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A Passion For Pizza 1
A Passion For Pizza 2

A Passion For Pizza

Whether it is thin crust, thick crust, stuffed, rolled, topped with a dozen ingredients or served simply with tomato and cheese, there are few people who do not appreciate good pizza, myself included. Pizza, or flatbreads have actually been around for centuries, but today's style of pizza can be traced back to the 18th century when vendors roamed the streets of Naples selling pieces of garnished flatbread to the poor. Once the Italians accepted the use of cooking with tomatoes, pizza began to evolve into what we call pizza today.

It is said that the famous Margherita pizza from Naples, considered the "true" pizza by many, came about when Queen Margherita, while traveling through Italy, fell in love with the garnished flatbreads being sold to the poor. She summoned a baker named Raphelle to bake her a selection of pizzas to try. One version, consisting of tomatoes, mozzarella and fresh basil to honor the colors of the Italian flag, became her favorite, and was named to honor her appreciation for pizza. Pizza Margherita is still a favorite pizza choice in Italy today.

While living in Italy, I learned to love the thin-crusted pizza cooked in wood burning ovens that does not resemble the pizza sold in chain restaurants here in the US in any way. While the Italian pizza consists of a few, fresh ingredients on a tasty, thin crust, the American version consumed here, is often packed with multiple ingredients, laden with a layer of heavy cheese, and prepared with a much thicker crust. Although you may not always be able to find a pizzeria that specializes in cooking their pizzas in wood burning ovens here in the US, you may be surprised that you can make something very similar, which is extremely tasty, in mere minutes at home. I am talking about grilled pizza; a technique that once mastered will produce a pizza so tasty you will never send out for one again!

For the best flavor, it is best to grill your pizza on a charcoal or wood fire, although I do use a gas grill with good results. Build your fire on one side of the grill, so you have a cooler side to move the pizza to once the toppings are added. Be careful when stretching the dough not to create holes, which will cause the dough to burn in parts. I find it easiest to move the dough on and off the grill using a bread peel, sprinkled with cornmeal to prevent sticking.

My Pizza Dough Recipe makes 8 individual pizzas, and the dough can be frozen, thawed and used with great results. I always have some on hand, and can defrost it in the microwave in minutes if needed. Follow my directions for Grilled Pizza , and consider trying many of the Pizza Topping selections offered. Although I do enjoy a good Pizza Margherita , my personal favorite is a pizza without tomato sauce called Pizza Bianca . It is simply a tasty crust topped with slices of thin prosciutto, peppery arugula, and shavings of parmesan cheese.

In Part Two , you'll find a discussion of thick crust pizzas, oven baked pizzas, dough variations and stuffed pizzas or calzones.

Buon Appetito!
Deborah Mele 2002