The incredible variety of pizzas
The basic concept of pizza is a simple one: leavened dough topped and baked in an oven. While this format is very simple, the variety of different styles of pizza that exists in Italy and around the world is incredibly high. The three areas most famous for their pizza in Italy are Naples, Sicily and Rome, but the name of the dish is perhaps the only thing that they share.
Neapolitan pizza, considered to be the originator of the dish, is traditionally cooked in a wood fire oven that can go up to 400°C which means that the pizza will cook incredibly fast, for as little as 1.5 minutes. This short cooking time means that the finished product will be extremely soft, slightly crispy and have a large puffed up crust with very visible air pockets inside. It is traditionally topped very simply with crushed San Marzano tomatoes and mozzarella di bufala or fior di latte, a buffalo or cow's milk mozzarella. The whole pizza being soft in texture makes it more appropriate to eat sitting down at a table as eating on the go would be too messy. Thankfully Naples has also created a pizza that can be eaten easily on the go: pizza fritta. This is essentially a deep-fried calzone (a pizza that is stuffed and folded in on itself) that will yield a crispy texture and is perfect for carrying around the streets of Naples, as it will hold its shape.
Next, we move North to the capital, Rome, where there are two main categories of pizza: pizza tonda (round pizza) and pizza al taglio (pizza by the cut). The concept of round pizza isn't unique to Rome, but theirs differs from their Neapolitan cousin by being very thin and crispy, something that isn't as appreciated in Naples. When we move to pizza al taglio (to read more about it click here), it is an entirely different dish since it is cooked either in a baking sheet (pizza in teglia) or is placed in an oven on a long wooden pizza peel (pizza alla pala). They both have the characteristic of being served to the customer by weight, generally being crispy and have a wide variety of toppings, from prosciutto e fichi to pizza rossa.
Rome also is the home to the pinsa, a creation as recent as the early 2000s which has an interesting mix of wheat, soy and rice flour that, combined with its high hydration and long fermentation time, give a crispy and light texture to the flavourful dough.
In Sicily, more specifically in Palermo, the sfincione is king, a thick pizza cooked in a baking sheet with a tight crumb structure and the ancestor of the grandma pizza famous throughout the USA, brought by Sicilian immigrants in the early 1900s. Contrary to the Neapolitan pizza, the tomato sauce used here can have bolder flavours used in it like anchovies or onions and is topped with breadcrumbs.
When we cross the pond to the USA, another country known for its pizza culture, there is none more famous than the New York slice. A large pizza cooked until crispy and served by the slice, not too dissimilar to the Roman pizza al taglio. Toppings can range from tomato sauce and mozzarella to pepperoni, a spicy sausage sliced and that cups when cooked in the oven. The main difference between this style and that from Italy is the tomato sauce. While in Italy the crushed tomato in its raw form is prefered, a slightly more reduced and thicker sauce is used in the USA, with garlic being sometimes present, as opposed to its controversial position in Italy (to read more about garlic in Italy, click here).
These pizzas are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to all the shapes and sizes they come in, in Italy and all around the world, which is the beauty of a product as simple and as perfect as pizza.
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