- I. Introduction to Neapolitan Pizza
- II. The History and Origins of Neapolitan Pizza
- III. The Essential Ingredients for Neapolitan Pizza
- IV. The Traditional Neapolitan Pizza Dough
- V. The Art of Hand Stretching the Pizza Dough
- VI. The Importance of Using San Marzano Tomatoes
- VII. The Perfect Mozzarella Cheese for Neapolitan Pizza
I. Introduction to Neapolitan Pizza
Neapolitan pizza, also known as pizza Napoletana, is a traditional Italian dish that originated in Naples. It is renowned for its thin and soft crust, which is slightly chewy on the inside and crispy on the outside. Neapolitan pizza has gained popularity worldwide due to its authentic flavors and traditional cooking methods.
The history of Neapolitan pizza dates back to the late 18th century when it was first created in Naples by pizzaiolos (pizza makers). These skilled artisans developed a unique recipe using simple ingredients such as San Marzano tomatoes, fresh mozzarella cheese, basil leaves, olive oil, and high-quality flour.
1. The Art of Making Dough
The foundation of any great Neapolitan pizza lies in its dough. Authentic Neapolitan dough is made with type 00 flour, water, sea salt, and yeast. The dough undergoes a slow fermentation process for at least 24 hours to develop its distinct flavor profile and airy texture.
2. Traditional Toppings
Neapolitan pizzas are known for their minimalistic toppings that showcase the quality of each ingredient used. The classic Margherita pizza consists of San Marzano tomatoes (preferably crushed), fresh mozzarella cheese made from buffalo milk or cow’s milk, basil leaves or torn pieces for added freshness.
3. Wood-Fired Oven Cooking
The true essence of Neapolitan pizza lies in its cooking method – wood-fired ovens reaching temperatures as high as 900°F (480°C). This intense heat creates an ideal environment for achieving the signature charred spots on the crust while ensuring quick cooking times between 60-90 seconds.
4. Protected by the AVPN
Neapolitan pizza holds a special status and is protected by the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana (AVPN), an organization that ensures adherence to strict guidelines for producing authentic Neapolitan pizza. These guidelines cover everything from ingredient selection and preparation to cooking techniques.
II. The History and Origins of Neapolitan Pizza
Neapolitan pizza, a beloved culinary delight enjoyed by people all over the world, has a rich history and fascinating origins. It is believed to have originated in Naples, Italy, during the 18th century. The story goes that it was created as a simple and affordable meal for the working class in Naples.
The Birth of Neapolitan Pizza
During this time, pizza was not the elaborate dish we know today but rather a humble combination of basic ingredients: dough made from wheat flour, water, salt, and yeast topped with tomatoes and cheese. The simplicity of these ingredients allowed for quick preparation and cooking in traditional wood-fired ovens.
The process of making Neapolitan pizza is deeply rooted in tradition. It requires skillful hands to stretch the dough into its characteristic thin crust while maintaining its softness and elasticity. The toppings are carefully chosen to enhance the flavors without overpowering them.
A Symbol of Italian Identity
Over time, Neapolitan pizza gained popularity beyond Naples’ borders as travelers discovered its delectable taste. Its fame spread throughout Italy before reaching international shores. Today, it is recognized as one of Italy’s most iconic dishes.
In fact, Neapolitan pizza holds such cultural significance that it has been granted UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage status. This designation recognizes its importance not only as a delicious food but also as an integral part of Italian identity and heritage.
In recent years, various adaptations of Neapolitan pizza have emerged worldwide due to its global popularity. These adaptations often include unique toppings inspired by local cuisine or regional preferences while still adhering to the fundamental principles established in Naples centuries ago.
The Neapolitan Pizza Association (AVPN)
To preserve the authenticity and quality of Neapolitan pizza, the Neapolitan Pizza Association (Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana or AVPN) was founded in 1984. This organization sets specific guidelines for pizzerias to follow in order to be certified as serving authentic Neapolitan pizza.
These guidelines dictate everything from the ingredients used and their proportions to the cooking method and temperature. By adhering to these strict standards, pizzerias ensure that customers experience the true essence of this iconic dish.
A Global Favorite
Today, Neapolitan pizza continues to captivate taste buds around the world. Its simple yet harmonious combination of flavors has made it a favorite among pizza enthusiasts everywhere. Whether enjoyed in Naples or savored thousands of miles away, each bite tells a story of tradition, passion, and culinary excellence.
III. The Essential Ingredients for Neapolitan Pizza
Neapolitan pizza is known for its simplicity and exceptional taste. To achieve the authentic flavor and texture, certain essential ingredients are required. Here are the key components that make Neapolitan pizza so unique:
1. Tipo 00 Flour
The foundation of any great Neapolitan pizza lies in its dough, which is made using Tipo 00 flour. This finely ground Italian flour has a low protein content and high gluten strength, resulting in a light and chewy crust.
2. San Marzano Tomatoes
No other tomato can compare to the flavorful San Marzano tomatoes grown in the volcanic soil of Mount Vesuvius region in Italy. These tomatoes are rich in taste, low in acidity, and have fewer seeds, making them ideal for creating a well-balanced sauce.
3. Fresh Mozzarella Cheese
The use of fresh mozzarella cheese is crucial to achieving the perfect melt on top of a Neapolitan pizza. Made from buffalo milk or cow’s milk, it provides a creamy texture with just the right amount of tanginess.
4. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
A drizzle of extra virgin olive oil adds richness and enhances the flavors of all the ingredients on your Neapolitan pizza. It also helps to create that desirable golden-brown crust during baking.
5. Fresh Basil Leaves
Basil leaves add an aromatic touch to your Neapolitan pizza while complementing the flavors of tomatoes and cheese perfectly.
