Italian Pizza – Everything You Need to Know

Italian Pizza in the oven

Pizza, a national Italian dish, is a round open flatbread topped with melted cheese (usually mozzarella) and tomatoes. Cheese is undeniably the main ingredient of pizza, with other ingredients varying based on the type of pizza. Today, pizza is one of the most popular dishes worldwide.

The Origin of Pizza

So, let’s deep dive into the history of pizza.

Similar dishes already existed among the ancient Greeks and Romans. They were meals served on bread slices, topped with additions of meat, cheese, olives, vegetables, and dairy products. This kind of bread served as provisions for Roman legionnaires. It was a common food for both patricians and plebeians alike.

In the first century BCE, a Roman named Marcus Apicius wrote a book containing recipes of what could be considered the “ancestors” of modern pizza. Different combinations of olive oil, cheese, chunks of chicken meat, mint, nuts, garlic, and pepper were placed on the dough. The word “pizza” itself is similar to the words “piazza” (square) and “piatto” (plate).

In 1522, tomatoes were introduced to Europe, and Italy started making what is practically the classic pizza we know today.

Pizza – From Peasant Food to Royal Delicacy


In the 17th century, specialized individuals, called pizzaiolos, started making pizza for peasants. One day in 1772, King Ferdinand I, incognito, was strolling through Naples and felt hungry. The king visited the establishment of a Neapolitan pizzaiolo named Antonio Testa. As the king satiated his hunger, he grew more and more impressed with the taste and variety of the dishes. Ferdinand I tried to introduce pizza to the royal cuisine, but his attempt was unsuccessful.

His wife was adamantly against incorporating commoner’s food into the royal diet.

Some time passed, and another king, Ferdinand II, who also loved pizza, decided to change the royal court’s attitude toward this dish. Ferdinand II called a secret meeting of the royal cooks to discuss how to refine pizza.

The main problem was that the dough for pizza was traditionally kneaded with feet, which was unacceptable for a royal dish!

A secondary task was finding a suitable utensil for eating pizza to prevent greasing noble fingers. Gennaro Spadacchini was appointed to solve these challenges. And he had a limited time to find the solutions before the queen’s birthday celebrations.
Королева Маргарита Савойская в ее честь названа пицца МаргаритаGennaro completed the task on time. The dough was now beaten with a bronze pestle shaped like a man and a four-pronged fork was introduced for consuming the pizza. On the thirtieth birthday of Margherita of Savoy, a huge wonder pizza prepared by the married pair of palace cooks – Raffaele Esposito and Rosina Brandi – was placed on the festive table.

The pizza was named in honor of the queen. From that day on, “Margherita” pizza became the most popular dish in the royal court.

“Marinara” and “Four Seasons”

The royal kitchen also approved the cooking of “Marinara” and “Four Seasons.” Currently, there are more than two thousand different types of pizza in Italy. It can be said that Naples gave the world the wonder that is pizza. In the 19th century, due to Italian immigrants, pizza reached America. After World War II, pizza delivery services became widespread in the USA, and the food industry began producing semi-finished pizzas.

Types of Pizza, Ingredients, and Recipes

The amount of dough and toppings changes depending on the size of the pizza, but the ratio of ingredients remains approximately the same. The ingredients for Margherita pizza are pizza dough, tomatoes, cheese (mozzarella), tomato paste, olive oil, dried basil, Parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, and fresh basil leaves.

The “Four Seasons” – the Most Popular Pizza in the World

Итальянская пицца четыре сезонаThe “Four Seasons” pizza (“Quattro Stagioni”) is known to have existed as early as 1660. A cook who made delicious pizzas lived in Naples at the time. One fine day, he had the idea to prepare a pizza with a multitude of diverse ingredients. The cook selected his favorite products: tomatoes, seafood, ham, and mushrooms.

However, the question arose: how to fit all this variety on a layer of dough without turning the pizza into a salad?

The cook found a solution. He divided the pizza circle into four sectors, each of which was topped with its own topping separately. Visitors to the pizzeria loved this new dish. Such a culinary masterpiece surely had to have a name.

For the cook, this pizza was associated with the seasons of the year, hence the pizza was named “Four Seasons”. The “winter” sector was occupied by mushrooms, “spring” was given to seafood, “summer” was assigned to Italian Salame sausage, and “autumn” was taken by tomatoes.

