Italy has many delicious, special and traditional dishes, but perhaps no other food can sum up the very essence of Italian cuisine better than Pizza Napoletana (Neapolitan pizza). History, simplicity, and fresh, high-quality ingredients – all come together to create what many consider the perfect and most authentic type of pizza.
According to the rules proposed by the Associazione Vera Pizza Napoletana, the genuine Neapolitan pizza dough consists of wheat flour (type 0 or 00, or a mixture of both), natural Neapolitan yeast or brewer’s yeast, salt and water. For proper results, strong flour with high protein content (as used for bread-making rather than cakes) must be used. The dough must be kneaded by hand or with a low-speed mixer. After the rising process, the dough must be formed by hand without the help of a rolling pin or other machine, and may be no more than 3 millimeters (0.12 in) thick. The pizza must be baked for 60–90 seconds in a 485 °C (905 °F) stone oven with an oak-wood fire. When cooked, it should be soft, elastic, tender and fragrant.
Invented in Naples somewhere between the 18th and 19th centuries, Neapolitan pizza is basically a flatbread topped with tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, and extra virgin olive oil. In reality, making a true Pizza Napoletana is an art and requires much more than just 3 or 4 simple ingredients.
The tomatoes must be grown in the volcanic soil of San Marzano sul Sarno, a small town near Naples, while the dough must be made with specific ingredients, formed by hand, and crowned only with D.O.C. Mozzarella di Bufala Campana. Furthermore, this type of pizza must be baked in a wood-fired oven that uses two types of wood at 900 degrees for 60-90 seconds. Nope, that’s not something you can order at 4 am at your door, during a Netflix session.
There are three official versions of Pizza Napoletana, but Margherita is the most famous. The legend says that this classic dish in the colors of the Italian flag was created by Neapolitan pizzamaker Raffaele Esposito in 1889, when Margherita of Savoy (Queen consort of the Kingdom of Italy) visited the city.
Various kinds of Pizza Napoletana
There are different variants, but the original one is called Pizza Margherita, and it follows the essential rules for the ingredients, tomato, sliced mozzarella, basil and extra virgin olive oil, sometimes with a sprinkle of Parmesan Cheese on top. Other variants are: pizza marinara, which is made with tomato, garlic, oregano and extra virgin olive oil and pizza Margherita DOP made with tomato, buffalo mozzarella from Campania, basil and extra virgin olive oil. The pizza napoletana is a Traditional Speciality Guaranteed (TSG) product in Europe. The TSG certification attests that a particular food product objectively possesses specific characteristics which differentiate it from all others in its category, and that its raw materials, composition or method of production have been consistent for a minimum of 30 years.
Nowadays, Neapolitan pizza is protected by the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana and is reason enough to visit Italy’s third largest city.