The phrase “comfort food” conjures dreamy, delicious, tasty treats…so what is one such dish that always seems to be near the top of so many people’s lists?
When asked to share their ultimate comfort food, one of Italy’s most memorable dishes comes to mind for many…It’s pizza! Born in Naples, Italy this much-loved dish is often listed among US consumers top five favorites. It’s the ultimate comfort food, but do not think that it is just dough, sauce, and cheese. Some of the world’s best recipes are still born in Naples from the passion, skills, and tradition of master pizza makers – coupled with fresh and healthy ingredients… all splendid elements to celebrate in our next Positive Vibes installment.
Like so many of Italy’s acclaimed gastronomic delights like wine, cheese, and olive oil, Italy has its very own top-of-the-charts pizza -- “pizza napolitana” or Neapolitan pizza. It’s no wonder that this is the place that presents the best of the best…with generations of families specialized in the art of being a master “pizzaiolo” or pizzamaker in Naples, the art of creating the perfect pie has been elevated to such a stature that it now has its own Designation of Controlled Origin (DOC) and UNESCO recognition as an intangible cultural heritage item.
Pizza is said to have originated in this city in the 1700s, after explorers brought one of the essential ingredients, the tomato, from Peru. Yet even before that, Neapolitans had been eating a version of the pita brought by Arabic immigrants that eventually became known as “pizza” in the local dialect.
There are three basic types of Neapolitan pizza: the Margherita conceived in honor of the visit of Queen Margherita di Savoia, featuring flavorful colors that mirror the Italian flag – Red: tomato sauce, White: mozzarella cheese, and Green: fresh basil; the marinara, which forgoes the cheese and adds oregano and garlic instead of basil; and the “DOC” made with mozzarella di bufala (buffalo mozzarella).
Not surprisingly, today, there are more than 500 pizzerias in Naples, but only one fifth of them are certified by the True Neapolitan Pizza Association, an organization established to distinguish the authentic pizzerias from cheap imitators. From the type of dough to the cheese and all ingredients utilized in the preparation, to the dough fermentation, and even the temperature of the oven, the True Neapolitan Pizza Association reviews all aspects of how pizzerias make their pies in Naples to earn them the organization’s lauded designation.
So, how does one make an authentic Neapolitan pizza until you can get to Naples to try one of the best?
Master pizza maker Ciro Salvo of Naples’ 50 Kalò says that it’s all about the dough and the fermentation, which he says is a must for 10-12 hours. Only Italian 00 or 0 wheat flour should be used, and recipes must include fresh brewer’s yeast (no dry yeast), water and salt. The dough must be rolled by hand or with a slow speed mixer. Further, for authentic Neapolitan pizza, only mozzarella made from cow’s milk or mozzarella di bufala should be employed. Beyond that, the cooking process itself must be adhered to, including that the dough must be no more than 3mm thick, and the pie must bake in a wood-burning oven at an extremely high temperature – approximately 900 degrees Fahrenheit.
Of course, learning to make your very own perfect pie will take some trial and error, but certainly that is all part of the delicious fun!
With all of this comfort food talk, how about heading to Italy’s southern region for yourself and tasting all that this beautiful country has to offer. Whether it's gastronomy, culture, cutting-edge design, or simply the art of la dolce vita or “the good life” that entices you, our Amalfi Coast & Rome vacation package – featuring Sorrento on the Bay of Naples – beckons. Here you will enjoy a mixture of food & wine, history and nature, art & architecture, fashion & design. Come discover from the Cathedral of Amalfi, to the villas in Ravello and the numerous churches built during the historical period of Amalfi's Republic…from Galli's Isles in front of Positano to the Emerald Grotto, the Amalfi Coast will captivate you with its warmth and beauty. Of course, it’s also a great opportunity to try some of Italy’s Neapolitan pizza.
In the meantime, how about trying your own hand at making this iconic comfort food…handcrafted by you. Check out this Neapolitan pizza dough recipe. By Ciro Salvo from Naples’ 50 Kalò. Award-winning Ciro Salvo has researched and developed a highly hydrated pizza dough for his Neapolitan style pizza. Also, he sources ingredients directly from Italy and uses a slow leavening process for a pizza that is truly special. (this recipe originally featured online via various outlets including OTLNews, BBC News, and other websites)
450g of flour (ideally 00, but can use 0 or 1)
300 ml cold tap water
3g fresh brewer’s yeast
In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in cold tap water, then mix about two-thirds of the flour with a large spoon until a creamy consistency develops. Mix the salt, then the remaining flour a little at a time. Continue mixing until all the flour has been absorbed.
Knead vigorously with your hands by folding the dough and pushing it inward. When the dough is smooth and has no lumps, let it rest for 10-15 minutes.
Sprinkle the dough with flour, place it on a table, then give it a few folds, forming it into a spherical shape until it is firm and elastic.
Place the dough in an oiled pan and lid, then let stand and rise for 7 to 8 hours at room temperature.
Place the dough on a round baking sheet lightly greased with olive oil and press lightly with your fingertips until the classic, flat shape of the pizza is formed (or in a square if using a square pan). It should not exceed 3 mm thick. Cover and let stand for another 3 hours.
Add the tomatoes (or the tomato puree) as desired on the flattened dough and put the pizza on the base of the oven, bake at 250-280 ° C for 5-6 minutes. Move the pizza to the upper oven rack and bake for another 6 to 8 minutes, adding the drained mozzarella (if using) only for the last 3 to 4 minutes. Other ingredients such as extra virgin olive oil and basil must be added at the end of cooking.
Try authentic Italian pizza in 2021 on one of our Italian programs