6.Crushed Red Pepper Flakes (Optional)
If you prefer some heat on your pizza slice, consider adding crushed red pepper flakes. They bring a spicy kick that adds an extra layer of flavor to the overall experience.
By using these essential ingredients, you can ensure that your Neapolitan pizza stays true to its traditional roots. Remember, the quality of each ingredient matters, so try to source them from reputable suppliers for an authentic taste.
IV. The Traditional Neapolitan Pizza Dough
The dough used in traditional Neapolitan pizza is what sets it apart from other styles of pizza. It is known for its thin and chewy crust, with a slightly charred exterior and a soft, airy interior. Making the perfect Neapolitan pizza dough requires attention to detail and patience.
To make authentic Neapolitan pizza dough, you will need just a few simple ingredients:
- 500 grams of Italian “00” flour
- 325 milliliters of water
- 10 grams of salt
- 1 gram of fresh yeast (or 0.5 grams of dry yeast)
The use of Italian “00” flour is crucial as it gives the pizza dough its desired texture and elasticity. This finely ground flour has a lower protein content than regular all-purpose flour, resulting in a softer crust.
Making the traditional Neapolitan pizza dough involves several steps:
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour and salt.
- Dissolve the yeast in water until frothy.
- Add the yeast mixture to the bowl with the dry ingredients.
- Mix everything together until well combined.
- Knead the dough on a clean surface for about 10 minutes until it becomes smooth and elastic.
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a damp cloth and let it rise for at least two hours at room temperature.
- Punch down the risen dough to release any trapped air bubbles.
- Divide t
V. The Art of Hand Stretching the Pizza Dough
One of the key elements in creating an authentic Neapolitan pizza is the art of hand stretching the dough. This technique requires skill, precision, and practice to achieve that perfect thin and airy crust that is characteristic of a traditional Neapolitan pizza.
1. Choosing the Right Dough
The first step in hand stretching the pizza dough is selecting the right type of dough. Neapolitan pizza dough typically consists of just four simple ingredients: flour, water, salt, and yeast. The quality of these ingredients plays a crucial role in achieving optimal results.
2. Preparing the Dough
Before you begin hand stretching your dough, it’s important to let it rest at room temperature for at least 24 hours. This allows for proper fermentation and development of flavor. Once rested, divide the dough into individual portions and shape them into balls.
3. Shaping the Dough Balls
To shape each dough ball before stretching it out, gently flatten it with your palm on a lightly floured surface to create a small disc shape. Then using your fingers, start from one edge and work your way around by gently stretching and pulling the edges towards its center while rotating it slowly.
The most common technique used for hand-stretching pizza dough is known as “Pizzaiolo-style.” Place both hands underneath one side of the disc-shaped dough round without touching its outer edges or rim then lift it slightly off from its resting surface while simultaneously rotating clockwise motion-wise until gravity pulls down added length which then stretches out more diameter-wise in response during lifting action; repeat this process until desired thickness achieved without tearing apart due excessive stretch force applied.
5. Achieving the Perfect Thickness
The goal when hand stretching the dough is to achieve a thin, even thickness throughout. Be careful not to stretch it too thin in any one area, as this can cause holes or tears in the dough. The outer rim should be slightly thicker than the center to create that classic Neapolitan pizza crust.
6. Practice and Patience
Hand stretching pizza dough is an art form that takes time and practice to master. It requires a delicate touch, patience, and understanding of how the dough behaves. Don’t get discouraged if your first attempts are not perfect – keep practicing, experimenting with different techniques, and soon you’ll be creating authentic Neapolitan pizzas with confidence.
VI. The Importance of Using San Marzano Tomatoes
When it comes to making authentic Neapolitan pizza, one ingredient that cannot be overlooked is the use of San Marzano tomatoes. These tomatoes are renowned for their exceptional flavor and superior quality, making them a staple in Italian cuisine.
1. Unique Flavor Profile
San Marzano tomatoes have a distinct flavor profile that sets them apart from other tomato varieties. They are known for their rich sweetness, low acidity, and minimal seeds. This combination makes them perfect for creating a flavorful pizza sauce that enhances the overall taste of the dish.
2. Superior Texture
The texture of San Marzano tomatoes is another reason why they are highly valued in pizza-making. They have a thick flesh and fewer water content compared to regular canned tomatoes, resulting in a thicker sauce that clings perfectly to the dough without making it soggy.
To truly capture the essence of Neapolitan pizza, using genuine San Marzano tomatoes is essential. These tomatoes originate from the fertile volcanic soil near Mount Vesuvius in Italy’s Campania region, giving them an unparalleled authenticity that can transport you straight to Naples with every bite.
4. Protected Designation of Origin (PDO)
In 1996, San Marzano tomatoes were granted Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status by the European Union due to their unique characteristics tied to their geographic origin and traditional cultivation methods used by local farmers in Italy. This official recognition ensures that only true San Marzano tomatoes can bear this prestigious label.
5. Health Benefits
In addition to their exceptional taste and authenticity, San Marzano tomatoes also offer several health benefits. They are an excellent source of vitamins A and C, as well as antioxidants that promote overall well-being. Incorporating these tomatoes into your pizza not only enhances the flavor but also adds nutritional value.
VII. The Perfect Mozzarella Cheese for Neapolitan Pizza
Jesse Johnson is an aspiring chef from the small town of Bedford. He has a passion for cooking, and especially loves making pizza. He has been cooking since he was a teenager, but recently he has been honing his expertise in the art of pizza-making. Jesse is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, and has worked in some of the best kitchens in the country. He is committed to using only the freshest ingredients in all his creations, and loves to share his passion with others. Jesse now works as an executive chef at a local pizzeria, and is an avid food enthusiast. He is passionate about cooking and loves to teach others, so that they can take with them a newfound appreciation for fine ingredients.