It would be remiss of us to celebrate National Pizza Month, and the many styles, without a very honourable mention to the most famous of pizza styles… Neapolitan. A multitude of pizza styles originated from the classic Neapolitan, so she really is to be celebrated….
Pizza Napoletana - the original, and many say, the best, style of pizza to exist. With a thin base, puffy, chewy yet crisp crust, or cornicione, and simple, but carefully selected toppings.
There are many stories of the beginning of Neapolitan style, and the invention of the classic Margherita. In the 1700s flatbreads were used as a base for toppings, but it wasn’t until the late 18th Century that people in Naples started to top theirs with tomatoes. Tomatoes weren’t introduced to Italy until the 16th Century, and many thought they were poisonous.
People would flock to poorer neighbourhoods in Naples to try the newly discovered delicacy. Including the King at the time… Ferdinand I.
The claimed invention of the Margherita came a few years later. Queen Margherita and her King visited Naples in 1889. To celebrate the visit, Raffaele Esposito celebrated Pizzaiolo of Pizzeria di Pietro… e basta cosi was asked to cook for the regal visitors. To celebrate the Tricolore, Esposito created a pizza with tomatoes - red, mozzarella - white, and basil - green. Unsurprisingly there are questions around this history, and many say that the toppings were already being used 100 years prior.
Neapolitan pizza is so cherished, the art of making it is included on UNESCO’s cultural heritage list, and is protected by the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana - the association for True Neapolitan Pizza.
Even the much-loved New York slice was developed from Neapolitan style by Italian immigrants to New York in the early 20th Century.
So, what IS Neapolitan pizza? The AVPN has a set of rules that guarantee a true Neapolitan pizza.
The dough must be made with only water, yeast, salt and flour. Water, salt, and a small amount of flour are combined first, followed by the yeast, then gradually flour is added and the mix is kneaded until the dough feels right. Traditionally, the dough is rested at room temperature until it’s doubled in size.
Once it’s proofed, the dough is turned out onto a surface, portioned and shaped into balls reminiscent of mozzarella. A dough ball between 200 and 280g will give you a pizza the required diameter of between 22 and 35cm. The next step is to let the balls rise at room temperature.
The pizza base is then stretched out, with the centre thin, and the crust with a little height.
Next up is topping, traditionally Margherita and Marinara are the pizzas of choice. Regardless, the toppings should be of utmost quality and preferably sourced from Campania - the region that Naples is part of.
Finally, an integral part - the cooking of Pizza Napoletana. This must be done in a wood oven, at no less than 430°C for between 60 - 90 seconds.
Make your own Neapolitan Pizza following our recipe!
This how-to guide takes you through everything you need to know, from making Neapolitan-style pizza dough, hand-stretching and toppings...