Pizza Recipes that Pop


Pizza is a staple of the America diet. Most people’s familiarity with it comes from national chains that feature assorted toppings, a 2 liter-sized soft drink, and delivery in warp speed.

However, when you grow up Italian-American, pizza is much more than the meal deal of the week; it is part of a cultural heritage that not only transcends an ocean, it defies time, linking generations. It is considered such a cultural treasure that one regional variation has actually been given the equivalent of a U.S. trademark.

Neapolitans took their pizza seriously enough to form an association, called the Verace Pizza Napoletana (True Neapolitan Pizza), to preserve the standards of the Neapolitan Pizza. They’ve succeeded in having it declared a “DOC” (denominazione di orgine controllata — denomination of controlled origin) product by the Italian government. That means that its name, like Chianti and Prosciutto di Parma, can’t be used unless the pizza is made according to certain standards. The Association’s purpose for setting up these standards for making authentic Neapolitan pizza is to ensure its simplicity. The dough can only be made with finely ground flour, yeast, and water, and it must be shaped by hand, without the use of a rolling pin. The pizza must be cooked on the floor of a wood-burning oven, not in a pan. Only four variations are allowed: the Margherita, with tomato, olive oil, grated Parmesan, and mozzarella; the Marinara, with tomato, olive oil, oregano, and garlic; formaggio e pomodoro (cheese and tomato), with tomato, olive oil, and grated Parmesan; and the ripieno, a calzone filled with ricotta or mozzarella, olive oil, and salami. All of these variations are permitted to have basil leaves.

Here is the traditional recipe for the Neapolitan Pizza crust:

Neapolitan Pizza Crust
(Reprinted with permission from The Basic Art of Italian Cooking, Maria Liberati, art of Living, PrimaMedia, Inc.; 1 edition October 26, 2005)


1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1 1/4 cups warm water (be sure that the water is warm- not hot or cold)
1 teaspoon salt
Pinch of sugar
2 cups of flour
2 tablespoons of olive oil, divided

Baking Instructions:

1. Dissolve the yeast in the warm water. (For this recipe, Maria suggests that you add more water than the amount listed on the yeast package.) Add salt and a pinch of sugar and mix lightly with your fingers.
2. Make a “well” in the center of the flour. Pour yeast mixture and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil into the middle of the flour. Pull a small amount of flour at a time into the center of the bowl and mix it into the liquid with your hands.
3. As you knead the dough, you may need to add a small amount of warm water to it, so keep some close by. Work the dough well with your hands, pushing and turning it until it becomes a firm ball and all of the flour is absorbed. It should be sticky and similar to elastic in texture.
4. Dust a large mixing bowl with flour and place dough in the bowl. Set aside in a warm place and allow the dough to rise for two hours or until it has doubled in size. Punch down the dough and divide into four equal pieces. Form each piece into a disc shaped round and place on a pizza sheet. Allow to rise a second time until each disc has doubled in size.
5. When the discs have doubled in size, punch down the one you will be using and shape it to cover a round baking sheet. (Wrap the others tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 2 hours.) Add the toppings from any of the variations listed above, except for the basil leaves, and bake at 475° for 10-12 minutes. Remove from the oven, and top with basil leaves.

The Pizza Margherita is steeped in Italian history. Chef Raffaele Esposito is believed to have named the pizza after Queen Margherita, who was the Queen consort of the Kingdom of Italy during the reign of her husband, Umberto I, from 1878 to 1900. Esposito created the pizza in 1889, using red tomatoes, green basil, and white cheese, which are the colors of the Italian flag:

Pizza Margherita
(Reprinted with permission from The Basic Art of Italian Cooking, Maria Liberati, art of Living, PrimaMedia, Inc.; 1 edition October 26, 2005)


2 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 lb. tomatoes, crushed
1/2 tsp. salt
Enough dough to make a pizza pie about 12″ around and roughly 1/8 – 1/4 inches thick (most bread machines have a pizza dough setting).
6 oz. fresh mozzarella cheese, shredded
6 fresh basil leaves cut into julienne strips
extra virgin olive oil

Baking Instructions:
1. Let olive oil, tomatoes, and salt marinate in bowl while making the dough.
2. Flatten dough out with hands and lightly rub with some olive oil. Remember to flatten the dough evenly and thinly to ensure it will rise appropriately.
3. Turn the edges of the dough up slightly and top with tomatoes and mozzarella, then sprinkle some olive oil on top.
4. Preheat oven to 450F and bake on pizza stone (clay stone) for about 15 minutes or until crust is golden brown and cheese is bubbly.
5. Top pizza with basil leaves after removing it from the oven.
6. Allow pizza to cool, then cut into slices and enjoy.

This last recipe is for Pizza Bianca, or “white” pizza. The crust is made from basic pizza dough (see Neapolitan Pizza Crust recipe). There are two variations of the authentic Pizza Bianca: top it with just olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper, or add fresh mozzarella in addition to the other ingredients.

These three recipes represent the essence of real Italian cooking — simple, fresh ingredients that are found locally. They are prepared in kitchens on either side of the Atlantic according to time-honored traditions, creating the stuff from which many a happy childhood memory has been made.

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