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 Corkscrew  Share this article     Summary of Not Just Wine column  
  Not Just Wine Issue 7, April 2003   
PizzaPizza Wine ParadeWine Parade ClassifiedClassified  Contents 
Issue 6, March 2003 Follow DiWineTaste on Follow DiWineTaste on TwitterIssue 8, May 2003


The most renowned and representative food of Italian cooking, always rich, tasty and colored, surprises for its thousands shapes and it is rather hard to find someone who does not like it



 From Africa to Asia, every civilization knew the many shapes of cakes, doughs made of cereals or legumes flour, water and various seasonings, they were a fundamental source for human nutrition. In the ancient Egypt, in particular occasions, it was consumed, seasoned with aromatic herbs, a flat cake. In India Nan and Chapati are the cakes that are still part of the nutritional tradition of India. Nan, in particular, is cooked in a specific oven called “tanduri” that was introduced and spread in the country by sovereigns Muguls. Herodotus wrote about some Babylonians recipes and there are many Greek writers that cited pizza, at those time called “maza”.

 During Roman times it was common to cook a cake made of spelt, a type of cereal that was very common and used at those times, it is believed that the Italian word farina (flour) comes from farro (Italian for spelt). Spelt was milled and the flour was used to cook buns and cakes. In some writings of Virgil Maron can be found some recipes that can be considered as the ancient form of pizza. In these writings can be read that farmers used to mill wheat, to sieve flour, to mix it with water, aromatic herbs and salt, to flatten it in order to have it thin and round, and finally they cooked it with the heat of the ashes of fireplaces.


 Until the end of the 1500s there are no news about the evolution of the preparation of pizza. In some documents and cookbooks of the 1500, found in northern Italy, can be found some information on how to make pizza. Of course it was not the same pizza that we are used to today, it rather was a thin dough made of butter, eggs, sugar and was cooked in an oven or fried: it was a cake rather than a pizza.

 The discover of America introduced in Europe new foods such as tomatoes, corn, potatoes and beans. Whereas in northern Italy corn progressively replaces wheat, in south Italy the tradition resists and continue to base its cooking on wheat, the “wheat bun” continues to be enriched with new and different ingredients and seasonings. With time olive oil replaces animal fats, such as lard, and cheese begins to be used together with aromatic herbs.

 Only after the 1700s in Naples they begin to season pizza with tomatoes and buffalo mozzarella. Only after the half of 1800s the common recipes that we know today are invented. One of the characteristics of the preparation of pizza consists in the seasoning that can be made of any ingredient, in fact it is the kind of seasoning that gives the name to pizza: ham pizza, tomatoes pizza, marinara pizza, mushrooms pizza, just to mention few. Pizza, thanks to emigrants, arrives in America. After the end of World War II, pizza leaves the borders of south Italy and goes towards north. The industrial development of north Italy requires workers and thousands people decide to move from south to north, bringing with them their traditions and pizza: in this time many pizzerias are established everywhere in north Italy. The most known pizza is certainly “pizza Margherita”. The story goes that in 1889 Raffaele Esposito, one of the best, if not the very best pizza maker of that time, in occasion of the visit to Naples of the King of Italy Umberto I and of Queen Margherita, he wanted to make for them three classical pizzas: Mastunicola pizza, Marinara pizza and pizza with tomatoes, mozzarella and basil, invented to honor the queen and whose colors intentionally resembled the colors of the Italian flag. The queen appreciated this last pizza very much and she wanted to personally thank and praise in writing this pizza maker. Raffaele Esposito, in order to return the attention and as a sign of appreciation, thought of naming that pizza after the queen and the pizza tomatoes, mozzarella and basil, from that moment on, will be called by anyone “Pizza Margherita”.


Base Recipe: the Dough

 As already mentioned, pizza is made of a base dough and a seasoning. The dough is made of wheat flour, whole or `00' refined or semi-refined, fresh yeast, water and salt. The dough is obtained by mixing flour, yeast and wheat until it gets the right texture and solidity (it should not stick to hands), and then it should be left to stay for about 5 minutes and it is subsequently divided in small balls. At this point they are put in proper containers in order to start leavening until they will be ready for being used. It must be noticed that for every 2 Kg. of flour (4.4 lbs.) are needed 60 grams of yeast (2.1 oz.).



