Our regional guide to Italy’s best traditional pizza toppings
Pizza may have become the planet’s go-to fast food over the decades, but in a world of stuffed crusts and Chicken Sezchuan toppings, not to mention any kind of combo involving pineapple, you need to go back to the country where it all began to remember just how good simple authentic pizza can be.
From the top of its calf to the tip of its stiletto heel, Italy boasts a mouth-watering array of regional pizza variations, yet what they hold in common is the effortless ability to transform a flat bread and a couple of readily available fresh ingredients into a culinary sensation.
To celebrate Maws launch of artisanal pizza doughs from Millennium Foods, we thought we’d take a tantalising tour of Italy’s favourite regional pizzas.
Let’s begin with pizza so simple it’s culinary Zen. To the untrained eye, pizza Bianca is just the base – but for the connoisseur that’s the whole point. Perfectly roasted dough is splashed with luscious extra virgin olive oil, dashed with a generous pinch of sea salt and garnished with a little fresh rosemary. Sometimes they go mad and bake in a courgette flower.
From Naples, the coastal city where it all began, the classic Margherita is literally pizza royalty (named in honour of the Queen of Italy, Margherita of Savoy). From the first bite you’ll be wondering how this simple trinity of dough, tomato, and cheese can taste so sublime. The answer is first to lovingly hand-stretch type 00 wheat-flour dough until a paper-thin white disk is formed, douse this with a sauce made from San Marzano tomatoes raised in the volcanic soil of Mount Vesuvius, before scattering with fresh cubes of mozzarella made from the milk of the wild water buffalo roaming the marshlands of Campania. Bake in a wood-fired oven for roughly 30 seconds, remove and garnish with local olive oil and fresh basil, then revel in just how far removed this pizza is from those languishing in your local supermarket’s frozen food aisle.
The second Neopolitan classic is just as simple and every bit as delicious as the Margherita. Given the name ‘marinara’ thanks to the poverty stricken sailors who favoured this cheap, filling and tasty foodstuff during the early 18th century, the marinara is topped with nothing more than tomato sauce, oregano and garlic, all ingredients which could be well preserved while at sea.
The pizza dough in Rome is crisp and dense – perfect for holding a variety for toppings, and a Roman specialty that delivers plenty is the Capricciosa. This delectable slice loads tomato and mozzarella with Italian baked ham, mushrooms, artichoke hearts. Surprisingly, pizza didn’t really catch on in Rome until after WWII, but this mouth-watering variation (often served with the addition of black olives or chopped hard boiled egg) was invented in the early 1950s by Enea Dante Santerini, owner of Roman restaurant La Capricciosa, and undoubtedly helped pizza gain popularity in the capital.
PIZZA ALL’ ANDREA
Before Christopher Columbus (possibly the world’s most famous Ligurian) had discovered The New World, another seafarer from this ribbon-shaped coastal region of northwest Italy is thought to have created the country’s earliest pizza dish - and as this one predates Columbus’ introduction of the newly-found tomato to Europe, the authentic version is entirely sauce free. Supposedly created by admiral Andrea Doria (1466-1560) what this sublime pizza (sometimes called a Sardinaria) does boast is a delectable mixture of olive oil, garlic and plump salted anchovies – the perfect slice for tucking into while enjoying the spectacular sea views along the Italian Riviera.
PIZZA DI SFRIGOLE
This speciality of the Abruzzo region (halfway along Italy’s Adriatic coast) is a dish that even Italian pizza veterans still get over-excited about. It’s also near impossible to find anywhere else despite the fact that the recipe, though decadent, is ingeniously straightforward. A standard pizza dough is made to begin with, but then infused with shreds of smoked lard and filled with fatty and lean chunks of prosciutto. As it bakes, the lard and ham fat melts into the dough, giving it an almost pastry texture. What’s left are lean bits of prosciutto fused into pizza dough that delivers salty, crispy bliss that you can find in virtually every bakery in Abruzzo.
There is a strong pizza tradition on the island of Sicily but you’ll be leaving the light and crisp world of Roman and Neopolitan pizza far behind. Welcome instead to the deep and doughy sfincione, a pillowy rectangular slab that has almost as much in common with focaccia, and is traditionally topped with onions, tomatoes, anchovies, herbs and strong regional southern cheeses such as caciocavallo and provolone. The Sicillian capital Palermo is abuzz with pizza joints serving up sfincione, offering the perfect way to soak up an excess of Negroni, Sicily’s equally delicious Campari-based aperitif.
For adding authentic regional Italian flavours to your pizza; Maws supply prosciutto (whole and sliced), grilled marinated artichokes, marinated anchovy fillets, fresh peeled garlic, pitted black olives,merchant gourmet extra virgin olive oil, and more…