What Is Neapolitan Pizza?

What is Neapolitan pizza? From the bustling streets of Naples to upscale restaurants worldwide, it seems like everyone is clamoring for this wood-fired pizza. But why?

Neapolitan pizza is the traditional, wood-fired pizza style from Naples, Italy. Neapolitan pizza is only topped with fresh mozzarella cheese, tomato sauce (preferably from San Marzano tomatoes) and fresh basil. And it has a distinctive soft and lightly charred crust. Indeed, the outer crust (called the cornicione) of a Neapolitan pizza should be puffed up with air, and it should spring back like a sponge when pressed.

Characterized by its simple ingredients and amazingly fresh flavors, Neapolitan pizza is a must-try. Keep reading to learn its unique history, plus tips on how to make it at home.

neapolitan pizza What Is Neapolitan Pizza?

Neapolitan Pizza Comes From Naples, Italy

Pizza has been around in different forms for a long time. Most attribute its origins to focaccia-like flatbreads, called ‘panis focacius,’ which were eaten in Italy and throughout the Roman Empire almost 2,000 years ago.

Pizza as we know it today – a bread crust with tomato sauce and cheese – originated in southern Italy, probably Naples. People started making it sometime after the 16th century, when tomatoes were introduced to Europe from South America (hard to imagine Italy without tomatoes, right?).

By 1807, there were already 54 pizzerias in Naples (!). Fifty years later, that number had increased to 120 – clearly, Napolitanos (people from Naples) knew they were on to something good.

Legend has it that in 1889, a Naples pizza maker made a special pizza while visiting Queen Margherita. It included green basil leaves, white mozzarella cheese and red tomato sauce, and thus the world-famous Margherita Pizza was born!

(Note that many people use the term ‘Neapolitan’ and ‘Margherita’ interchangeably, but a Margherita is a specific type of Neopolitan pizza, and not the other way around – kind of like how a square is also a rectangle, but a rectangle isn’t always a square).

Neapolitan Pizza Must Be Officially Certified In Italy

neapolitan margherita pizza naples What Is Neapolitan Pizza?
A classic Margherita pizza from Naples, Italy.

Today, pizza is a really big deal in Naples. It’s not simply bread, sauce and cheese. And it’s not fast food, like it is here in North America.

A true Neapolitan pizza has to be made in a very specific way, using very specific, very high quality ingredients.

This attention to detail and focus on quality is what gives real Neapolitan pizza that delicious, world-famous signature taste and texture.

In fact, pizza is such a big deal in Naples that in 1984 the “Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana,” or the “True Naples Pizza Association,” was created. This association sets very strict standards for what can and cannot be called a Neapolitan pizza.

In Italy, selling or marketing a pizza as Neapolitan that doesn’t meet these standards even comes with various kinds of fines and penalties. This is a huge difference from other parts of the world, especially the United States, where pretty much any kind of flat crust with toppings on it is considered just as much a pizza as any other.

Neapolitan Pizza Is Either Margherita Or Marinara

There are only two variants to the Neapolitain pizza that are officially recognized by the AVPN in Italy.

The first is the classic Margherita pizza, made with tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese (either fior di latte or di bufala – learn now to make cheap but yummy mozarella at home here) and fresh basil leaves.

The second variant of Neapolitan pizza is called a marinara pizza, which is simply made with tomato sauce, finely sliced garlic and a pinch of oregano.

Here is how the AVPN describes authentic Neapolitan pizza variations:

“The use and recognition of the of the typical product “Verace Pizza Napoletana” – (Vera Pizza Napoletana) is limited to two types of Pizza: ‘Marinara’ (tomato, oil, oregano, and garlic) and ‘Margherita’ (tomato, oil, mozzarella or fior di latte, grated cheese and basil) produced according to the guidelines outlined below. Primary materials, preparation, and the resulting characteristics must be strictly adhered to in order to achieve the required end product.

“Verace Pizza Napoletana” – (Vera Pizza Napoletana) is made from a base of risen dough and cooked in a wood fire oven. The product is characterised by ingredients, means and technologies of production.”

The end product of the “Verace Pizza Napoletana” – (Vera Pizza Napoletana) should be as follows:

The diameter of the disc should not exceed 35cm. It should be presented as an oven baked product with a raised border (cornicione), the centre covered by condiments.

The consistency of the ” Verace Pizza Napoletana ” – (Vera Pizza Napoletana) should be soft, elastic, easy to manipulate and fold. The centre should be particularly soft to the touch and taste and should be 0.25 cm in height (+/- 10%), where the red of the tomato is evident, and to which the oil or for the ‘Pizza Marinara, the green of the oregano and the white of the garlic has perfectly amalgamated; In the case of the Pizza Margherita, the white of the mozzarella should appear in evenly spread patches, with the green of the basil leaves, slightly darkened by the cooking process.