 Flour is a fundamental element because it is the essential ingredient of pizza dough. It is obtained by milling wheat. In Italy are sold four types of flour: zero, double zero, one, whole. The most used type is certainly double zero, because it can be worked easily, whereas the other ones can be used as well, however they require more attention. Double zero flour, as mentioned above, is the easiest to use, however it should be noticed, as it is the most refined of them all, it also lost some of its elements such as vitamins, proteins and mineral salts during the milling and refining processes and it is therefore more “poor” as opposed to the other ones. A professional pizza maker pays the most scrupulous attention to the flour to be used for making dough. When he or she is about to buy flour, the type will be considered, that is the level of refinement (that is 0, 00, 1 and whole types), sifting, that is the level of separation of the flour from bran, the strength represented by the “W” symbol which goes from weak flour (100 W) to strong flour (450 W). Weaker flours are best for the preparation of non leavened foods whereas the stronger ones must be necessarily mixed before being used in order not to get a non eatable food. The “strength” of flour does not have any connection with quality, it just represents an index that should be considered according to the type of preparation to be made.



 Leavening is a natural process done by a multitude of microorganisms that attack particular substances and causing their decomposition, while getting the result of the production of carbon dioxide and ethyl alcohol that give dough both volume and aroma. The yeast traditionally used for the production of pizza has always been beer yeast.

 Beer Yeast, which can be bought in every bakery, must be kept in the refrigerator until it is being used. Leavening, being a natural process, takes place according to specific rules and that must be followed and considered before adding yeast to the dough. Temperature plays a fundamental role, the quantity of yeast to be added varies according to the temperature. For example, in case dough must leaven, before being used, for 60 minutes at a room temperature of 16-20° C (60-68° F), it will be needed about 70 grams of yeast (2.4 oz.), in case room temperature is of 20-25° C (68-77° F), the quantity of yeast will be lesser, about 50 grams. (1.7 oz.)



 Some support the idea that the best oven for baking good pizza is the one heated with the fire of wood. This is probably because the proper characteristics of such an oven, made with natural materials which allow an uniform and even baking, while absorbing excessive humidity from the beginning of baking and keeping it during the whole process as well and favoring an even baking without excessively drying the foods inside of it. Wood, while it is burning, passes all its aromatic substances to the oven and therefore they will be released during the baking process and passing them to the foods in a delicate and appreciable way. Whether an oven heated by the fire of wood is better or worst is certainly a matter of personal taste and preference, however the resulting pizza is certainly different from the one baked in oven heated by gas oil.



 When a pizza is about to be seasoned, it is good not to exaggerate with ingredients, it is advisable to pay attention to the quality and the good matching of flavors and, keeping in mind ingredients used for seasoning must get along very well, to harmoniously mix together, pizza will not be evaluated for its aspect but rather for its taste.

 Pizza is certainly the most renowned food of the so called Mediterranean diet. The classical ingredients of pizza are flour, tomatoes and mozzarella, typical and traditional elements of the Mediterranean diet.

 Among the most common ingredients for making pizza there are:


  • Cereals - Complex carbohydrates, that are absorbed by the body slowly as opposed to the simple ones, they satiate and offer constant energy while neutralizing hunger and giving a durable satiety. They are good for any diet aimed to weight loss.
  • Extra-Virgin Olive Oil - it is the most genuine and sound fat, typically Mediterranean, rich in HDL cholesterol, that is the one which favors the cleaning of arteries, as well as vitamins A, D, E and K.
  • Mozzarella - it is rich in lysine and other animal proteins typical of any cheese.
  • Tomato - Source of vitamins, gives a great amount of vitamins to pizza as well.

