By Neelima Agrawal
Step on any continent, and you can’t get very far without bumping into a pizza lover. The irresistible smell and sight of a fresh warm pizza with the golden cheese melts the steeliest of will power. The mega pizza chains that churn out and deliver billions of dollars’ worth of Pizzas at your doorstep have adapted, modified, and tweaked the dish to suit the local flavors in every country, with its assortment of toppings and sauces. Somewhere along the way, in the convenience of automation and assembly line production was lost the real essence of what made for a great Italian pizza in the first place. There was also a scare about a robotic company working on 3D printed pizzas. Pizza making is actually an art form that originated in Naples. The exacting skill of pizza making, right from kneading, to twirling and baking is handed down across generations. A movement was started a few years ago, to bring back the spotlight on the Neapolitan pizza. In response, the UN cultural body’s World Heritage Committee, at its recent annual meeting in December 2017, held on the South Korean island of Jeju, has allocated the Neapolitan art of pizza twirling the status of ‘intangible heritage’ of Naples in Italy.
So what exactly is pizza’s history and technique? What is its culinary heritage?
Read on to find out all about the glorious Neapolitan pizza making steps.
Naples is where the pizza originated, particularly for its use of tomatoes as topping on their yeast-based flat breads. It was a popular street food, and soon became a tourist attraction by late 18th century. The two classic pizza versions are the Marinara and the Margherita. The Marinara pizza, which is much older, was the traditional food of the seafaring communities that lived by the Bay of Naples, and was cooked by the wife ‘la marinara’. It is made with a topping of tomato, oregano, garlic and extra virgin olive oil. The Margherita pizza was named after the Queen Margherita of Savoy, who visited Naples with the King Umberto 1 in 1889. It is said that the baker Raffaele Esposito served three varieties of pizza to the royal couple, but the Queen Margherita liked best the one that matched the Italian flag colours of red, green and white, with a topping of basil, tomatoes and mozzarella cheese. Thus was born the most popular variety of pizza, the Margherita pizza.
Down the years, Naples has hung fast to its pizza making tradition. Each pizza maker or ‘pizzaiolo’ grows in a community where the heritage of making pizza is handed down from master to apprentice. All these rituals grant uniqueness to this special dish. In an attempt to preserve this heritage, particularly in the face of the sundry global versions masquerading as ‘Italian pizza’, an official body was formed in 1984, the ‘Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana’ (“True Neapolitan Pizza Association“), which has defined the rules and steps of an authentic Neapolitan pizza. It dispenses with the use of rolling pins and ovens other than wood-fired domed brick ovens. The pizza maker, ‘I pizzaioli’, has to knead the dough by hand, and roll it with their fingers. As for the size of each pizza, it should not exceed 35 centimeters in diameter or be more than one-third of a centimeter thick at the center.
Here is a quick guide to the terminology in the local Italian, and the steps for making that divine pizza. The Naples pizza bases are kept soft and pliable. The secret of this pizza’s deliciousness is the union of the basic ingredients: flour, olive oil, fresh basil, buffalo milk mozzarella and organic tomato sauce.
– IMPASTO: Once the dough is ready, it is cut into pieces or PANETTI and left to rest until the dough has risen to double the size. When the yeast rises: this process is called “doppia lievitazione“, double yeast, meaning that the dough is left to rest and rise two times.
– STESURA: Spread out the dough, which is now a “panetto”.
– SCHIAFFO: The disk of dough is beaten on the bench to take the typical pizza shape.
– CONDIMENTO: create the colourful composition with white mozzarella, red tomato and green basil
– GIRO the pouring of olive oil in circular motion (rounding with olive oil ) is performed before baking.
– INFORNATA: The pizza is then baked in the WOOD OVEN.
Bring it out of the oven and dig in.