With 5 billion pizza’s sold worldwide each year and 350 slices of pizza eaten every second. Pizza ranked as the world’s favourite takeaway!
Pizza has its roots in antiquity, with records of various ancient civilisations know to have eaten flatbread with different toppings. Persian soldiers serving Darius the Great in the 6th Century BC baked flatbread on their shields, topped with cheese and dates. The ancient Greeks made a cake called ‘plakous’, which translates to ‘cheese pie’ made with layers of flatbread with goat’s cheese and honey.
Naples, the birthplace of modern pizza, was settled by the Greeks in the first millennium BC. Consistent with Hellenic tradition, pizza from Naples was traditionally sweet, not savoury, until the late 19th Century. It was a street food, widespread among the masses of lazzaroni, the working poor, as an inexpensive food that they could eat quickly.
But it was not until 1889, during a royal visit to Naples, that Queen Margherita approved a pizza topped with tomato, mozzarella, and basil (the colours of the Italian flag). Pizza was no longer a poor man’s dish. Nonetheless, pizza mainly remained unknown outside Naples until the early 20th Century as Neapolitans began to migrate in search of a better life.
The popularity of pizza in Australia began to rise after the second world war, with Italian immigrants. After failed attempts to start pizzerias in Canberra and Sydney, Naples-born Salvatore Della Bruna, in partnership with Franco Fera, opened Melbourne’s first pizzeria, Toto’s, in Lygon Street, Carlton, in 1961.
Sadly, Toto’s Pizza Restaurant closed its doors in 2020, falling victim to Melbourne’s COVID lockdowns. While Toto’s claimed to be the first pizzeria in Australia, that title possibly belongs to Lucia’s Pizza & Spaghetti Bar in Adelaide Central Market. Lucia’s opened in 1957 and can still be visited today.
But you don’t have to order out anymore. It’s easy to make your pizza at home, and it makes a fun activity for the kids in adding their favourite pizza toppings. The dough itself is best made ahead of time and takes about 15 minutes to prepare.
When it comes to your pizza sauce, please don’t put all the effort you went to in making the dough go to waste by slavering it with tomato paste. Authentic pizza sauce is light and fresh and does not require cooking. Just mix the ingredients; it is as simple as that! You don’t want to drown your dough in sauce and be sure not to take it right to the edge.
In a recent survey, Australian’s identified their favourite pizza toppings. The top five toppings included mozzarella, salami or pepperoni, mushrooms, olives, and yes, you guessed it, pineapple! Of course, you can add whatever you like. Today, I pay homage to the first modern pizza, the Margherita, simply topped with mozzarella and fresh sweet basil.
The best temperature to cook pizza at is between 250 to 260 degrees Celsius. But conventional home ovens don’t get that hot, so get it as hot as you possibly can. I cook mine in my Matador Titan BBQ that can easily maintain the heat of a pizza oven.
7g / 1 sachet dried yeast
pinch of caster sugar
375 ml lukewarm water
60 ml extra virgin olive oil
600 g Type ‘00’ flour
1 tsp salt
1. Place yeast and sugar in a jug, combine with water. Set aside for 5 minutes until foamy. Stir olive oil into the mixture.
2. Sieve flour and salt in a large bowl. Make well in the centre and slowly add yeast mixture combining it with the dry ingredients. Combining the ingredients can be done in a mixer with a dough hook, or use a round-bladed knife to mix using a cutting motion. Allow to rest for 5 minutes.
3. Bring together dough mix with your hands and turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead for approximately 5 minutes.
4. Place dough in a large bowl. Seal the bowl with cling wrap and allow to double in size, then refrigerate for 12 to 24 hours.
NB. While the rising process can be hasted (30 minutes to 3 hours) by leaving the dough in a warm place for fermentation, carbon dioxide produces faster. Potentially this can create undesirable flavours similar to sour milk. For this reason, a slow cold fermentation produces more rich, complex flavours. If you wish to use the quick method, you must also knead the dough for approximately 10 minutes or until smooth and elastic to suitably activate the gluten.
5. Divide dough into thirds. Stretch out dough to form a disc. Unused dough can be placed in a zip-lock bag and refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for 3 months.
400g Tin of peeled diced Italian tomatoes
½ tsp Sea salt
30ml extra virgin olive oil (I like to use a garlic-infused oil)
3-4 leaves of fresh sweet basil
a couple of pinches of dried oregano
1. Add tomatoes, salt, oil, oregano, and torn basil leaves to a bowl. Stir to combine.
Use a stick blender to puree the sauce if you prefer a smoother texture.
The pizza sauce will refrigerate for about a week or freeze for up to a month.