 The above mentioned ingredients are just a small part of the ones that are generally used for the making of pizza, however variants are practically endless and the ingredients to be added to the seasoning of the dough give pizza all their characteristic organoleptic and nutritional qualities. One of them, for example, is basil, which has anti-dyspeptic and antiseptic properties, it is also an anti-inflammatory and promotes digestion. Garlic has antiseptic properties for the bowel, it is a cardiotonic and diuretic. Oregano, another fundamental ingredient of Neapolitan pizza, has expectorant properties, stimulates appetite and has anti-painful properties.

 Benefits of Mediterranean diet are commonly known, it is a good prevention for the typical diseases of our modern society such atherosclerosis, infarct and hypertension. Pizza contains many vitamins and iron, avoid the formation of uric acid, does not makes fat and it is more digestible as opposed to other foods. Thanks to its characteristics it is a valid food that can easily make a meal and, when completed with fruit and vegetables, it is also a valid alternative to the consumption of meat.


Variants of Pizza

 An interesting variant of pizza is “calzone”, which is clearly and obviously derived from pizza, similar in its ingredients, the preparation of the dough is practically the same, it just differs in some parts of the making and in the type of seasoning. It is made with a flat disc of dough which is subsequently stuffed only for its half, the other half is folded on the stuffing and the border is pushed all along in order to seal the dough. It is baked just like pizza in a heat oven. Another variant consists in frying the calzone in hot oil instead of baking.

 The origin of calzone seems to be Campania however, just like pizza, its production and consumption spread everywhere in Italy and then abroad. Calzone, called “casone” in Neapolitan, is Italian for trousers and for some etymologists this is a term widely spread and common in Italy even though its exact origin is not clear.

 In the beginning pizzas, calzones, cakes and buns were an important resource in order to satisfy hunger. With time and with the availability of new resources as well as of a better availability, both economic and of food resources, the simple cakes and buns are enriched and unusual ingredients are added to them, from food destined to farmers and humble people it becomes a food for kings, just like pizza Margherita. According to some old documents it seems that the commune of Trieste (Italy) in the 1400 ordered to nuns the making of “calzoni” and “calisoni” to be presented as a gift to noble and illustrious people.

 A variant of calzone is “pizzella del pezzente” (little pizza of the beggar) which is made by frying a disc of dough and seasoned with tomatoes and mozzarella when it is still hot in order to have mozzarella to melt. Of course, the seasonings are always different and changing, the classical “tomato and mozzarella” can be replaced, for example, by capers and olives or by ricotta cheese and salami.


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  Not Just Wine Issue 7, April 2003   
PizzaPizza Wine ParadeWine Parade ClassifiedClassified  Contents 
Issue 6, March 2003 Follow DiWineTaste on Follow DiWineTaste on TwitterIssue 8, May 2003

Wine Parade


The best 15 wines according to DiWineTaste's readers. To express your best three wines send us an E-mail or fill in the form available at our WEB site.

Rank Wine, Producer
1 Capo di Stato 1998, Conte Loredan Gasparin
2 Semillon Sauvignon 2001, Cape Mentelle
3 Masseto 1998, Tenuta dell'Ornellaia
4 Château Lynch-Bages Pauillac 2000
5 Teroldego Rotaliano Granato 1998, Foradori
6 Chardonnay 2000, Planeta
7 Muffato della Sala 1999, Castello della Sala
8 Château Laroque Saint-Émilion Grand Cru Classè 1998
9 Zinfandel Barrel Select Mendocino County 1999 - Fetzer Vineyards
10 Shiraz 2000, Plantaganet
11 Rioja Reserva “Pagos Viejos” 1997, Bodega Artadi - Cosecheros Alavares
12 Sauvignon Blanc 2000, Cakebread
13 Château Talbot Saint-Julien 1998
14 Château Pontet-Canet Pauillac 2000
15 Trentino Bianco Villa Margon 2000, Fratelli Lunelli

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 Corkscrew  Share this article     Summary of Not Just Wine column  
  Not Just Wine Issue 7, April 2003   
PizzaPizza Wine ParadeWine Parade ClassifiedClassified  Contents 
Issue 6, March 2003 Follow DiWineTaste on Follow DiWineTaste on TwitterIssue 8, May 2003



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