Neapolitan pizza is a classic and beloved Italian dish that has captured the hearts and tastebuds of people all over the world. The origins of this pizza can be traced back to the city of Naples, where it was first created back in the 18th century. In this article, we will delve into the history and tradition of Neapolitan pizza and guide you through the process of making it from the comfort of your own home.
Understanding the history and tradition of Neapolitan pizza
Neapolitan pizza has a rich and fascinating history that dates back hundreds of years. The first pizzeria in Naples, called Antica Pizzeria Port’Alba, opened its doors in 1738, and from there, the popularity of pizza began to spread across the city. In 1889, the famous Margherita pizza was created for Queen Margherita of Savoy by pizzaiolo Raffaele Esposito, featuring the colors of the Italian flag with tomato, mozzarella, and basil.
Today, Neapolitan pizza is protected by the Italian laws and is recognized as a traditional specialty guaranteed (TSG) dish. This means that for a pizza to be considered authentic, it must be made using specific ingredients and methods.
One of the key ingredients in Neapolitan pizza is San Marzano tomatoes, which are grown in the volcanic soil near Mount Vesuvius. These tomatoes are known for their sweet and tangy flavor, and are used to make the sauce that is spread on the pizza dough. Another important ingredient is mozzarella di bufala, which is made from the milk of water buffalo and has a creamy texture and rich flavor. The dough itself is also a crucial component, and must be made with a specific type of flour and yeast, and must be hand-kneaded and left to rise for a certain amount of time.
The ingredients required to make authentic Neapolitan pizza
The key to making a delicious Neapolitan pizza is to use high-quality, authentic ingredients. The ingredients required for the pizza dough are flour, water, salt, and yeast, while the toppings can vary depending on your preferences. The most common toppings used in Neapolitan pizza are tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella cheese, and basil.
Another important ingredient in Neapolitan pizza is extra-virgin olive oil. It is used to brush the dough before adding the toppings, which helps to create a crispy crust. Additionally, San Marzano tomatoes are often used for the tomato sauce due to their sweet and tangy flavor. For the cheese, it is recommended to use buffalo mozzarella, which has a creamier texture and richer flavor than regular mozzarella. Finally, fresh basil leaves are added on top of the pizza after it comes out of the oven, giving it a fragrant and herbaceous aroma.
Tips for sourcing high-quality ingredients for your pizza
When making Neapolitan pizza, it’s essential to source the freshest and highest quality ingredients you can find. You can look for speciality stores and markets that sell authentic Italian ingredients such as 00 flour and San Marzano tomatoes for the sauce. For cheese, it’s best to use fresh buffalo mozzarella from Campania.
Another important ingredient to consider is the olive oil. It’s recommended to use extra-virgin olive oil from Italy, as it has a distinct flavor that complements the other ingredients. When selecting toppings, opt for fresh vegetables and meats that are locally sourced and in season. This not only ensures the best flavor but also supports local farmers and businesses.
It’s also important to consider the cooking method when sourcing ingredients. Neapolitan pizza is traditionally cooked in a wood-fired oven, which gives it a unique flavor and texture. If possible, try to source ingredients that are specifically suited for this cooking method, such as wood-fired roasted peppers or charcuterie. By taking the time to source high-quality ingredients, you can elevate your Neapolitan pizza to the next level and impress your guests with an authentic and delicious dish.
Step-by-step instructions for making the perfect dough for your pizza
Making the perfect dough for your pizza is one of the essential steps in creating an authentic Neapolitan pizza. Here’s how you can make the perfect dough:
- Combine 500g of 00 flour, 300ml of water, and 10g of salt in a mixing bowl.
- Add 2 grams of yeast, and mix everything together until it forms a dough.
- Knead the dough for at least 15 minutes until it is smooth and elastic.
- Cover the dough with a damp cloth and let it rest for at least 1 hour.
- Punch down the dough and divide it into small balls, approximately 250g each.
- Place the dough balls onto a floured surface and let them rest for another 4-6 hours.
Once your dough has rested for 4-6 hours, it’s time to shape it into a pizza base. Dust your work surface with flour and place one of the dough balls onto it. Use your hands to gently stretch the dough into a circle, leaving the edges slightly thicker than the center.
Now it’s time to add your toppings. Start with a thin layer of tomato sauce, followed by your choice of cheese and toppings. Be careful not to overload your pizza, as this can make it soggy.
The importance of properly stretching and shaping your dough
Stretching and shaping the dough is a crucial step in making a classic Neapolitan pizza. Here are some key tips to follow:
- Use your hands to gently stretch the dough out into a round shape, leaving a slightly thicker rim around the edge.
- Aim to stretch the dough as thin as possible to create a light and crispy crust.
- Keep in mind that the dough should be slightly uneven to allow air pockets to form during cooking.
- Use a wooden pizza peel to transfer the stretched dough onto a pizza stone or a preheated baking tray.