The pizza was drizzled with sauce, sprinkled with herbs and mozzarella. Nowadays, “Four Seasons” pizza is one of the most popular and is a sales leader. There are many variations of topping combinations. In traditional “Four Seasons” pizza, three sectors (seasons) of toppings are occupied by seafood and one by mushrooms. Ingredients: dough, mozzarella, tomatoes, salted mushrooms, blanched-frozen mussels, fresh or frozen in-shell shrimp, olives, salted anchovy, parsley, garlic, orange, salt, sugar, pepper, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco sauce, fresh basil, Parmesan.

The Neapolitan pizza “Marinara”

Like “Margherita,” “Marinara” is considered a Neapolitan pizza. The word itself translates as “maritime” or “seaman.” However, this doesn’t mean that the pizza must be topped with seafood. Perhaps the pizza was named in honor of the fishermen who consumed it almost every morning.

Pizza Marinara Neapoletan style

In fact, “marinara” is also a sauce made from tomatoes, onions, garlic, and herbs.

This sauce, due to the preserving properties of the tomato, could be stored for quite a long time, which sailors took advantage of. Therefore, there is a hypothesis that the name of the pizza is connected with this sauce. Ingredients: dough, tomatoes, olives, garlic, Parmesan cheese, salt, sugar, oregano, thyme, basil.

Today, pizza has spread all over the world. In different countries, people may prefer different variations of this dish. The main differences are observed in the toppings, for example, in Brazil, green peas are added to the pizza, in Japan – eel, and in Costa Rica – coconuts.

Even within Italy, there are differences between Neapolitan-style pizza and Roman-style pizza. The crust of the capital’s pizza is crispy, while Neapolitan pizza has a soft crumbly flatbread.

How to Cook Real Italian Pizza?

So, we’ve reached the most important part: the recipe for making a true Italian pizza.

In 2004, the official government newspaper of Italy published the recipe for a real Neapolitan pizza. According to this recipe, the real pizza should have a thin crust. Only “mozzarella” cheese and special varieties of tomatoes should be used for cooking. Basil, olive oil, marjoram, and garlic can be used as additives.

If one of these rules was violated in manufacturing, the resulting product is not a real Italian pizza.

Пицца Маргарита приготовление в итальянской печи

It is also worth mentioning that a real pizza is baked on coals in a real Italian oven, where the temperature is held at 485 degrees, and the pizza is baked there in 2 minutes. However, few people adhere to this rule today.

Simple recipe and method for preparing Margherita pizza

For a good pizza, you need to start with a good dough.

  1. Take yeast (7g) and sugar (1 tbsp), put them in a bowl, and mix with water (4 tbsp). Leave it in a warm place for 15 minutes. Mix flour (350g) with salt (1 tbsp) and make a well in the center; add olive oil (1 tbsp), yeast mixture, and 170-180g of hot water (60 degrees Celsius). Knead the dough with a wooden spoon.
  2. Then turn out the dough onto a table and knead by hand for about 5 minutes.
  3. Then put the dough back in the bowl, cover, and leave for 30 minutes to rise twice its size.
  4. While the dough is rising, you can work on the filling.
  5. Place tomatoes (canned in their own juice, 400g), crushed garlic (2 cloves), basil (2 tbsp), olive oil (1 tbsp), pepper, and salt in a large skillet.
  6. Cook the resulting sauce for 20 minutes until thickened, then add tomato paste and let the sauce cool.
  7. Once the base is ready, knead it by hand for another couple of minutes and place it on a baking sheet.
  8. Stretch the dough by hand so that its thickness does not exceed 6 mm, as it will rise further in the oven.
  9. Finally, cover the base with the sauce, sprinkle with mozzarella (100g) and grated Parmesan (2 tbsp), and place in a preheated oven, where it is baked for 20-25 minutes at 200 degrees Celsius.

Enjoy your true Italian Pizza!

FAQ about Italian Pizza

Who was pizza invented by?

How much does a pizza cost in Italy?

What is Italian-style pizza?

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Why is pizza important to Italy?

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When is pizza eaten in Italy?

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As an ardent lover of Italy and its rich culinary heritage, I have dedicated years immersing myself in the realm of Italian cuisine. My fascination doesn't stop at savoring every dish, but extends to unraveling the essence of each recipe. My passion has led me to experiment, recreate, and perfect traditional meals in my own kitchen. I thrive in my endless journey of discovering the subtle nuances and diverse regional flavors that define the soul of Italian cooking.

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