Before we start exploring the early beginnings of pizza, I thought I’d share a little joke.
Did you hear about the guy who took a second job at a pizza parlor?
He kneaded the dough.
Was that humor a bit too cheesy?
Well, I did say it was a little joke.
But all kidding aside, it’s no secret that pizza is a staple in the American diet.
It’s everywhere: On college campuses, in school cafeterias, at business meetings, at parties, on Sunday game days, and on, and on, and on.
In fact, about one in every eight Americans reports eating pizza on any given day.
So, here are some fun facts that I’m guessing you haven’t heard about pizza.
For one thing, pizza’s origin has roots in several countries.
The Greeks and ancient Egyptians made flatbreads for thousands of years before pizza was introduced in the United States. Also, Romans prepared panis focacius, their version of flatbread — today described as focaccia.
Here are a few more facts:
- In the late 1800s in Naples, Italy, a pizza maker named Esposito made a pizza special for Queen Margherita in honor of the colors of the Italian flag (mozzarella, tomatoes and basil).
Today that’s known as Margherita pizza.
- Modern pizza was influenced heavily by Italian immigrants, who introduced pizza to the United States. The first pizza parlor on record opened in New York in the early 1900s.
- Industrialization brought about the ability to mass produce ready-made foods including fresh and frozen pizzas in grocery stores.
- Different regions began developing their own style of pizza. Chicago deep-dish, New York’s thin crust, California-style, Philadelphia Tomato Pie, St. Louis-style, Detroit-style, and others.
Now that we’ve gotten to know a bit more about the history of pizza, I’m wondering: Which kind of pizza do you prefer?
Pizza continues to evolve.
The list of toppings has been expanded to include barbecue, mac and cheese, eggs, fruit, nachos, even 24-k gold.
Some pizzas are topped with tomato-based or pesto sauces, but there also are white sauces and sauce-free pizzas, too.
Of course, herbs are a common ingredient, and when it comes to herbs, the fresher the herb, the stronger the flavor.
Vegetables also can be a fun ingredient, such as onions, tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, asparagus tips, zucchini, green beans, broccoli.
The options truly are endless.
Common pizza ingredients — tomatoes and cheese — combine to provide umami, one of the five basic tastes.
Meats are savory and salty, while fresh fruit like pineapple, pears or peaches give a little sweetness to balance out the savory.
Crusts come in many varieties, too. Some are thick, others thin. There’s whole wheat, gluten-free, cauliflower crust and others.
From a nutritional standpoint, pizza gets a bad rap because of the high calories, sodium, and saturated fat, mostly in the cheese and meat.
A typical thin slice of just cheese has about 300 calories, so be mindful of how many slices you have and what toppings you put on.
To help keep your pizza healthier, use vegetable toppings to help fill you up.
You also can resist the temptation of overindulging by making your pizza a side item, instead of an entrée.
Prepare a big salad with your favorite greens and low-fat dressing, then have a slice of pizza on the side.
Remember, pizza can be enjoyed on occasion and it’s a fun food to share.
In fact, Pi Day, which is coming up on March 14, could be a perfect day to do just that.
Shari Bresin is the Family & Consumer Science Agent for the University of Florida/Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Cooperative Extension Pasco County. Pasco County Extension intern Syreeta McDonald, contributed to this column.
Note: This made-from-scratch pizza, from Mayo Clinic, has a chunkier sauce made from chopped fresh tomatoes or crushed canned tomatoes. Also, to make this plant-based, leave out the cheese.
- 1 cup whole-wheat (whole-meal) flour
- 1 cup all-purpose (plain) flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon yeast
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 3/4 cup warm water
- 2 cups canned unsalted crushed tomatoes, drained
- 2/3 teaspoon dried basil
- 2/3 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 cup grated reduced-fat mozzarella cheese
Heat the oven to 375 F.
Lightly coat a 10-inch round pizza pan with cooking spray.
In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, sugar and yeast.
Add the oil and warm water and mix well.
Turn the dough out onto a generously floured work surface.
With floured hands, knead the dough for 1 minute.
If dough is too sticky, add flour 1 teaspoon at a time.
Gather into a loose ball.
Cover dough with plastic wrap and let rest for 10 minutes.
In a small bowl, stir together the tomatoes, basil, black pepper and garlic powder.
Roll out dough and press into the prepared baking pan.
Spread the tomato mixture over the dough.
Top with grated cheese.
Bake until the dough is browned, and the cheese is bubbly, about 10 minutes to 20 minutes.
Cut the pizza into 8 slices and serve immediately.
Published March 08, 2023