Pizza is Americas favorite food. The first pizza was created in Naples, Italy in the year 1889. Called the Margherita in honor of the first Italian queen, this ¨first pizza¨ remained isolated in Naples for over fifty years until the 1940´s during WW2 when American soldiers discovered it and began requesting it. Meanwhile, in 1905, Italian immigrants in New York City opened Americas first pizzeria (Lombardi’s). In other words, though not ¨born¨ in the USA, pizza was given life in the USA, and then, from New York City, pizza began spreading back out to the rest of the world.
Who doesn’t love pizza? Kids love pizza, in fact kids between the ages of 3 to 11 prefer pizza over all other food groups. Pizza has always been my favorite food group as well. I grew up eating authentic pizza in San Diego, (Mona Lisa), and never thought that there could be ¨fake¨pizza. Then, when I moved to Peru in 2008, I was in for a big wake-up call, finding a decent pizza was extremely difficult. The pizzas were edible, but the taste was just not there. The bread/crust was not quite right, the cheese had a strange taste, it was white, but not mozzarella, and the sauce again tasted strangely different. So I began making my own pizza. That same year in Peru I also began pizza research, a study that continues to this day. I began eating at other pizzerias in Cusco, (Chez Maggy) and talking with the chefs as to the ingredients in the crust.
I realized two things, one, that making good pizza without the right ingredients and the right technique can be disappointing, and two, once you figure it out, its super easy.
I began making several styles of pizza, one of which I call ¨pizza rapido, or ¨pizza insantano¨, these are pizzas made on baguettes, pitas or other breads and take about 5 minutes. Cooked in a toaster oven, these ¨instant pizzas¨ are super fast and super delicious, and what more can I say. You can also easily cook these ¨fast¨ pizzas in cast iron skillets. Experiment, you can always eat the results.
To make an authentic pizza you must have the right ingredients, the time for proper preparation, and an oven that can reach 700-900*F. I make all my pizzas with ¨00¨ flour imported from Italy. The Italian pizza flour is made from durum wheat which creates a softer more elastic dough. The ¨00¨ refers the how the flour is milled, ¨00¨ is the finest grind for flour. I make a homemade sauce from canned San Marzano tomato’s, a variety of plum tomato, also imported from Italy. And, of coarse the best cheese for pizza is Buffalo Mozzarella, which has a low moisture content.
Authentic pizza is also made entirely by hand, no electric mixers or rolling pins. The canned tomatoes are crushed by hand when making the sauce, and the cheese is also crushed in your hand when topping the pizza.
Though the research continues, talking with chefs from famous and not so famous pizzerias, I feel that I have perfected the dough and the sauce recipes to the point that I have finally been able to posted them. Check my recipe for the Sicilian Pizza , to know the dough and sauce recipes. The pizza is called the ¨Sicilian¨ because of the bread crumbs I use as a topping, more than a geographic reference.
Since 1984, October has been celebrated as National Pizza Month. I encourage you to start your own research. Go out and eat pizza, anywhere you can find a pie or a slice. Remember pizza is really only 3 things; good bread, sauce, and cheese. Start your study by comparing the different crusts, a good crust should smell and taste like good bread. From there you will begin to become a pizza connoisseur.
Be open to all pizzas, but remember, some will be outrageously different while others will be simply disappointing.
Here is one of my favorite YouTube links to help spark your investigative prowess into the world of pizza, called ¨Brooklyn is Pizza Heaven¨, featuring a new breed of Italian pizzerias in NYC, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mH7vFc0bUpU