With home cooking seeing a huge increase in the past year, there has been a desire to start cooking popular foods from scratch. One such dish is pizza with many people trying to go the traditional route as they are inspired by the Italian methods of cooking as well as the ingredients.
With all sorts of ingredients being available in supermarkets, now is the time to invest in learning how to make dishes in the traditional way. Pizza is a great dish to make because it is super easy to prepare and make and you can choose a variety of toppings according to your taste.
Another reason why pizza is so popular is that it can be made to suit almost any dietary requirements with many websites and cook books providing recipes for vegan and gluten free options for those who have to avoid certain ingredients.
The ingredients can easily be substituted and the results will still look and taste amazing.
So what are the best authentic Italian/Neapolitan pizzas and toppings? And what makes a pizza or topping authentically Italian and Neapolitan?
Whether you’re wanting to start cooking meals from scratch and are interested in Italian cuisine or if you’re an avid cook and are looking to expand your cooking range, we’ve researched everything you need to know so you don’t have to look any further.
Once you’ve reached the end of this article, you’ll know everything about what makes a pizza traditionally Italian or Neapolitan and what toppings will go best to compliment that.
What does Neapolitan mean?
Neapolitan relates to anything that originates from Naples. Naples is the third largest city in Italy and is based in the South and is the regional capital of Campania.
Known for its beautiful scenery and iconic historical landmarks such as Mount Vesuvius, Naples is also known for its strong association with pizza and other classic Italian dishes.
As Naples used to be an independent kingdom centuries ago, there has always been a divide between this Southern city and the rest of the country even though it is not independent anymore.
One of the most popular places in Italy for tourism, especially in the South, Naples is a beautiful scenic city that brings both Italian and Sicilian cultures together and has been the inspiration for many cultural aspects from food to fashion to film.
Naples has become a huge selling point when it comes to culture because it is so rich in its history.
What is the difference between Italian and Neapolitan?
Although Naples is in Italy, there are strong cultural aspects that have originated from Naples and become so associated with the area that there are certain things that are uniquely Neapolitan.
The main examples are the accent and dialect is slightly different as well as the foods such as pizza and also the iconic Neapolitan ice cream in which three flavors are combined in one dish.
As mentioned in the previous section, Naples used to be an independent kingdom before it joined the newly unified Italy in 1861. Before this, it was one of the capitals of the United Kingdom of Two Sicilies thanks to its strong connections with both Italy and Sicily.
Naples marks a merge of these two cultures thus bringing a lot of cultural significance to the city.
Where did pizza come from?
Pizza originated in Naples and was a popular dish thanks to its combination of ingredients that were accessible to the working class who couldn’t afford more luxurious foods.
When pizza was created, there was a huge working class population in Naples and this was causing issues and high hunger statistics so pizza helped thanks to its generous servings and simple cooking method.
Made from a few basic ingredients that are mixed together to make the base then topped with tomato sauce made from fresh tomatoes and mozzarella on top with a dash of basil, the pizza became a popular dish among the working class and the aristocracy who would visit the city.
Even to this day, pizza is a dish loved by all because of the huge variety of options and simplicity in cooking, making it a common dish to find in restaurants and not just pizzerias.
As many restaurants and pizzerias find new ways to “reinvent” the pizza such as making them square shape but it goes without saying that more and more people keep going back to the traditional Italian methods of making pizza.
What makes Neapolitan pizza different?
Neapolitan pizza is defined by its thin crust. Cooked at a high temperature, the crust bubbles and chars at certain points. To finish it off, the pizza is topped with tomato sauce, mozzarella and basil.
This marks the classic style of pizza known as the Margherita pizza. Named after Queen Margherita, the toppings of tomato, cheese and basil was a popular choice because it was incorporating the colors of the Italian flag into the food.
What makes the crust so crispy and thin is the use of Italian Tipo flour which is known as “00” flour. This is a soft wheat flour and helps to create that charred crisp on the edges of the crust when it is cooked.
Because it is soft, it doesn’t bring that much flavor and is easy to prepare and make into the dough. The wheat is also great for those who are on a diet as well because it is high in fiber and low in calories proving that pizza can be suitable for those who want to live a healthier lifestyle.
If cooked from scratch and cooked properly, then pizza can be a perfectly healthy dish because you are choosing each specific ingredient so you can make sure they are low fat and low carb.
How do you make a traditional Italian or Neapolitan pizza base?
To make a traditional pizza base in the Italian or Neapolitan style, it doesn’t take long preparation at all. Simply requiring flour, water, salt and yeast, you simply mix these ingredients together to create the dough.
The dough then needs to prove for at least 24 hours, but this will give it the rise and consistency needed when it comes to preparing and cooking the rest of the pizza.
