Thick, thin, deep fried, gourmet…. who cares as long as it’s pizza! This icon of Italian national gastronomy celebrates its National Day on the 9th of February, to the delight of pizza lovers all over the world.
Keep reading for some curious facts on pizza, and some inspiration for the toppings!
- The first incarnation of pizza is believed to have been invented by the Etruscan civilization. According to the latest linguistic research, the word pizza may derive from the Latin verb pinsa, which means to pound or to crush, referring to the classic shape of this famous dish.
- Pizza as we know it today was first created in Naples in the late 1800s, and the ingredients in the well-loved Margherita (which takes its name from Queen Margherita) symbolise the colours of the Italian flag: basil, mozzarella and tomato sauce.
- Pizza gained popularity in the US before it did in Italy! This interesting fact was unearthed in the 70s by anthropologist Agehananda Bharati, who named it The Pizza Effect. In sociology, the Pizza Effect is defined as “the phenomenon of elements of a nation’s or people’s culture being transformed or at least more fully embraced elsewhere, then re-imported to their culture of origin, or the way in which a community’s self-understanding is influenced by foreign sources”.
- The first pizzeria to start selling pizza online was PizzaHut in 1994.
- Pizza can be a very healthy meal! With the right choice of toppings and good quality ingredients such as grilled vegetables or the classic Margherita (we need to ditch the pepperoni on this occasion, I’m afraid) pizza can offer you all the amazing benefits of the Mediterranean diet!
And speaking of toppings, we are all familiar with the heated debate surrounding pineapple on pizza, and we have all been aware of a number of bizarre toppings (apparently in Sweden banana and kiwi is a popular combination…) but what are the most famous pizza toppings in Italy?
- Tuna and red onion– Yes, you have it right, this pizza is one of the staples in every Italian Pizzeria. As a matter of fact, it was my favourite when I was a child!
- White pizza (no tomato sauce) with pistachios, mortadella and burrata. Delicate and considered to be a gourmet version, this pizza has recently gained a lot of popularity.
- Capricciosa- Another Italian classic, the name of this pizza means “capricious” because every pizzaiolo reserves the right to choose the ingredients according to his “whim”. The toppings usually include prosciutto cotto, artichokes and black olives.
- Marinara- A well known pizza with tomato sauce (no mozzarella!) and anchovies.
- Americana- The first time I saw this pizza listed on a menu here in the UK I got very excited…this pizza is a children’s favourite and is topped with chips and sometimes wurstel.
- Chicory and sausage- A classic from northern Italy this pizza is usually seasonal and typical of the colder season.
- Pumpkin, gorgonzola and pancetta- Another delicious seasonal combination, the pumpkin is pureed and is used instead of tomato sauce
- Quattro stagioni- Literally “Four Seasons” this pizza is topped with 4 ingredients that symbolise the 4 seasons: mushrooms to represent Autumn, ham and olives correspond to Winter, artichokes for Spring and finally tomatoes and basil for Summer. There can be some variety in toppings depending on the pizzeria.
- Diavola. Often mistaken for pepperoni pizza, this fiery pizza is topped with Italian salamino piccante (spicy salami), typical of central and southern Italian regions and sometimes is served with a drizzle of chilli oil on top.
- Fried pizza. Not the best for the diet, but absolutely delicious, this pizza has become a classic street food in Naples and looks more like a calzone, usually filled with ricotta cheese, mozzarella and salami. Here’s what it looks like.
Whatever your favourite pizza may be, National Pizza Day is the perfect occasion to order some…or make it yourself!
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Kumud Gandhi is a Nutritional Food Scientist bestselling Author, Broadcaster, and Keynote Speaker on the subject of nutritional health for productivity & performance in the workplace. In 2010 Kumud founded ‘The Cooking Academy’ a cookery school that focusses on cooking for nutritional health and wellbeing. Kumud regularly presents to international audiences on a variety of topics such as ‘Eating for Immunity and a Lifetime of Wellness’. She is an expert in the field of Wellness in the Workplace and works with organizations to create transformational change in employee health & well-being through nutrition and health coaching.