One of the most favored foods to come out of Italy is, of course, the pizza. And Neapolitan pizza is THE original pizza. As you might imagine, with their home being the birth place of pizza and all, Neapolitans take their pizza making very seriously. As a matter of fact the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana or the True Neapolitan Pizza Association, founded in 1984, with the mission to “promote and protect in Italy and worldwide the ‘true Neapolitan pizza.’ ” The AVPN has an 11 page document outlining the rules for correctly producing an authentic and true Neapolitan pizza! Now that is taking you’re pizza seriously. Am I right friends?
A classic Neapolitan is a fairly simple pizza in some ways, the dough is made with flour, water, salt, and yeast only. No oils or sugar which show up in other pizza making traditions. Yet the crust it yields is amazing.”Thin, thin layer of crispness to the crust, followed by an interior that is moist, poofy, and cloud-like with good, stretchy chew, and plenty of flavor. Even browning is not what you’re looking for. Rather, you want a leopard-spotted look, with many small dark spots surrounded by paler dough.” –Serious Eats, Pizza Lab
Classic Neapolitans are also topped fairly simply. In fact, “Purists, like the famous pizzeria “Da Michele” on Via C.Sersale, consider there to be only two true pizzas – the “Marinara” and the “Margherita” and that is all they serve. The Marinara is the oldest and has a topping of tomato, oregano, garlic, extra virgin olive oil and usually basil. The Margherita, is simply tomato sauce, mozzarella di bufala, fresh basil, and extra virgin olive oil.” –Famoso Neapolitan Pizzeria According to Marcella Hazan in her Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking the Margherita was invented to please Queen Margherita of Italy when she visited Naples.
Regardless of the exact origin of toppings clearly Neapolitan pizza is different then what you generally see in America. And is unfortuantly difficult to reproduce authentically, even if you don’t follow the 11 pages of documentation. Long lists of rules aside there are really two major reasons that this type of pizza is so difficult to produce:
- An authentic Neapolitan pizza has a pretty specific ingredient list even if you’re not a purest including,” ‘00’ flour (highly refined Italian flour), San Marzano tomatoes (grown in volcanic soil surrounding Mount Vesuvius, and are less acidic and slightly sweeter than other tomatoes), and Mozzarella di Bufala or Fior-di-Latte (fresh mozzarella made with either buffalo milk or cow milk).” –Famoso Neapolitan Pizzeria
- An authentic Neapolitan pizza is cooked in a special domed wood fired oven at very high temperatures. Think 900 plus degrees! (Which most of us don’t have access to at home… And you don’t necessarily even see wood fired ovens in restaurants, probably due to the expense of installing them.)
Fortunately there is a trick for the home pizza maker that will produce a really fantastic pizza that is certainly not 100% authentic, but I feel is definitely is made in the spirit of the Neapolitan style.
Introducing the skillet method.
(Now I say skillet, but I should mention you can in fact use any heavy bottomed skillet, cast iron pan, etc. But I’m loving the results I get with a skillet style grill pan. They just seem to be the perfect weight, thickness, etc. to produce really great results.)
So in a nutshell, this adaptation works with any type of pizza dough you like, and produces a result much like you would see at a pizzeria that has specialized equipment. For today’s recipe, were going to make a variation on a traditional Neapolitan pizza dough, roll it out, and use the skillet to cook in a conventional oven using the broil feature. The skillet helps to produce a crispness to the crust that is otherwise hard to achieve at home. And using broil mimics the very hot temperatures of a professional pizza oven. And on the plus side, this is super east, and cooks really fast!
You can top your dough with the traditional Neapolitan toppings of the Marinara or the Margherita to stay a little truer to a real Neapolitan pie. But don’t be afraid to branch out because this dough and method produces a fantastic pizza with almost any topping you can imagine. I personally made a Margherita and a good ole’ pepperoni. Both were happily devoured by my family.
I know we’re working on an Italian food tour right now, but I do want take a quick second to make at least a quick mention of the fact that Neapolitan pizza has lead to quite the pizza branch out world wide. Americans have enthusiastically adopted pizza to be their own and we feel pretty darn passionate about our pizza too. Though I have to admit, I’m not sure if we’ve formed any organizations to ensure correct pizza making techniques. Regardless, American pizza traditions like NY style, and Chicago deep dish are certainly worthy of some love’n. Personally, pizza and I go waaay back. I was trained at a very early age by my Dad to be a connoisseur of pizzas in all forms. Just gimme a slice be it NY, Chicago, or the original Neapolitan.
NY style and Chicago deep dish recipes to be addressed someday…. But for now give this Skillet method a try.
P.S. I should mention that in the photos above my Margherita is not in the traditional Neapolitan shape. I was making two pizzas at once, and needed to use both my skillets, one of which was, well, not round. I believe that pizzas of this shape are often referred to as Sicilian..
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