5 Jul 2012

Mamma Mia! La Pizza!

Made in Italy but loved all over the world; that’s Pizza for you! Mushrooming pizza chain outlets and stand-alone pizzerias bear testimony to the popularity of this simple flat bread with delicious toppings. Modern Pizza originated in Napoli (or Naples) in Italy, where it was a food for the poor. Its popularity spread to the upper classes with the making of the classic Margherita pizza (made in honour of Queen Margherita’s visit to Napoli). The colours of the toppings – green basil, white mozzarella cheese and red tomatoes – represented the colours of the Italian flag.
With Italian immigrants moving to different parts of the world, pizza also travelled far and wide and has been enthusiastically adopted (and adapted) in other countries. With this vast reach, pizza has undergone many changes; more often than not, it bears only a passing resemblance to the original Italian one! A recent article reported that a team from Glasgow University have developed ‘the first nutritionally balanced pizza’, which has 30% of the recommended daily amount (RDA) of calories, proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. That sounds just so wrong – especially since it contains seaweed, fruit and ‘unusual vegetable combinations’! Any takers?

Pizza has two elements – the crust and the toppings. The crust, or bottom of the pizza varies from thin to thick, from deep dish to stuffed crust, from traditional round-shaped to rectangular ones. The toppings vary widely, even within Italy – tomatoes, sausages, mushrooms, rocket, anchovies, ham... Also, apart from the usual buffalo mozzarella, gorgonzola, ricotta and stracchino cheeses are also used, especially in the Pizza Quattro Formaggi (that’s four cheese pizza). Then of course, there’s the classic American pepperoni and the Indian tandoori chicken or paneer (I’m sorry but that just doesn’t say pizza to me!). 

You can try making your own pizza crust or use store-bought pizza bases and then build your pizza. Experiment with different toppings and you’ll find yourself making pizzas more often than ordering them in! Some suggestions to get you started:
  • For store-bought pizza base, lightly roast it on a pan, topside down.
  • Spoon over a bit of olive oil and then spread the tomato paste on the top. You can try store-bought tomato paste or make some of your own. Blanch the tomatoes, peel and chop them. Heat some olive oil, fry garlic, add the tomatoes and cook down to a thick paste. Season with salt, pepper, red chilli flakes and dried herbs.
  • Lightly sauté the veggies you are using.
  • With the meats, cook them well. If you’re using sausages or salami, lightly fry them.
  • Use good quality mozzarella. You don’t need to smother the pizza with cheese.
  • Top with fresh basil for an authentic Italian flavour.
Buon Appetito!

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