The history of pizza began thousands of years ago … someone goes back to the ancient Greece and its mythological stories.
Vulcan worked in his forge inside the Vesuvius and Venus waited for him at home. Once the god finished his work before and asked his wife Venus, full-throatedly, what she was cooking. Venus got nervous because she had received an admirer of her in the morning and there was nothing ready. Then she took a piece of dough that she had put apart and flattened it by her hands to a round shape. At the end she roasted the disc-shaped dough on red-hot stones. She sprinkled the disk with some milk and garnished it with tasty berries and aromatic herbs. So pizza was born according to the mythology.
But let’s go to the real history! The most ancient people learnt how to work cereals: how to crush and grind them, how to knead them with water and to reduce the dough to a flattened round shape and how to cook it on red-hot stones. When the Egyptians discovered the leavening principle a great step was made: the bread was born! The dough became softer, lighter and tastier.
They used millet, barley, oats and later emmer. The emmer is very important because it is the progenitor of the wheat. Breedings and crossings created the wheat.
Under the Romans the wheat became the most important cereal. In any case the Romans used the emmer too. They used it for making flat breads but the interesting thing is that they used these flat breads as plates to serve meat cooked with a lot of sauces. So Virgil tells us in his books. Virgil also tells us how a farmer grinds his wheat, sieves the flour, kneads it with some water, aromatic herbs and salt and at the end obtains a thin flat bread that he cooks on red-hot stones. In another occasion he tells us how a topping for this kind of flat bread can be made. It is necessary to pound mint, fennel’s seeds, coriander, pepper, rue, fresh cheese and a sauce known as garum (from pickled fish and aromatic herbs). The flat bread with its topping is cooked in a oven. Perhaps the word pizza derives from the Latin verb pinsére whose meaning i sto crush; the past participle is pinsa.
In the following centuries we find no written text about pizza till the Renaissance. The first books in which we can find flat bread recipes were printed in some courts of the North of Italy. But these recipes are very different from the recipes we know nowadays. The dough was also made with butter and sugar: almost a cake!
Meanwhile the America was discovered and maize had arrived in Italy. The new seeds excited the curiosity of the northern cooker but not of the southern cooker. So in the south of Italy people went on cooking flat breads with wheat and not with maize. So you can understand how Italian pizza is born in the south of Italy.
In the beginning flat breads had a lot of toppings based on lard, fish garlic and salt. Only in the second half of the eighteenth century tomato sauce and later mozzarella cheese were used in the topping.
Margherita pizza, the most famous pizza in the world, was created in honour of the queen Margherita, wife of the king Umberto I, when she went to the palace of Capodimonte in 1889. The best pizza maker in Naples, Raffaele Esposito, made this kind of pizza associated to the three colours of the Italian flag and dedicated it to the queen. The basil reminds the green colour, the mozzarella cheese the white colour and the tomatoes the red colour. The queen was spellbound by this pizza and Margherita became the most famous pizza in the world. How long was the way to pizza!