When was pizza invented? Did it really originate in Italy?
That's a great question for October, which is National Pizza Month. It's impossible to date the first pizza, since it was never made as such but evolved over thousands of years.
Considered a peasant's meal in Italy for centuries, modern pizza is attributed to Raffaele Esposito of Naples. In 1889, Esposito baked pizza especially for the visit of Italian King Umberto I and Queen Margherita.
He covered the humble rounds of dough with tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese and basil. The pizza was very patriotic and resembled the Italian flag with its colors of green (basil), white (mozzarella) and red (tomatoes). It was favored by the queen and named Pizza Margherita. Now Naples is known as the pizza capitol of the world.
In 1830 the world's first true pizzeria, Antica Pizzeria Port' Alba, opened and is still in business today in Naples. However, the first pizzeria in America didn't open until 1905 on Spring Street in Manhattan that's 75 years later.
Is pizza a healthy choice?
Pizza can supply substantial nutritional value and fit into a healthful lifestyle especially if you make it at home.
Start with a crust made from whole or enriched grain flour, or try the ready-made, refrigerated or frozen pizza crusts. Pita bread and tortillas also make a good base for pizza.
Mozzarella cheese has lots of calcium and is lower in fat than some other varieties. You can even purchase skim or low-fat varieties of cheeses.
Pre-packaged shredded mozzarella cheese is very dry. It is made that way to stay loose in the package, but this makes it turn dark on top of your pizza before the rest of the pizza is done, especially the crust. Try using an equal amount of block mozzarella and Monterey Jack cheeses. Shred both, blend together and sprinkle on pizza. For extra flavor, shred a little provolone cheese in with the other two cheeses.
Try toppings such as chopped tomatoes, roasted potatoes, broccoli, chopped onions, sliced bell peppers, spinach, shrimp, roasted chicken or cooked ground turkey. In fact, just about any leftover vegetables or meats would be great on a pizza.
While pizza can be a healthful meal, be careful when you order. Some pizzas can be overloaded with cheese and high-fat toppings. A typical slice of pizza from your local pizzeria may have more than 600 calories, 43 grams of fat and 1,000 milligrams of sodium.
Do you have a good pizza crust and sauce recipe?
Here's one that children can even help you make. The beginning stages of mixing the dough are done in a zippered freezer bag so the mess stays inside the bag. Or, if you prefer, you can mix it using a food processor (refer to manual for recommended blade) or by hand in a bowl. Enjoy.
3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon quick-rise yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 cup lukewarm water (120 degrees to 130 degrees)
Combine flour, yeast, salt and sugar in a zippered freezer bag. Squeeze upper part of bag to force out air; zip bag closed. (The easiest method for forcing out the air is to hold bag upright and keep contents at bottom of bag.) Shake and work bag with fingers to blend ingredients.
Add vegetable oil and water. Carefully squeeze upper part of bag to force out air and reseal bag. Mix in oil and water by working bag with fingers until the dough begins to pull away from sides of bag.
Turn dough out of the bag and knead by hand for 3 minutes. Shape dough into a ball, put in bowl and spray lightly with no-stick cooking spray. Cover with plastic wrap. Let rise until double in volume.
Punch dough down. Divide into 2 equal pieces (will make 2 12-inch pizzas). Shape into round balls. Let dough rest for 4 minutes. Roll each piece of dough out approximately 12 inches in diameter.
Spray pizza pan lightly with no-stick cooking spray and wipe off excess. Place dough on pizza pan; let rise for 10 minutes to 15 minutes.
Add Pizza Sauce (next recipe), toppings and cheese.
Place pan on bottom rack in cold oven. Turn oven to 500 degrees and bake pizza for 17 minutes to 20 minutes.
1 (10-3/4 ounce) can tomato puree
1/4 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon basil
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon onion powder
2 teaspoons grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon Accent
Combine ingredients in a mixing bowl. Make enough sauce for two 12-inch pizzas.
Can focaccia bread be made using frozen bread dough?
Yes it can. Here's a recipe from the Wheat Food Council. It's a simple way to have fresh, homemade bread to accompany any meal, and is especially delicious with Italian dinners.
Italian Focaccia Bread
1 pound frozen bread dough, white or whole-wheat
2 tablespoons olive oil
For Herb Topping:
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, sage or other herbs
3 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
For Tomato Basil Topping:
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, drained and chopped
2 tablespoons dried basil or 5 leaves fresh basil
Thaw dough until it begins to rise. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Roll dough into a 9-inch by 13-inch rectangle. Cover and let rise 15 minutes. Indent dough with fingertips. Brush with oil and cover with Herb Topping or Tomato Basil Topping. Bake on ungreased pizza or cookie sheet on lowest oven rack for 15 minutes. Remove to cooling rack and cut into 15 pieces.
Makes 15 servings.
Susan Krumm is an Extension agent in family and consumer sciences with K-State Research and Extension-Douglas County, 2110 Harper St. She can be reached at 843-7058.