LA VERA PIZZA NAPOLETANA
The True Neapolitan Pizza
During our trip to Italy, we visited one of the oldest pizzerias in Naples, Sorbillo, where people queue around the block to sample their classic pizza margherita.
The origins of the word ‘pizza’ are debatable: it could come from the Latin word pinsa or from the Middle Eastern pita or pitta (both meaning ‘flatbread’). Early pizza consisted of a dough, made into a flatbread, used by bakers to test the oven temperature. Filling and portable, it was a staple of cucina povera, sold in the streets of Naples in the 18th and 19th centuries. It gradually acquired toppings, among them tomatoes, and became a popular snack (although it was reviled by many).
In 1889 a famous Neapolitan pizzamaker, Raffaele Esposito, made a pizza for Queen Margherita, topping it with the colours of the Italian flag, using tomato, basil and mozzarella. The pizza was a hit with the Queen and, after the emigrations of the 1950s and 1960s, the rest of the world! Now Italians consume around 7m pizzas a day.
500g strong plain flour, plus extra for dusting
10g fresh yeast
325ml lukewarm water
a few dried breadcrumbs for sprinkling
300g tinned plum tomatoes
salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
25g Parmesan, freshly grated
a few basil leaves or some dried oregano
150g mozzarella, roughly chopped
Makes 2 large pizzas
Preheat the oven to 250°C/Gas 9. Put the flour and salt in a large bowl. Dissolve the yeast in the lukewarm water and gradually add to the flour, mixing well until you obtain a dough. If you find the dough too sticky, just add a little more flour. Shape the dough into a ball and leave to rest, covered with a cloth, for 5 minutes. Knead the dough for 8–10 minutes and split it in half. Knead each of the pieces for a couple of minutes and shape into balls. Sprinkle some flour on a clean kitchen cloth and place the dough on it, then cover with a slightly damp cloth. Leave to rise in a warm place for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, place the tomatoes in a bowl, crush them slightly with a fork, season and mix well. Sprinkle some flour on a clean work surface and spread the dough into a circle about 35–40cm in diameter, making it as thin as a pancake (being careful not to tear it), with the border slightly thicker. Repeat with the other dough ball. Sprinkle a few breadcrumbs on two large baking trays and place the pizza bases on them.
Spread a little of the tomato evenly over each base – not too much, or the pizzas will be soggy. Drizzle with the olive oil, sprinkle over the Parmesan, add a few basil leaves or sprinkle over some oregano and top with pieces of mozzarella cheese. Place in the oven for 7 minutes (a couple of minutes longer if you prefer your pizza crisp). Remove from the oven, drizzle with some more olive oil and consume immediately.
Photograph copyright Chris Terry. Two Greedy Italians by Antonio Carluccio and Gennaro Contaldo is out now in hardback published by Quadrille Publishing. The second book in the series, Eat Italy, is also out now.