I have never met a single person who doesn’t appreciate pizza in one way or another. This magical Italian dish is one of the most popular and widely available “fast foods” in the world, and with good reason as it is so damn delicious. While I never turn down a slice, there are some that are far superior to others and for the past few years I have played around with different recipes and techniques to re-create restaurant quality, Neapolitan-style, thin crust pizza at home.
Let’s dig in to the history of this perfect food first so that you have some more appreciation for the humble slice. Pizza is from Italy, duh, but did you know that pizza was first heard of in the 10th century? The term pizza was found in an old manuscript, 997 AD, from the town of Gaeta in Lazio, Southern Italy very close to Campania. The word pizza is a derivative of the Ancient Greek word…wait for it… pitta! Makes sense, don’t it.
Eating flatbreads, like pita bread topped with various things, like vegetables and cheese goes way way back, to the Neolithic age to be exact. This evolved, as most things do and as early as the 6th century BC, Persian soldiers would bake flatbreads topped with cheese and dried fruits on their metal shields. While no one really knows when tomatoes were added, what we think of as pizza was only created in the late 18th century, where it was typically sold from street carts and pizza bakeries, what we now call pizzerias.
Pizza-type dishes can be found all over the world, and I urge you to go out and try them all. From the Alsatian Flammekueche, Levantine Manakish, Armenian Lahmajoun to Japanese Okonomiyaki are all great examples of fabulous pizza-style dishes that make my mouth water just thinking of them.
If there is one thing for sure, it is that I am always craving a perfect slice of pizza. What makes a perfect slice for me is a Neapolitan-style, thin, crisp, flavourful crust that has a good chew to it, the deep red tomato sauce that must have a bright flavour, with a balance of sweet, salty and acidic, and the cheese, a very good quality cheese like a creamy Fior di Latte or the irresistible mozzarella di bufala. While these cheeses are a little pricey, if you are a pizza aficionado, then you will surely think it a wise investment.
There are many different types of pizza out there and each one represents a different region in Italy, different preferences or cooking styles. I grew up with my Nonna’s pizza, Sicilian style, a puffy crust, heavy with olive oil and topped generously with a thick sauce made with the incredible tomatoes from the garden that tasted like the best summer day. This style will always remain one of my favourites and I still make this for large groups of people to serve at buffets or picnics, but my all-time favourite slice must be the Neapolitan-Style. This is my recipe for my favourite at-home slice.