Did you know pizza took the United States by storm before it became popular in its native Italy?
Pizza has a long history. Flatbreads with toppings were consumed by the ancient Egyptians, Romans and Greeks. (The latter ate a version with herbs and oil, similar to today’s focaccia.) But the modern birthplace of pizza is southwestern Italy’s Campania region, home to the city of Naples.
Founded around 600 B.C. as a Greek settlement, Naples in the 1700s and early 1800s was a thriving waterfront city. Technically an independent kingdom, it was notorious for its throngs of working poor, or lazzaroni. “The closer you got to the bay, the more dense their population, and much of their living was done outdoors, sometimes in homes that were little more than a room,” says Carol Helstosky, author of Pizza: A Global History and associate professor of history at the University of Denver.
These Neapolitans required inexpensive food that could be consumed quickly. Pizza—flatbreads with various toppings, eaten for any meal and sold by street vendors or informal restaurants—met this need. “Judgmental Italian authors often called their eating habits ‘disgusting,’” Helstosky notes. These early pizzas consumed by Naples’ poor featured the tasty garnishes beloved today, such as tomatoes, cheese, oil, anchovies and garlic.
- 1 c. water
- 1 pkg yeast
- 1/3 c. corn oil
- 1 Tbsp sugar
- 1 tsp cream of tartar
- 1 lb Bread Flour
- 28 oz plum Roma tomatoes (or San Marzano (my favorite) tomatoes – less ¼ c of the sauce before you mush it)
- 1/2 tsp salt
- a pinch of basil
- a pinch of oregano
- fresh ground black pepper
- 16 oz. mozzarella about 4 c. Low-moisture part-skim (NOT low fat. It won’t turn out good if you use low fat)
- Italian sausage uncooked pinched into little pieces
- In a bowl, put water (lukewarm), then yeast, oil, cream of tartar, and sugar. Mix with hand until yeast dissolves.
- Pour in bread flour a little at a time. Mix with your hand. Just curve your hand like a dough hook and hold the bowl and mix. Then, knead it until it gets firm. Add more flour if needed.
- The secret is kneading. Knead it for about 10 minutes straight. Then, roll it into a ball, and put it in a bowl with oil brushed in the sides. Cover with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel. Let sit overnight unrefrigerated. Only let it rise once. Portion and use.
- Pizza Sauce:
- Take the tomatoes and sauce and place them into a bowl. Using a potato masher or just your hands, mash the tomatoes up so that there are no chunks bigger around than a quarter.
- Add the rest of the ingredients and stir. Adjust the salt and pepper to taste. Do not use too much basil or oregano.
- Preheat oven to 350.
- Prepare your deep dish pizza pan (or a round cake pan with straight sides) by coating the inside of it with a very healthy coating of melted butter or oil.
- Roll the dough out to about 3 inches larger than the bottom of the pan, then place inside the pan and pinch the dough up along the sides.
- Now put the cheese in (right on the crust). Then add the pepperoni and sausage pieces, and finally the sauce (Don’t worry, the sausage will cook through completely in the oven).
- Bake in the oven until the crust is starting to brown and cheese is starting to bubble up through the sauce. The little edges of the pepperoni should also be starting to crisp and the sausage should be cooked through (about 45 minutes).