History of Pizza
Although many cultures were known to have toppings on what would be seen as flatbreads nowadays in ancient Egypt, Rome, and Greece, but the pizza as we know it was created in Naples, Italy.
Naples was originally founded as a Greek settlement so you can see there may have been some influence from the Grecians. At the time it was notorious for its population of poverty line worker who did most of their living outdoors or in extremely small homes. For this reason, the Neapolitans needed cheap food that could be made and eaten quickly. Flatbread with toppings sold by street vendors filled this brief. At the time Many Italian journalists called the eating habit ‘disgusting’, little did they know how popular the pizza would become.
Following Italy unifying with Naples, King Umberto I and Queen Margherita paid a visit. The duo had become tired of the cuisines experienced on their travels and asked for something different to which the people of Naples designed a pizza with soft cheese, tomatoes and basil. This would then go on to be known as the Margherita pizza. It’s thought that the royal approval was the start of an Italy-wide craze for pizza that would eventually bleed into other European and American cultures in the 1940s.
How to make your own pizza
- For the base
- 300g strong bread flour
- 1 tsp instant yeast (from a sachet or a tub)
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
For the tomato sauce
- 100ml passata
- handful fresh basil or 1 tsp dried
- 1 garlic clove, crushed
For the topping
- 125g ball mozzarella, sliced
- handful grated or shaved parmesan (or vegetarian alternative)
- handful of cherry tomatoes, halved
- To finish
- handful of basil leaves (optional)
- To make the base, put the flour into a large bowl, stir in the yeast and salt. Make a well, pour in 200ml warm water and the olive oil and bring together with a wooden spoon until you have a soft, wet dough. Turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 5 mins or until smooth. Cover with a tea towel and set aside. You can leave the dough to rise if you like, but it’s not essential for a thin crust.
- To make the sauce, mix the passata, basil and garlic together, then season. Leave to stand at room temperature while you shape the base.
- Roll out the dough. If you’ve let the dough rise, quickly knead it, then split into two balls. On a floured surface, roll out the dough into large rounds, about 25cm across, using a rolling pin. The dough needs to be very thin as it will rise in the oven. Lift the rounds onto two floured baking sheets.
- Heat the oven to 240C/220C fan. Put another baking sheet or an upturned baking tray in the oven on the top shelf. Smooth sauce over bases with the back of a spoon. Scatter with cheese and tomatoes, drizzle with olive oil and season. Put one pizza, still on its baking sheet, on top of the preheated sheet or tray. Bake for 8-10 mins until crisp. Serve with a little more olive oil, and basil leaves if using. Repeat step for remaining pizza.