For centuries, Italian cooks created flatbreads with savory toppings and baked them golden brown in stone ovens. They called these scrumptious treats “pizza”, which is the Italian word for “pie”. These were made in bakeries called pizzerias and pizza become popular fare sold by Italian street vendors.
A pizzeria owner named Raffaele Exposito is credited for our modern pizza. According to the story, he created a pizza for a royal couple visiting Naples in the 1880s. He used white mozzarella, green basil leaves and red tomatoes as a topping to represent the colors of the Italian flag. The tasty dish was such a hit with the royals that Exposito names the pizza after the visiting Queen Margherita. Even today, classic Margherita pizza (also called Neapolitan) uses the same ingredients.
This was the beginning of a global love affair with pizza. When Italian immigrants came to America’s shores, they brought their beloved pizza recipes. Pizzerias opened in metropolitan cities like New York and Chicago. After World War II, pizza was popularized across America as a delicious meal option. Home-delivered pizza soon became the norm. Grocery stores offered frozen pizzas that families could just heat in the oven and serve.
As with any dish, pizza recipes were given regional spins to create unique varieties. If you and your family are die-hard pizza fans like me, you know what you like on your pizza and won’t settle for less. Many families have a dedicated pizza night each week to enjoy their favorite pizza pie. Instead ordering another greasy delivery pizza or heating up a bland frozen one, why not try homemade pizza?
Many home cooks shy away from homemade pizza because they think that pizza dough and tomato sauce are too complicated and time-consuming. Once I share how easy & yummy scratch-made pizza is, you may rarely order delivery pizza again! Plus, you control the ingredients and portions and can make your family pizzas according to preference.
Let’s consider the common varieties of pizza in America
Classic Neapolitan This is the Mother Pizza that created America’s pizza cravings. It hasn’t changed much since Mr. Exposito created it in his Naples pizzeria in the late 19th century. The golden crust is thin & crispy with minimal toppings of tomato sauce, buffalo mozzarella and fresh basil leaves. It is traditionally made in a wood-burning oven. Most thin crusts are versions of the Neapolitan.
Regional Thin Crust Versions Some pizza enthusiasts insist that thin crusts (like the Neapolitan) is the best way to make a pizza. At the beginning of the 20th century, Italian-American pizzerias in New York put a spin on their traditional thin-crust pizzas. New York-style pizza has a delightfully thin & crisp crust with light toppings. They were some of the first pizza styles that incorporated pepperoni, another Italian-American creation. Chicago-style Thin Crust has a spicier sauce, is usually meat-forward and cut into squares rather than triangles. St. Louis-Style has a thin cracker crust and is topped by provel cheese instead of mozzarella.
Sicilian Deep-Dish Style The pizza developed in Sicily in the mid-19th century traveled to America, where it become popular in the New England states. It is a classic deep-dish pizza made in a square baking pan. Sicilian pizzas are often topped with savory sauce, meats and sharp cheeses. Chicago Deep-Dish pizza is an iconic Sicilian-American version of its Sicilian cousin. It was invented in a Chicago pizzeria back in the 1940s. It has a heavy layer of sauce, cheese & veggies that will satisfy anyone’s pizza appetite.
These basic pizza types have endless recipe & topping variations. While most pizza fans will agree that pizza should have crust, sauce, and fresh toppings, they have their own ideas to what makes the perfect pizza. Some purists will argue that a true pizza can only be made in a wood-fired stone oven.
Your imagination is the only limits for creating a scrumptious homemade pizza for your family. Here are some of my best tips & tricks for making pizzeria-quality pies in your kitchen.
- Crust - Homemade pizza dough uses a few basic ingredients and is easy to make. It takes a little time to rise then it is ready to use. Pizza dough freezes well, so you can make a double batch to have some for another meal.
- Sauce - Basic pizza sauce uses crushed tomatoes, Italian-style herbs & spices and a little olive oil. After it simmers and reduces, it tastes better than anything you could buy in a jar. Pizza sauce freezes well in individual servings, too.
- Cheese - For the ultimate pizza, don’t settle for shredded cheese product in a bag. Buy genuine mozzarella, Parmesan and other cheeses and shred them yourself. You can see and taste the quality.
- Toppings - If you are not a pizza purist, there is no wrong way to top a pizza. Buy bulk sausage and flavor it to top your pizza the way you like. Experiment with different meats, veggies, cheeses, herbs & spices to find globally-inspired pizza flavors to serve to your family.
Try my easy pizza hacks and surprise your family for this week’s pizza night. Consider some of my quick & easy recipes for homemade pizza dough, sauce and classic pizza styles. Pizza night will never be the same!
Here are a few of my pizza components - I have tested all of them - they are very easy and are a perfect addition to your next pizza