What is a Neapolitan Style Pizza?
A Neapolitan Style Pizza is a certified, authentic pizza that originated in Naples, Italy. It represents the colors of Italy’s flag with red from San Marzona tomatoes, green from basil, and mozzarella making up white. Only specific ingredients may be used in an authentic Neapolitan pizza.
Pizza originated in Italy, but every country has adopted and made pizza their own. Surprisingly, Norway is the country that consumes the most pizza globally! Neapolitan style pizza is widely recognized as the original Italian pizza, though; the one that started it all.
Certified Neapolitan Pizza
The Italians take their cuisine, like pizzas, very seriously. In 1984, the citizens of Naples founded the non-profit organization known as the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana, or AVPN for short, based in Naples.
The AVPN is there to preserve the history, authentication, simplicity, and tradition of the recipe handed down from generation to generation. The association created a set of fundamental rules to determine what may or may not be called an authentic Neapolitan Pizza. These rules and guidelines were designed to protect the Neapolitan style pizza and its various ingredients.
The AVPN certification is not a way to control restaurants and pizzerias. It ensures that the traditions, styles, and techniques developed in Naples centuries ago will continue to be kept and preserved for future generations. This way, you will always get an authentic Neapolitan style pizza if you look for it.
Ingredients of True Neapolitan Pizza
Even the ingredients of Neapolitan pizza are aggressively regulated and protected by the AVPN since it is essential to stay true to the tradition and history of the Neapolitan pizza. It has a thin-based crust that should bubble up from air pockets in the dough.
The ingredients on the pizza consist of a simple but fresh tomato sauce, some of the best and freshest mozzarella cheese, and finally, fresh basil and virgin olive oil on top.
Preparing the Dough
The dough used for the Neapolitan style pizza consists of type 0 or 00 flour, water, salt, and yeast. Either fresh beer yeast, mother yeast, or dry yeast may be used. Type 0 or 00 flour has a higher protein content, thus ensuring that the dough is more elastic since the protein helps stretch the dough in its final stages before going into the wood fire oven.
According to the AVPN, it is preferable to use ingredients only from the Campania regions in the south of Italy. While this is not a hard rule, it is strongly recommended in order to achieve the perfect combination of tastes of a Neapolitan style pizza.
The Campania region is known for its nutrient-rich soil and abundant pastureland, making it the ideal destination for any food lover. Campania is also home to the water buffalo, the milk of which is used to produce the famous “Mozzarella di Bufala,” a crucial component in Neapolitan pizzas.
The required Neapolitan toppings are as follows (and ideally to be acquired from the Campania regions):
- Tomato Base – You should preferably use fresh tomatoes chopped into thin slices. If you must, you can use peeled tomatoes from the can, but then you have to crush them by hand and ensure that the tomatoes are not too dense. There should still be chunks left after crushing them. The tomatoes should ideally become a sauce-like base that covers the entire pizza. There should also be more sauce than cheese on the pizza to get the most flavor from it.
- Cheese Topping – Slices of Buffalo Mozzarella cheese (Mozzarella di Bufala Campana) is the preferred cheese to use. You can also use strips of Fior di Latte Agerola (a type of cow’s milk cheese).
- Fresh Basil – Even though fresh basil is only a condiment topping, the basil flavor will infuse every part of the pizza. It is one of the Neapolitan pizza’s most prominent flavors.
- Olive Oil – Extra virgin olive oil (preferably also from the Campania region) should be poured over the pizza after all the other toppings have been packed or sprinkled. Pour the olive oil over the pizza in a spiral pattern. Apart from the Margherita, Pizza Marinara is also recognized as authentic Neapolitan style pizza. Its ingredients are tomato, garlic, oregano, and extra virgin olive oil.
Cooking a Neapolitan Pizza
The final step in preparing a Neapolitan style pizza is to bake it. Traditionally a Neapolitan pizza is baked in a wood-fired oven or a portable outdoor pizza oven for around 60 to 90 seconds at a temperature of approximately 850 to 900 degrees fahrenheit (or 454 to 482 degrees celsius). The high temperature and quick cooking time will cause the edges to become toasty and bubbly while leaving the middle part thin and soggy due to the tomato sauce.
Using a wood-fired oven or a portable outdoor pizza oven isn’t always possible, which is a problem since most modern ovens only reach around 550 degrees fahrenheit (or 288 degrees celsius). It is possible to use other oven types, but then you either have to increase the baking time or use a pizza stone for added heat (this is ideal).
The History of Neapolitan Style Pizza
Neapolitan style pizza originated in Naples, Italy, established by Greek settlers four thousand years ago. Since Naples has one of Italy’s oldest ports, new types of food were constantly being introduced there.
Pizza first arrived in Naples in the early 18th century. Initially, it was just a piece of flatbread slathered in pork fat. The citizens of Naples started to top this flatbread with olive oil, cheese, and various condiments.
Tomatoes were thought to be poisonous when they arrived in Naples in the late 1700s. Impoverished citizens eventually risked eating them, desperate with hunger, and found that tomatoes were tasty when combined with flatbread.
The breakthrough for pizza came when the rulers of Italy visited Naples in 1889. Queen Margherita wanted to try this specialty food. A famous pizza maker, Raffaele Esposito, made her three types of pizzas.
The patriotic Queen Margherita preferred the pizza with tomatoes, basil, mozzarella, and olive oil since the colors reminded her of Italy’s flag – this is why the pizza is popularly called the Margherita today. After this, pizza became a popular dish served all over Italy.
Neapolitan Style Pizza in the United States
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, many immigrants came to the US from Italy. Large communities of these immigrants formed in New York. These Italians missed the food of their native country.
In 1905, a former baker from Naples named Gennaro Lombardi started selling pizza. He founded the first pizzeria in the U.S. on Spring Street in Manhattan. They made and sold Neapolitan pizzas to homesick Italian immigrants.
As other cultures also developed a taste for the pizzas, Lombardi eventually started adding different toppings, and thus he is credited for creating the New York Style Pizza. This original New York pizzeria still exists today, known as Lombardi’s.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Neapolitan Pizza Crispy?
Neapolitan pizza should be crispy on the outside but slightly soggy on the inside due to the sauce.
How Can I Make the Best Neapolitan Pizza Dough?
Use only type 0 or 00 flour, water, salt, and yeast.
Is Neapolitan Pizza Vegetarian?
Neapolitan pizza contains only vegetarian ingredients. The only animal product is the cheese coating.
What is Neapolitan Pizza Sauce?
The sauce is made using only fresh tomatoes, basil, and olive oil.