When leaving the dough to prove, place the dough in a bowl covered with cling film and leave in a dry place for at least 24 hours. Don’t worry about the shape as the shaping will come when you roll it out after it has proved.
People like to add in extra ingredients into their dough such as herbs like rosemary to give it a bit of extra flavor or use different flour for a different consistency but to get that traditional Italian taste then those four ingredients are all you need.
It’s important to consider the time it takes for the dough to prove, especially if you are planning to serve the pizza as a special meal. If you are using a different flour then always check online to see how long it will take to prove as it may differ due to the different consistency in the flour.
What are the most authentic Italian/Neapolitan pizzas?
When it comes to what makes a pizza traditionally Italian or Neapolitan, the most important factor is that everything is homemade.
From the base being made from scratch to the sauce being cooked from fresh tomatoes, traditionally Italian and Neapolitan pizzas have a generous helping of complimenting herbs such as basil.
Also, the way that they are cooked makes a huge difference as the base, sauce and toppings are all cooked separately rather than cooked altogether. If you want to have pizza the Italian way, it’s best to avoid buying frozen pizzas from the supermarket!
Traditionally, Margherita pizza is the most popular type of pizza because it is the simplest and easiest to prepare. However, over the years there have been lots of toppings to compliment pizzas and create new types of pizzas.
A very popular choice is the Pizza carretiera which has tomato sauce, pepperoncini, salsiccia, rapini and smoked provolone cheese. This pizza has become known as the pizza salsiccia e frairielli and is one of the most popular pizzas in Naples.
The great thing about pizza is that you can customize your pizza with whatever toppings you want that suit your taste whether you like a simple pizza or spicy, there are plenty of toppings to choose from.
As mentioned earlier in the article, there are an endless amount of topping combinations that can suit any dietary requirement and taste which is why pizza remains one of the most popular dishes in the world.
What are the most authentic Italian/Neapolitan toppings?
So you have the basic pizza sorted and now you have to consider the toppings. The best thing about pizza is that you can experiment with different topping combinations to find which one you like the most.
However, if you are wanting to venture down that Italian and Neapolitan route then there are certain toppings to look out for.
As we have discussed, the most popular topping is the simple cheese, tomato sauce and basil, however, just because the simple choice is the number one pizza order doesn’t mean you have to keep it simple.
Pizza is a huge component of many cheese-lovers’ lives and what better way to prepare your meal than to go for the Quattro Formaggi which translates to the Four Cheeses. It is what it says on the tin.
A combination of four cheeses are mixed together for the topping and end up bringing a burst of flavor that requires no further toppings. When it comes to what cheese to incorporate into the pizza, it is completely up to you.
The most popular cheeses that people go for are: fontina, gorgonzola, mozzarella, parmigiano, provolone, reggiano and stracchino. As said before, however, the choice of cheeses are completely up to you.
For those who like to add a couple of toppings, you can also go for a Prosciutto e funghi which translates to ham and mushroom. The ideal pick for those who want toppings without overwhelming the pizza, ham and mushroom is a frequent combination seen in Italian cooking.
You can choose whether to add cooked or raw ham which is placed onto the top when the pizza is ready. Always remember that traditional Italian and Neapolitan pizzas are made with the different elements cooked apart. So always layer the sauce and toppings separately.
Finally, this pizza is for the ones who like something a bit different, the Quattro Stagioni is the ideal pick for those who simply cannot decide. Known as the Four Seasons pizza, this pizza is split into four quarters with each quarter having a different single topping, specifically ham, mushrooms, artichokes and black olives.
This is a great choice if you are making a pizza for others and are unsure of which topping they like. To keep it as traditional as possible, always make sure that the toppings don’t spill into the wrong section on the pizza as it will lose its unique touch.
Why make your pizza from scratch?
When it comes to what kind of pizza and the toppings to go for, there is a huge range of options that you could go for. Whether you like to keep things simple or you want an array of toppings, you can have whatever suits your taste and still make it in the traditional Italian or Neapolitan way.
The important part of making your pizzas as traditional as possible is ensuring that everything is cooked from scratch, especially the base and the sauce has to be made using fresh tomatoes.
With pizza being one of the most popular servings at restaurants and takeaways, mass production in pizza has seen a huge increase meaning that people can buy a ton of frozen pizzas for a really good price. However, despite the marketing of these companies, the freshness that comes with traditionally made pizzas is lost.
So whether you’re making the pizza for yourself or for other people, always try to consider the dietary requirements as well as what toppings they may like.
Use our article for inspiration and if you are wanting to change the slightest thing, always research further to see if the recipe needs changing and remember to have fun with it. Whether you are a cooking novice or an expert looking to try something new then pizzas are a great and fun way to incorporate something classic and popular into your lifestyle without having to compromise your budget or dietary requirements.