The Different Types of Pizza
One of the beautiful things about pizza is that it is a universally enjoyed food. Each area of the globe has taken the traditional recipes and methods and adapted them to their specific tastes. In the U.S., there are four distinct pizza types that are regularly enjoyed.
Pizza Margherita is a type of Neapolitan pizza. In fact, it is considered the gold standard against which all other pizzas are judged. It was first made by Raffaele Esposito in 1889 to honor Queen Margherita of Savoy. Listed below are the basic characteristics of the pizza fit for a queen:
A pizza being turned in a wood-fired brick pizza oven.
- The Crust. Authentic Margherita pizza crust is hand-kneaded or with a low-speed mixer and uses Tipo 00 flour (finely ground flour). The center of the crust will be very thin (0.1 inches) while the outer rim is about half an inch thick. >>Pizza Dough Recipes
- The Sauce. To make true pizza Margherita, you have to use San Marzano tomatoes, plum tomatoes imported from Italy. Only fresh, non-processed ingredients are acceptable. >>Pizza Sauce Recipes
- The Toppings. Aside from the sauce, pizza Margherita should be topped with chunks of buffalo mozzarella cheese and fresh basil leaves. This makes the final product resemble the Italian flag.
- Preparation. Pizza Margherita must be cooked in a wood-fired pizza oven at approximately 800 °F. The final product should be 14” in diameter with a soft, elastic crust.
Pizza Margherita is considered a piece of Italian heritage. In an effort to preserve Esposito’s original recipe, the Vera Pizza Napolitana Association (VPN), based in Naples, offers training and certification for pizzerias that make Pizza Margherita using traditional methods.
New York Style Pizza
New York style pizza is considered the original American pizza, because the first pizzeria to open in the U.S. (Lombardi’s) opened in Manhattan at the turn of the 20th century. The basic characteristics of the pizza are large pies, usually 18” or more, with slices so large that people have to fold them in half, lengthwise, to eat them.
- The Crust. The basic crust can be made using all-purpose flour, bread flour or any flour that has a high concentration of wheat gluten. Purists of New York style pizza argue that you can only use water from the New York public utilities to achieve the proper texture and flavor for the crust.
- The Sauce. Simplicity is the key to New York style pizza. The sauce is just a basic tomato-based pizza sauce spread thinly over the crust.
- The Toppings. Other than the sauce, New York style pizzas should not have more than one or two toppings. In fact, oftentimes, cheese is the only topping that is placed on an authentic New York pizza.
- Preparation. New York style pizzas can be prepared in any type of pizza oven, but since the crust is thinner, they will bake well in a brick pizza oven, which will give the pizza crust a nice char.
Chicago Style Deep-Dish Pizza
Chicago style deep-dish pizza was invented by Ike Sewell at Pizzeria Uno in the 1940s. This pizza has a buttery crust with lots of toppings and has to be eaten with a knife and fork. In some ways, it resembles lasagna more than pizza.
- The Crust. Chicago style deep-dish pizza has a chewy, buttery crust. The amount of oil or butter in the crust will also give it a nice golden brown outer layer once baked.
- The Sauce. The traditional sauce for a Chicago style deep-dish pizza has a slightly sweet taste. Most recipes call for diced tomatoes and instruct you to mix the sauce either by hand or in a low-speed mixer, to keep the sauce chunky.
- The Toppings. The crust is lined with cheese, then Italian sausage (usually from some old family recipe), then more cheese, then a sweet tomato sauce on top. Some pizzerias may even top the pizza with another layer of crust.
- Preparation. Unlike other pizzas, which can be simply placed in the oven sans a pan, Chicago deep-dish pizza has to be made in a deep-dish pizza pan. Also, before the toppings are added, it is suggested that you par-bake (partially bake) the crust, otherwise it will not cook fully.
Gourmet pizza is also referred to as California or West Coast style pizza. Unlike other pizzas that are largely identified with their crust, gourmet pizza is defined by the toppings, which are non-traditional, seasonal and often expensive. Breakfast pizzas and dessert pizzas will also fall under the gourmet pizza category as they break the traditional pizza mold.
- The Crust. Basic gourmet pizza uses a New York style pizza crust recipe, so the pizza will be thinner than a deep dish or thick crust pizza. Flour with a higher protein concentration is often used, too.
- The Sauce. Many gourmet pizzas do not use the traditional tomato-based marinara sauce. They use olive oil, alfredo sauce or no sauce at all, to name a few examples. Basically, any sauce that goes against the tradition is fair game for a California style pizza.
- The Toppings. Some toppings that one can find on a gourmet pizza include: oysters, crayfish, dandelion greens, caviar, artichoke hearts, shrimp and eggplant.
- Preparation. The only main preparation tip to keep in mind for gourmet pizza is that you may have to pre-cook some of the toppings. For example, eggplant releases a lot of water when it is cooked. If you put raw eggplant on a pizza and cook it all at once, you will get a soggy pizza, so sear the eggplant ahead of time to extract some of the moisture.
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