Pizza is one of the most popular dishes in the world, and while there are countless variations of this classic Italian dish, Neapolitan pizza stands out as the original and most traditional version. Neapolitan pizza is a style of pizza that originated in Naples, Italy and is renowned for its simplicity, quality ingredients, and unique cooking method.
History of Neapolitan Pizza
Neapolitan pizza has a long and fascinating history that dates back to the 18th century. It is believed that the first pizza was created in Naples, Italy, as a cheap and easy-to-prepare meal for working-class people. At the time, pizza was made with simple ingredients such as tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, and olive oil, and it was baked in a wood-fired oven.
Over time, pizza became popular throughout Italy and eventually spread to other parts of the world. However, the original Neapolitan pizza remained a symbol of Naples, and in 1984, the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana was formed to preserve and promote the traditional recipe and techniques of making Neapolitan pizza.
Characteristics of Neapolitan Pizza
Authentic Neapolitan pizza is made using only a few simple ingredients: San Marzano tomatoes, fresh mozzarella cheese, fresh basil, salt, and extra-virgin olive oil. The dough is made from a specific type of flour, water, salt, and yeast and is left to rise for at least 24 hours. The pizza is then cooked in a wood-fired oven at a temperature of around 485°C for no more than 90 seconds.
One of the defining characteristics of Neapolitan pizza is its soft and chewy crust, which is puffy and slightly charred on the outside and thin and tender on the inside. The pizza is also lightly sauced, with just a few spoonfuls of tomato sauce spread over the dough and topped with fresh mozzarella cheese and a few leaves of basil.
Neapolitan pizza is a simple and rustic dish that is meant to be enjoyed immediately after it comes out of the oven. It is typically served uncut and eaten with a knife and fork, although it can also be eaten by hand.
How to Make Neapolitan Pizza
Making Neapolitan pizza is a labour-intensive process that requires patience, skill, and attention to detail. Here is a step-by-step guide to making authentic Neapolitan pizza:
1. Make the Dough: Mix together 1kg of '00' flour, 650ml of water, 25g of salt, and 1g of yeast in a large mixing bowl. Knead the dough by hand for at least 10 minutes until it becomes smooth and elastic. Cover the dough with a damp cloth and let it rest for at least 24 hours.
2. Prepare the Sauce: Use San Marzano tomatoes, which are known for their sweetness, and crush them by hand or with a food processor. Add a pinch of salt and mix well.
3. Shape the Dough: Divide the dough into four equal-sized balls and shape them into flattened rounds. Use your fingers to press down the center of each round, leaving a raised edge around the outside.
4. Add the Toppings: Spoon a few tablespoons of tomato sauce onto each pizza and spread it evenly, leaving a small border around the edge. Add slices of fresh mozzarella cheese and a few leaves of fresh basil.
5. Bake the Pizza: Preheat a wood-fired oven to 485°C. Slide the pizza onto a pizza peel and transfer it to the oven. Bake for no more than 90 seconds, rotating the pizza occasionally to ensure even cooking.
6. Serve and Enjoy: Remove the pizza from the oven and garnish with a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil and a sprinkle of sea salt. Cut into slices and serve immediately.
Neapolitan pizza is a simple yet iconic dish that has become a symbol of Naples and a beloved food around the world. Its history, characteristics, and unique cooking method make it stand out from other types of pizza and have earned it a place in the hearts of pizza lovers everywhere. Whether you are a seasoned pizza aficionado or a curious foodie, Neapolitan pizza is a must-try dish that is sure to leave a lasting impression.
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