are classic pizzas that are still chosen today for their simplicity: the Marinara pizza (tomato, garlic and origan); the Napoli pizza (tomato, capers and anchovies); Cosacca (Cossack) pizza (tomato, grated pecorino or parmesan, and basil). Simpler than these there is only the white pizza, the symbol of pizza in Rome.

It seems that the origins of Italian pizza are very ancient and come from the Middle East and the Mediterranean Sea basin, so much so that the name is extremely similar to that of Pita or Pitta, the thin dough used in the Balkans and in the eastern Mediterranean countries. The first use of the word “pizza” dates back to more than 1000 years ago!

Obviously it wasn’t the pizza as we know it today. The ancient doughs were much coarser, the shape was that of a hand-crushed loaf of reduced diameter. The dimensions could also vary according to the type of cooking, since in some areas it was cooked on the bottom of the ovens, in others on the walls of the ovens (obliquely), in other parts even on metal plates or on the war shields themselves.

The condiments were much simpler and poorer: melted cheeses, black pepper, herbs, garlic, onion, and lard and olive oil were used as fats, where available. Furthermore, since it was prepared in areas close to the sea, there was no lack of fish-based condiments.

It was necessary to wait more than 200 years, after the discovery of America, for pizza to be topped with tomato, which until then had not yet fully entered the Mediterranean diet. It seems that the Marinara pizza was invented only in the first half of the eighteenth century; while it was necessary to wait until 1889 for the classic Italian pizza topped with mozzarella, tomato and basil, that is when the Neapolitan pizza chef Raffaele Esposito had the intuition to give it the name of Margherita in honor of the Queen of Italy and the colors of the flag: white, red and green.

Italian pizza: many variations and many ingredients, but the real Neapolitan is only one! 

If someone decided one day to create a complete list of all the toppings for Italian pizza, they would risk going crazy. Every pizza maker has fun inventing new combinations and new names for pizzas. Some survive just the time of a season, others particularly successful, perhaps even become the symbolic pizza of a Pizzeria, the one for which people line up every evening or book even days and weeks in advance.

If, on the other hand, we wanted to classify pizzas and focaccias based on the ingredients of the dough and the cooking methods, the list would exceed 30 items. Each Italian region and each city have its own symbolic pizza. Certainly the 4 main ingredients (flour, water, salt and yeast) are almost always present, but the proportions can change, for example the amount of water used can vary according to local tastes, cooking temperatures and cooking method (electric oven, wood-fired oven, frying).

We at Insideat love pizza, so much so that we have built a food experience around it, 1 hour pizza cooking class in which our guests can make a real Neapolitan dough by hand and then season and cook their own pizza in the wood oven, assisted by our pizza chefs. As soon as it is ready, the pizza can be enjoyed hot, strictly with your hands!

But we also have a weakness for fried pizza (montanara) that we let those who participate in our experience Pizza class & wine tasting in Rome taste paired with sparkling wine.

Dear Insideaters, pizza is joy, conviviality, culture and taste. If you want to live an immersive experience in Rome, preparing with us the real Neapolitan pizza cooked in a wood-fired oven you can join our cooking class 1 hour pizza class in Rome, at this link.

If, on the other hand, you want to taste more types of pizza, including the montanara, you can participate in our experience Pizza class & wine tasting in Rome.

Those who cannot participate in our experiences can find on our YouTube channel the recipe and the whole procedure for preparing different types of pizza, including the procedure for cooking pizza in combined pan + grill mode, for a pizza similar to the Neapolitan one.

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