It’s World Pizza Day!

Pizza lovers gather round and get yourselves (and your bellies) ready for a real treat: February 9th is National Pizza Pie day! I think we can all agree that pizza is the ultimate comfort food, the ultimate meal in one, the ultimate fast food.  The ultimate.

Americans consume 3 billion pizzas each year and it’s one of the most popular foods in the entire world, so it’s only fitting that we have a day to recognize this most glorious of foods in all its glory. 

Who invented Pizza?

Photo: Ancient mural in Naples by Nick Fewings

Pizza originated in Naples, Italy, in the 10th Century, it started off as a simple piece of flatbread covered in sauce and then liberally sprinkled with mozzarella cheese.

Technically, pizza is the original fast food. The locals wanted quick, nourishing, cheap and easily consumed food and the pizza met all these goals.  Toppings at the time mainly consisted of cheese, tomatoes, garlic and herbs and were considered cheap easily sourced and accessible.

The origins of the pizza may have been modest but it soon caught the eye of royalty, and urban legend states that when King Umberto I and Queen Margherita travelled through Naples in 1889, they caused many a raised eyebrow by asking for pizzas for dinner in place of the haute cuisine they were served.

Queen Margherita was said to be especially partial to a pizza covered in tomato sauce and mozzarella, and thus the margherita pizza was named after her. Let’s be honest, we’ve all been there- right?  You attend an upscale event with fancy food but you still stop off on the way home for a pizza? Guilty as charged!

America’s 1st Pizzeria

America’s first pizzeria, Lombardi’s, opened in 1905 in New York. Immigrants to New York from Italy in the 1940s brought even more flavors with the Sicilian and Margherita pizza and the rest is, well, pizza history.

We have all witnessed (and been part of) the true love story between Americans and pizza.  These days there are pizzerias in every state and New York has become synonymous with great pizza.

What started in Naples in the 10th Century as a simple piece of flatbread covered in mozzarella cheese and tomatoes, has now transformed to become an ever changing and evolving chameleon, beguiling nations across earth. 

Most Popular Pizza Types

These days you can pick your base type, your sauce type and your toppings, making your pizza personal to you.

It’s sometimes seems impossible to choose your pizza, there is so much to think about, the base, the size, the toppings, the ferocity (scotch bonnet chilli anyone?), the cheese.  Some of the most popular types of pizza are:

  • Deepdish – also commonly known as Chicago-style on account of its origins beginning in Chicago in the late 40s.  It is a more indulgent take on the pizza, characterized by its thick pie like crust and layers of cheese and meat.  This is not the pizza for calorie counters, or health freaks, on account of it being topped liberally with vast amounts of cheese and pepperoni.
  • Margherita – created in homage to Queen Margherita in the 1880s, this pizza is said to represent elegant simplicity, and the Italian flag with the white mozzarella, red tomatoes and green basil.  
  • New York City Style – The Italian immigrants to New York in the 40s and 50s brought with them their pizza. Characterized by its size, the NYC style of pizza is usually thin, large and often sold by the slice which is crisp and stable but elastic enough to fold in half.  There really is so much joy in being in New York City on a crisp autumn day with a piping hot slice of fresh, oven baked pizza on a paper plate.  
  • Sicilian – originating in Sicily in the mid 19th Century this thick, bready pizza is usually served in a rectangle, with a heavy sauce and mozzarella topping.  Its fluffiness sets it apart from thin crust pizzas and is easily devoured despite its depth and girth. 
  • Calzone – this pizza also originated in Naples.  Pizza purists might argue that the calzone is not strictly a pizza due to its closed-sandwich like composition.  However, we all know it’s just a pizza folded in on itself and baked.  Appearances can be deceptive and once you cut into a calzone it’s clear that it most definitely is pizza, after all we know it’s what is on the inside that matters!

Most Popular Pizza Toppings in Different Countries

I don’t want to start a debate on what toppings are the best, I like pretty much everything except pineapple, but it’s clear that different nations have different favorites when it comes to topping their pizzas.

