In its basic form, a pizza (alternatively pizza pie) is an oven-baked flat, usually circular bread covered with various toppings and baked. The usual toppings are cheese and a tomato-based sauce. The cheese is usually mozzarella or its commercial substitute, pizza cheese. Various other foodstuffs can be added to this design, most typically ground meats and sausages, such as salami and pepperoni, ham, bacon and also vegetables such as hot peppers and sweet bell-peppers (of the capsicum family), olives, onions, and mushrooms. The crust can be flavored with butter, garlic or sesame. Pizza can be eaten either hot (typically at dinner or lunch) or cold (typically at breakfast or on a picnic).
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Types of pizza
Authentic Napolitan pizza
According to Associazione vera pizza napoletana, genuine Napolitan pizza dough consists of flour, natural yeast or yeast of beer and water. Further the dough must be kneeded by hand or with an approved mixer. After the rising process the dough must be formed by hand without the help of a rolling pin or any other mechanical device. Baking the pizza must take place on the surface of a bell shaped, wood fired, volcanic stone oven. The oven temprature is between 400°C and 450°C and the pizza is cooked for approximately 2 minutes. When eatean the following characteristics should be present: soft, well cooked, fragrant and enclosed in a soft edge of crust.
The classic types include and their respective toppings are:
- Marinara or Napoletana: tomato, olive oil, oregano, and garlic.
- Margherita: tomato, olive oil, grated parmesan cheese, and fior-di-latte (mozzarella made from cow's milk) or mozzarella di buffalo.
- Ripieno or Calzone: ricotta cheese, fior-di-latte or mozzarella di buffalo, olive oil, and salami.
- Formaggio e Pomodoro: tomato, olive oil, and grated parmesan cheese.
Pizza has become an international food since the toppings can be extensively varied to meet local variations in taste. These pizzas consist of the same basic design, but include an exceptionally diverse choice of ingredients, such as anchovies, egg, pineapple, eggplant, lamb, couscous, chicken, fish and shellfish, meats done in ethnic styles such as Moroccan lamb and non-traditional spices such as curry and Thai sweet chili. A "white pizza" uses no tomato sauce, often substituting pesto sauce. Pizzas with "non-traditional ingredients" are known in the United States as "gourmet pizza" or California style.
Pizza may be baked with thin bread bottom (Italian style) or with thicker bread (pan pizza). A Chicago style, or deep dish pizza contains a crust which is formed up the sides of a deep dish pan and reverses the order of ingredients, using crust, cheese, filling, then sauce on top. Some versions have two layers of crust with the sauce on top.
In restaurants it can be baked in a conveyor belt oven or in the case of more expensive restaurants, a wood fired brick oven.
Although the birthplace of modern day pizza is Naples it is believed to have originated from the flat breads of ancient Persia and was introduced to present day Italy by the way of Greece.
In the 3rd century B.C., the first history of Rome, written by Marcus Porcius Cato, mentions a "flat round of dough dressed with olive oil, herbs, and honey baked on stones". Further evidence is found in 79 A.D. from the remains of Pompeii, archeologists excavated shops that closely resemble a present day pizzeria.
The tomato was first believed to be poisonous, when it came to Europe in the 16th century, but eventually the poor of the area around Napels added it as an ingredient to their yeast based flat bread and the dish gained in popularity. Pizza became a 17th century tourist attraction and visitor to Naples ventured into the poorer areas of the city to try the local speciality.
The earliest pizzeria opened in 1830 at Via Port'Alba 18 in Naples and is still in business today. Pizza was still considered "poor man's food" in 1889 when Rafaele Esposito, the most famous pizzaiolo of Naples, was summoned before King Umberto I and Queen Margherita to prepare the local speciality. It is said that he made two traditional ones and additionally created one in the colors of the Italian flag with red tomato sauce, white mozzarella cheese, and green basil leaves. The Queen was delighted and "pizza Margherita" was born.
The international breakthrough came after World War II. While the American troops involved in the Italian campain took their appreciation for the dish back home, the millions of Italians called to help rebuild the damaged economy introduced their cuisine to rest of Europe.
With the rising popularity in the 1950s, especially in the US, several major corporations became chiefly engaged in the commercial production of pizza, notably Pizza Hut (owned by Yum! Brands, Inc), Domino's Pizza, Little Caesar's, Round Table Pizza and Papa John's Pizza. These pizza chains often coexist with locally owned and operated pizza chains. Because pizzas can be made quickly and are easily transported, most pizza restaurants in the United States offer call-in delivery services. The lack of such delivery services at the time in England was the focus of an extended passage in Douglas Adams's novel The long Dark Tea Time of the Soul.
In most developed countries, pizza is also found in supermarkets as a frozen food. Considerable amounts of food technology has gone into the creation of palatable frozen pizzas. The main challenges include preventing the sauce from combining with the dough, and producing a crust that can be frozen and reheated without becoming rigid.