As with many foods, they don't always originate from the country that made them famous. Even with pizza, it was a very slow journey to Italy.
If you go back to the Egyptian times, the main source of food matter grown would be wheat and barley. Pharaohs ate a type of flat bread baked with herbs to mark a celebration.
The Greeks made flat breads called Plankuntos and used them as plates, which was ideal for soaking up any leftover sauce.
Grain was immensely important to the Romans and they imported it from Egypt, grain was exported right across the empire, and it was bread that became part of their staple diet for breakfast.
Pizza sits so well with Italy though, it's hard to imagine it came from elsewhere, but the pizza base started its life with the Greeks who carried their flat breads with them when they colonised the Apennine peninsula in Italy, the breads they carried were a very early type of foccacia bread that had other ingredients baked in them, or on top.
Granted it was Naples in southern Italy that made pizza world famous by adding regional cheese and vegetables to the topping, and one of the most famous creations came from Neapolitan Chef Raffaele Esposito, proprietor of Pizzeria di Pietro e Basta Cosi.
He honoured Queen Margherita of Savoy, who on a visit to Naples in 1889 was interested in trying out the local delicacy she had seen people eating in the streets.
This would have been pizza marinara, which was a simple bread covered in tomatoes, basil, olive oil and a few spices and was made by the cooks of Naples to welcome home their sailors and fishermen.
The patriotic Chef Raffaele Esposito decided to come up with his own colourful creation of the basic pizza, and instead of the basic pizza that had long been enjoyed by the Neapolitans he transformed the topping by using ingredients to represent the Italian flag; red (tomatoes), white (mozzarella) and green (basil). The Queen was suitably impressed and the loyal Neapolitans responded with a change of name.
Pizza Margherita was born.
The establishment Pizzeria di Pietro e Basta Cosi still stands but the name has changed to Pizzeria Brandi, but it still displays the note from the royal household thanking him.
Here's my recipe for pizza dough, toppings are your choice:
Basic Pizza dough
Makes 1 Pizza base or 1 Calzone base.
Prep Time 10 mins (plus 1 hour for dough to prove)
Cooking Time 15 mins
6oz/175g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
1 tsp fast action dried yeast
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
125ml/4 fl oz tepid water
½ tsp sugar
To activate the yeast, mix together the sugar and water in a small bowl.
Sprinkle the yeast on top of the mixture then mix until dissolved and leave for 5 minutes.
Mix 6oz/175g flour, ¼tsp salt with the yeast mixture and add 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil.
Stir until you have a smooth, soft dough.
Put a light dusting of flour onto a clean work surface, then turn out the dough and knead (see cooks tips) for 5 minutes.
Put the dough into a clean bowl, cover with oiled cling film and leave for 1 hour to prove in a warm place. (see cooks tips)
Put a light dusting of flour onto a clean work surface, then turn out the dough and knead for a further 2 minutes.
Roll out the dough.
For the thin base roll out so that it will easily fit over a 12" pizza pan and using a sharp knife, trim around the edge.
For a thicker base roll out the dough to approx 10" diameter, place on a 10" pizza pan.
For the thin base.
Add your topping and cook in a preheated oven, 230° C/ 450° F / gas mark 8 for approx 10 minutes.
For the thick base.
Add your topping and cook in a preheated oven, 230° C/ 450° F / gas mark 8 for approx 15 minutes.
12" pizza pan
10" pizza pan
To prove the mixture, place the bowl on top of a saucepan of warm water
Place prepared dough onto a floured work surface.
With your hands, form the dough into a ball, then press down and away from you with the heels of your hands.
Fold the dough back over itself, turn about a quarter of a turn, then press again.
Repeat this process for the specified time, which may be anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes.
Well-kneaded dough should feel smooth and elastic. Press your fingertip into the dough, it should spring back.
Fast action dry yeast
Extra virgin olive oil