  • Americans love a pepperoni topping
  • Brits enjoy a classic and purist margherita, with pepperoni coming a close second
  • Japanese love an eel topping 
  • Indians enjoy spicy toppings including spiced mutton, paneer and chillies
  • French stay classy with a flambee (bacon, onion and cream) top
  • Australians favorite topping comprises shrimp, pineapple and barbeque sauce
  • Pakistanis enjoy curried meat and veg on their pizza base
  • Brazilians love green peas and calabresa sausage 
  • South Koreans love bulgogi which is a barbequed beef slices

The list above shows why pizza is the most versatile, enduring and truly transcendental cuisines in the world.  It crosses regional and socio-economic contexts and transcends cultural barriers. Pizzas can be as cheap or as expensive as you want, no one is excluded from the pizza appreciation club.  

Pizza Night: Every Friday

Americas love story with pizza is unlikely to ever end, my own love affair with pizza started when I was a child.  I remember Friday nights as pizza night at home, I used to literally spend the whole day counting down until those big brown boxes of pizza delights landed on our dinner table. Oh man, that anticipation of the delivery guy arriving at the door! My mum would have all the sauces out ready on the table – always ranch and ketchup for us – and drinks chilling in the fridge. 

There is no greater feeling than when the lid of a freshly delivered pizza is lifted! Oh my, the assault on the senses is unreal; the smell of the pizza bursting out of the box, the heat from the dough rising high, the visual delight of seeing the pizza and the sound of collective ‘mmmms’ round the table.  Pure nostalgia, and best of all, no washing up!  Friday night pizza is a tradition I have continued with my own children, there is such comfort in the continuation of food traditions and that feeling of sitting down to a hot delivered pizza never gets old.

Pizza is the best hangover food, if there is one thing that will start your day off right it is the heated up (or cold – no judgement here!) slices from last night.  No cutlery or plates needed, just grab that slice and get yourself a nice comfy spot. It’s also a great communal eating experience, it brings people together in a way no other does and you can go as large or as refined as you like.  It’s the perfect food for a family night in, or a romantic date. 

How to Celebrate World Pizza Day

  • Pizza specials for World Pizza Day are aplenty: check your local pizzeria for special offers marking the day
  • Have an at home pizza party – let’s face it, if you’re planning a pizza crawl to your local favorite pizza restaurants, this year is probably not the year for it.  Have a party at home instead, use the easy recipe below to make bases and get your family involved by getting them to top their pizza to their own preference
  • Challenge your friends to a virtual pizza bake off
  • Pizza quiz – devise your own pizza focused quiz with the prize being, yes you guessed it – PIZZA!
  • Pizza resolutions – make a list of all the pizzas and pizza places you want to try in 2021 and vow to try each one of them (covid permitting).  My own resolution is to try toppings I haven’t really tried before: pineapple (don’t come for me, I don’t like fruit on my pizza!), meat substitutes and vegan toppings.
  • Pizza courses – get creative! Create a 3 course menu where each menu item is pizza. The starter could be a mini pizza garlic bread, followed by a main course pizza, finishing with a sweet Nutella and strawberry drizzle pizza.  Don’t sleep on sweet pizza, it is a delight!

How to make Pizza Dough

A really simple and easy to make at home pizza dough recipe is this “three ingredient pizza dough recipe”:

Ingredients

  • 1 ¾ cup of self raising flour 
  • I cup of unsweetened greek yoghurt 
  • ½ teaspoon salt

Directions

  • Mix the ingredients in a bowl
  • Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface
  • Use your hands to flatten the dough into a round disc. Or any shape disc. No need for perfection here!
  • Once you have your dough flat and reasonably round, transfer it to a baking tray and then cover with toppings of your choice.
  • Any pizza sauce can be used as the topping base and then go crazy with whatever toppings and cheese you want (personal favorites are pepperoni, jalapenos, peppers, red onions, olives and lots of cheese!) 
  • Transfer the pizza to a preheated oven and cook for about 20 minutes at 400F (200c).
  • Your pizza is ready when the cheese is melted and oozing and the base and crust are a light golden brown. 

This National Pizza day get out of your comfort zone and try toppings you have never tried before, go crazy with the ingredients in your fridge, or get some special ingredients from your local grocery store (shop local!). 

It is almost impossible to get pizza wrong, and you’ll be hard pressed to make a pizza that doesn’t taste great.  As long as there is bread, sauce and toppings you’ll be just fine! 

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