Pizza can be found in practically every country of the world. They have, in the last 10-15 years, become one of the mainstays of convenience and fast food eating, with pizza restaurants almost everywhere. From humble beginnings - when it was sold in the streets of Naples - the pizza has risen to become a sophisticated way to eat a wealth of delicious ingredients from simple cheese and tomato, cooked with fresh herbs and olive oil, to exotic shellfish, oriental vegetables and spices. Pizza need not be just a snack or quick cooked meal. They can become stylish cocktail foods, substantial pies and pastries-and even desserts! One thing to remember. The pizza has an elegant history - being eaten by many a king or queen - so should never be considered simply a dumping ground for leftovers!
In Naples one summer, around the late 1800s, Queen Margherita of Savoy was residing with her family in Capodimonte Park. She had heard a lot about pizza and decided to try it for herself. The local pizza maker was summoned and he served her a pizza with a newly invented topping. From then on, the tomato pulp, mozzarella cheese and fresh basil pizza has been known as Pizza Margherita. Until this time, pizza had been sold in the streets to people at breakfast, lunch and dinner. It was cut from a large tray that had been cooked in the baker’s oven and had a simple topping made of mushrooms and anchovies.
As pizza became more popular, stalls were set up where the dough was shaped as customer ordered. Various toppings were invented including tomato, which had arrived from the New World. This soon developed into the opening of the pizzeria, an open air place for folk to congregate, eat, drink and discuss. This has gradually become the pizza parlour we have today, though the flavour of a pizza made, baked and eaten in the open air is unbeatable.
Tips for a good pizza
The crust is the life of a pizza as are the toppings. But focus on the crust first. Then the sauce, the cheese and the toppings.
Take care to bake at a high temperature: upto 240 degree C is fine.
The sauce should use good quality juice tomatoes with flavour. You can add all or some of the following for stronger flavours: oregano, garlic, crushed peppercorns. Balsamic vinegar adds ‘bite’. Olive oil (extra virgin) also adds a good flavour.
Be creative with cheese choices. Mix Monterey Jack with goat cheese. Or use whole milk mozzarella. Its smooth, melts beautifully and is rich in texture. Or you could use a mix of cheeses!
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