Pizza…...such a simple delight and incredibly popular! Bread has been around for thousands of years and various ancient cultures in Italy and Ancient Greece produced flatbreads with toppings. Modern pizza originated in Naples, Italy and was mainly eaten in Italy and by emigrants from there, until after World War II when allied troops were introduced to Italian foods and the obsession with pizza exploded.
Italian food is quite regional, with pizza in Naples having a thick crust, while in Rome, the base is thin and crisp. Pizza is enjoyed around the world, with different crust types available and an unlimited array of toppings - if you can eat it, someone has probably put it on a pizza.
Here in Australia, you can buy pizza almost anywhere, and you can find them with a thin, crispy base, a thick base or one filled with cheese. The toppings are diverse and while we love real Italian flavours, many are partial to topping such as pineapple and BBQ sauce, and we have even developed one with our own twist - the ‘Aussie’ with egg cracked on top. There are also dessert pizza options, topped with sweet goodies such as fresh fruit and chocolate.
The cooking method varies as well - although in Italy, an eatery can only legally call itself a pizzeria if they have a wood fired oven1. With a demand for authenticity, there has been a boom in recent years of wood fired pizza, with outdoor pizza ovens popping up both commercially and in people’s backyards.
Wood fired pizza ovens offer a unique flavour, but are messy and can be tricky to use, so you can cook pizza in a hooded BBQ or a specialised gas pizza oven, which can come with a wood chip smoker box for the same smokey finish without the hassle. A pizza oven stand is ideal if you want to have your oven free-standing in your patio area. If you have a full outdoor kitchen, perhaps a vitreous enamel deluxe pizza oven will finish off your space nicely.
Whether you have an outdoor pizza oven or a conventional oven in the kitchen, pizza can be a quick, nutritious meal. If homemade pizzas are already a regular favourite in your household, it’s worth investing in a Gasmate pizza oven - here are some tips on how to choose the perfect pizza oven.
Making Your Pizza
Yes, it’s easy to call and order a pizza to be delivered, but the sensational flavours of one cooked from scratch cannot be beaten. Also, it’s a fun way to involve all the members of your household as each person can customise their own. Make sure you use good quality ingredients to prepare your pizza for the best flavours and nutrition.
Obviously, the first step to preparing a pizza is the base. There are many pre-made pizza bases available at the supermarket, or you can grab a pack of pita bread. But let’s face it, homemade dough is the most delicious so if you prefer to make your own, there are some great recipes online.
Making dough does take time but you can prepare it in advance and even make extra to freeze. If you’re having company, it’s a good idea to make your dough the day before to get the stress and mess out of the way. Use the finest-ground flour you can find, along with dried yeast and salt and get ready to flex your kneading muscles. There are many tips for the perfect pizza base.
While some Italian pizza styles don’t have tomato sauce, it is common to use a red sauce at home. For real flavour, make your own using tomatoes, garlic and olive oil. A simple option is tomato paste, but for extra flavour and something fun, try a jar of pasta sauce or basil pesto. You could also use a white sauce, such as bechamel. Choose your sauce based on the toppings you’ll use.
Authentic Italian pizza toppings are generally very simple. Of course we all know about Margherita pizza - just tomato, mozzarella and fresh basil leaves (the colours of Italy). Other favourite traditional toppings are sausage (such as salami), mushroom, prosciutto, chillies and anchovies. A tip is not to over-top your pizza or it will become soggy when cooked.
If you want to run with your imagination, you can do just that - the options are almost endless, with slow cooked meats, smoked salmon and roasted vegetables all working well.
Cheese needs a mention on its own as there are so many to choose from including mozzarella and cheddar, but you can experiment with blue or goats cheese or even brie.
Pizza cooks best at a high temperature, so preheat your oven to 240°C, with the shelf at the highest point it can go. A hot cooking surface makes a perfect crust, so using a pizza stone preheated in the oven is brilliant.
If using homemade dough, brush the base with some oil and bake it for about 3 minutes to let it crisp up. Then spread with sauce and add your toppings. Return to the oven and bake for 8 to 10 minutes until it’s golden.
Remove from the oven, sprinkle with garnish such as basil, chives or rocket and your pizza is ready to devour - it’s up to you whether you want to share!
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