It’s important to note that the temperature of the dough also plays a significant role in the stretching and shaping process. If the dough is too cold, it will be difficult to stretch and may tear. On the other hand, if the dough is too warm, it will be too soft and difficult to handle. It’s recommended to let the dough rest at room temperature for at least 30 minutes before stretching and shaping it.
Choosing the right toppings to complement your Neapolitan pizza
While Neapolitan pizza traditionally features only tomato sauce, mozzarella, and basil, there’s no limit to the number of toppings you can add to your pizza. Some popular toppings include mushrooms, peppers, onions, and different types of cured meats.
However, it’s important to choose toppings that complement the flavors of the pizza rather than overpowering them. For example, if you’re adding cured meats, consider using thinly sliced prosciutto or spicy salami instead of thick slices of ham or bacon. Additionally, consider adding fresh herbs like oregano or thyme to enhance the overall flavor profile of the pizza.
Cooking your pizza to perfection in a wood-fired oven
The traditional way to cook a Neapolitan pizza is in a wood-fired oven, which creates a hot and even heat to cook the pizza quickly. Here’s how to cook your pizza in a wood-fired oven:
- Preheat your wood-fired oven to around 500°C.
- Place the pizza onto a pizza peel and slide it into the oven.
- Cook the pizza for about 90 seconds, making sure to turn it once halfway through.
- The pizza should be ready when the crust is crispy and slightly charred, and the cheese is melted and bubbly.
However, cooking pizza in a wood-fired oven requires some practice and skill. It’s important to keep an eye on the pizza while it’s cooking to ensure that it doesn’t burn or cook unevenly. You may also need to adjust the temperature of the oven or the placement of the pizza to achieve the perfect result.
Another benefit of cooking pizza in a wood-fired oven is that it imparts a unique smoky flavor to the pizza that can’t be replicated in a conventional oven. This flavor comes from the wood used to fuel the oven, which can vary depending on the type of wood and the region it comes from.
Alternatives to a wood-fired oven and how to adjust your cooking method accordingly
If you don’t have access to a wood-fired oven, you can still make a delicious Neapolitan pizza in a regular oven or even on a grill. Just make sure to preheat your oven to the highest temperature possible and cook the pizza for around 10 minutes. If using a grill, preheat it to high heat and place the pizza on a baking sheet, making sure to turn it occasionally.
Another alternative to a wood-fired oven is a pizza stone. A pizza stone can be heated in a regular oven and will help to mimic the high heat and crispy crust of a wood-fired oven. Simply place the pizza on the preheated stone and cook for around 8-10 minutes.
If you’re looking for a more portable option, a portable pizza oven can be a great investment. These ovens are designed to reach high temperatures and can be used on a tabletop or even outdoors. They come in a variety of sizes and price points, so you can find one that fits your needs and budget.
Serving and enjoying your Neapolitan pizza like a true Italian
After cooking your Neapolitan pizza, it’s time to enjoy it like a true Italian. Cut the pizza into slices and serve it hot with a sprinkle of fresh basil and a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil. Pair it with a refreshing salad or a glass of wine for the perfect Italian meal experience.
It’s important to note that in Italy, pizza is typically eaten with a knife and fork, rather than with your hands. This is especially true for Neapolitan pizza, which has a soft and floppy crust that can be difficult to hold. So, if you want to truly enjoy your Neapolitan pizza like an Italian, try eating it with utensils instead of your hands. Not only will it make the experience more authentic, but it will also help you savor every delicious bite.
Common mistakes to avoid when making Neapolitan pizza at home
Some common mistakes to avoid when making Neapolitan pizza include using too much sauce or cheese, overworking the dough, using low-quality ingredients, and not preheating the oven properly. Keep these in mind when making your pizza for the best results.
Another common mistake to avoid when making Neapolitan pizza is not using the right type of flour. Neapolitan pizza requires a specific type of flour, known as “00” flour, which is finely ground and has a lower protein content than other types of flour. Using the wrong type of flour can result in a dough that is too tough or chewy.
It’s also important to pay attention to the temperature of your ingredients. The water used to make the dough should be lukewarm, and the dough should be allowed to rise in a warm, draft-free place. Using cold ingredients or placing the dough in a cold area can result in a dough that doesn’t rise properly or has a tough texture.
Frequently asked questions about making Neapolitan pizza from Italy
Some frequently asked questions about making Neapolitan pizza include:
- What type of flour is best for making Neapolitan pizza?
- Can I substitute buffalo mozzarella with regular mozzarella?
- How hot should my oven be for cooking Neapolitan pizza?
- Can I freeze pizza dough?
Overall, making an authentic Neapolitan pizza is a fun and rewarding experience that anyone can try at home. By following the tips and methods outlined in this article, you can create a delicious and authentic pizza that’s sure to impress your family and friends.