Region: Italy, Campania-Naples
Category: Pizza and Focaccia
Difficulty: Medium Difficulty
The birth of the modern pizza has its roots in prehistoric times, when dough was thrown on top of hot rocks and cooked. It's hard to say who invented pizza because it's hard to agree on a definition. If cooked flat bread is a pizza then it's history is prehistoric. If pizza must be cooked in an oven then its history may start in ancient Mesopotamia. If a pizza must have toppings then its history may go back to the Arabs of pre-Islamic times. If pizza must have tomatoes then it was invented in the nineteenth century in Naples.
Over time ancient flat breads developed into the Roman placenta , a kind of cake or focaccia that was sold by the pistores clibanari (bread brokers) of the markets. Today, in Naples, the city that nearly everyone agrees is the home of the modern pizza, pizza is sold by pizzaiuoli or pizzaioli , pizza makers. This kind of flatbread, focaccia, or pizza was always food of the poor. Once the tomato arrived from America, a modern pizza could develop. The old pizza aglio e olio , with garlic and olive, could now become the pizza alla marinara , with tomatoes, garlic, oregano, and olive oil, as well as the famous pizza Margherita , made for the first time, so they say, in 1889 for Queen Margherita, the wife of Alfonso of Aragon, by a Neapolitan pizza-maker, with tomatoes, mozzarella, olive oil, and basil. But this story is in dispute, as there was a second Margherita, Queen Margherita, wife of Italian king Umberto I, who, others maintain, went to the Capodimonte palace in Naples for this pizza. The greatest pizza-maker at the time in Naples was Don Raffaele Esposito, owner of the celebrated Pietro il Pizzaiuolo. This pizza, although it will necessarily fall short, aspires to the pizza Margherita verace col sapore della tradizone (the true pizza Margherita with the flavor of tradition) as it is prepared at Da Ciro Trianon at via Pietro Colletta, 42-44-46 in Naples.
Yield: Makes two 16-inch pizzas, each yielding 16 slices
Preparation Time: 3 hours in all
1. Prepare the pizza dough. Divide the dough into two balls and let rise as instructed.
2. Preheat the oven to 555 degrees F with a large baking stone and let it stay at that temperature for 30 minutes.
3. Roll or stretch the dough out until 16 inches in diameter using either a rolling pin on a lightly floured work surface or by rotating the pizza while it's draped over your fist until about 1/3 inch thick. Place each crust on a 16-inch solid pizza pan or the baking stone sprinkled with cornmeal to prevent sticking or use a 16-inch perforated pizza pan, making sure the border of the dough is a little high than the center. Make indentations all over the pizza with your fingertips and grease the top, including the borders, with olive oil. Sprinkle the Parmesan evenly over the two pizzas, leaving a 1-inch border all around, then evenly distribute the tomatoes and mozzarella. Lay the basil leaves over the top and oil the top again. Season with salt and pepper.
4. Bake until the borders are charred in places and the top is dappled brown in certain places on the cheese, 8 to 9 minutes. Remove from the oven, let cool a minute or two, cut each pizza into 16 slices with a wheeled pizza pie cutter, and serve.