“When the moon hits your eye like a great pizza pie that’s amore,” so go the words of the ballad. The love affair continues as this pie is here to stay.
Pizza has become one of the leading fast foods across the globe, in fact in North America alone pizza represents over US$11-billion-a-year industry. Although some may believe that pizza originated in North America, invented by immigrants to please the American palate, not so.
The first pizzeria, Port’Alba, originated in the Italian city of Naples around the year 1830, then it was said that lava rock from the nearby Mount Vesuvius was used to line the wood-fired oven of this pizzeria. However, some historical documents tell of Romans enjoying rounds of seasoned oven-baked bread long before Port’Alba opened. By the year 1000, picea, a disk of dough generously dusted with herbs and spices, was common in Naples.
Pizza started out as a snack for Italian women who needed to satisfy hunger pangs while waiting for their breads to bake in their town’s communal ovens. Then, the women would break off pieces of bread dough, flatten it out, sprinkle it with whatever seasonings they may have on hand and quickly bake it.
Obviously these pizzas were enjoyed without the ubiquitous tomato sauce. However, later on came the introduction of tomatoes to Italy and of tomato sauce giving pizza its familiar red and green colour, (the green coming from the addition of fresh basil leaves). It was not until a pizza was created for Queen Margherita, around the year 1889, that the familiar mozzarella cheese was added in order to create a pie for her with the traditional colours of the Italian flag, red, green and white.
Today there are many varieties of pizza reflecting many different ethnic colours and tastes, Mexican, Chinese, Thai, southwestern, Californian, Caribbean, you name it they’ve created it, the taste is yours to savour or not to.
The essence of a delicious and mouth-watering pizza comes first from its crust and second from the toppings. Always start with a home-made dough and keep your pizza toppings to a minimum of about 3 to 5 per pizza. Include a meat or vegetable, with a fresh herb and cheese to balance the flavours.
Remember to add flavour and variety to your pizza you can use different types of flour in your dough, like cornmeal, or whole-wheat flours. Coat your dough with a layer of sauce or olive oil before topping, and don’t forget to leave about one inch of margin around the edges of your pizza; bake your pizza at the highest level of heat your oven can take!
You can create either a thick crust pizza or a thin crust pizza, this you can achieve by baking your pizza in a pan with high sides to achieve the former or stretching your dough to a lesser thickness and baking it on a flat sheet like a cookie sheet to achieve the latter.
With all this in mind making the perfect pizza hinges on your creativity and assembling the highest quality and freshest ingredients to top your pizza with and create the most mouth-watering pie.
Basic toppings for your pizza include, cheese, olives, sweet peppers, garlic, onions, pineapple, tomatoes, fresh basil, olive oil, mushrooms, meat or chicken, or shrimp.
Basic pizza dough
Makes one large 18-inch pizza or 2 small 9-inch pizzas.
1 tsp active dried yeast
2½ to 3 cups flour
1 cup warm water
2 tbs olive oil
1 tsp salt
In small bowl combine water with sugar, sprinkle yeast and leave for about 15 minutes until frothy.
Combine 2 cups flour with yeast, salt and olive oil mix until smooth.
Add more flour if needed to make smooth dough.
Cover and let rest until doubled in bulk.
After the first rising the dough is now ready to be used for pizza.
Preheat oven to 400F.
With a rolling pin or using your hands stretch or gently roll the dough into the thickness and size you prefer.
Add a coating of tomato sauce and top the pizza with your chosen toppings.
Sprinkle with grated cheese and bake in heated oven for 10 to 15 minutes.
Basic tomato sauce
1 28-oz can tomatoes, crushed with juice
1 tsp minced garlic
1 onion finely chopped
2 tbs olive oil
1 tsp dried Italian spices (oregano, or basil)
salt and freshly-ground black pepper to taste
½ tsp sugar
In a saucepan, heat olive oil and add garlic and onion.
Sauté until fragrant, add tomatoes, salt black pepper and sugar.
Add spices, cover and simmer for about 30 minutes until sauce is thick and flavourful.