The crust should deliver the flavour of well-prepared, baked bread. This mixed with the slightly acidic flavour of the densely enriched tomatoes, and the respective aroma of oregano and garlic or basil and the cooked mozzarella ensures that the pizza, as it emerges from the oven, delivers its characteristic aroma — perfumed and fragrant.

Why Neapolitan Pizza is My Favorite

I love Neapolitan style pizza! In fact, I’d go as far as to say it’s my favorite type of pizza out there – whether in restaurants or when I make it at home.

The reason? Its simplicity, its consistency and its quality.

Neapolitan pizza is by far the most consistent style of pizza available. Even far away from Naples, in places where the AVPN doesn’t have any authority, pizza makers know how to make this classic style of pizza. And while they may not always meet those crazy high standards of those found in Naples, they usually come close enough.

Put another way, it’s just hard to mess up such a simple and delicious recipe.

On the other hand, an American style “cheese pizza” can mean almost anything. It can be thick crust, thin crust, a sauce that’s served overcooked or raw.

And further complicating things, the flavor profile of your generic “cheese pizza” is all over the place. American pizza makers and chains will add almost every variety of seasoning to their sauce, such as honey, sugar, pepper, onion, garlic, etc, etc.

In fact, many American style pizza places will even incorporate “secret ingredients” into their recipes, which can be especially frustrating if you want to know what you’re eating.

This doesn’t mean American pizza can’t be quite tasty… I’ve had so much delicious pizza in my native New York City that I would never completely swear off American pizza.

But North American pizza varies so much from place to place that I can really only vouch for specific pizzerias rather than the style as a whole.

On the other hand, ‘vera pizza Napoletana’ implies one standard recipe and one standard set of ingredients. So if I order pizza delivery and get a Margherita anywhere in the world, I can reasonably expect to get roughly the same kind pf pizza (unless the pizzeria is particularly bad or is falsely advertising).

I also love that Neapolitan style pizza uses simple, fresh ingredients. Nothing beats fresh fior di latte mozzarella matched with freshly crushed tomatoes. You don’t need much seasoning with ingredients like this.

On the other hand, American style pizza typically uses low-moisture mozzarella (like what comes in packages at the grocery store) and canned tomato sauces. These low quality ingredients require lots of seasoning and extra ingredients to make theme more palatable.

And when those extra ingredients are lots of extra sugar and salt, then you really run into problems (see what to do if pizza typically makes you feel more bloated here).

Neapolitan Pizza Is Cooked At 905°F or 485°C

With such simple ingredients, you’d think it would be easy to make Neapolitan pizza home. And it certainly is easy enough to assemble them and make a good dough.

The one thing that most home cooks are missing, though, are those beautiful wood burning pizza ovens.

In fact, according to the AVPN guide, there’s only one thing needed for a Neapolitan pizza that you likely can’t replicate:

“The cooking of the “Verace Pizza Napoletana” – (Vera Pizza Napoletana) must be done exclusively in a wood fire oven which has reached the cooking temperature of 485° C, (905°F). This is essential to cook the pizza.”

Unless you happen to own a pizza oven (if so, lucky you!), your home oven probably maxes out at 500°F, if it even gets that high.

Since you can’t get your pizza as hot, you’ll need to cook it longer. And cooking your pizza longer can leave you with a dough that is dry and brittle and toppings that are burnt. No one likes an overcooked pizza.

But all hope is not lost! You can make a nearly perfect Neapolitan style pizza at home using some slight tweaks, most of which involve the hydration of the dough and the order that you put on the toppings.

See how I’ve learned how to make tasty Neopolitan pizza at home here.

Making Neapolitan pizza at home requires a little more work than throwing a frozen pizza in the oven.

But trust me. It’s easier than you think. It’s a fun skill to learn. And it’s SOOOOO worth it. 

neapolitan pizza how to 4 What Is Neapolitan Pizza?
My impressively made (in my opinion) homemade Neapolitan pizza.

So try making a Neapolitan pizza today, and Buon Appetito!

Related Questions:

What Makes Neapolitan Pizza Different?

Neapolitan pizza is an Italian style of pizza that developed in and around Naples, Italy. It consists of a fermented crust topped with San Marzano tomatoes, fresh fior di late cheese and fresh basil leaves. Neapolitan pizza is perhaps the most traditional and recognizable styles of pizza in the world.

What Is The Difference Between Neapolitan And New York Pizza?

In general, the difference between Neapolitan and New York pizza comes down to ingredients and cooking methods. Neapolitan pizza is a small, puffy pizza with fresh mozzarella cheese and a raw tomato sauce, while New York pizza is a large, flat pizza with dry low-moisture mozzarella cheese and a cooked tomato sauce. Neapolitan pizza is typically cooked quickly at a higher temperature (900°) while New York pizza is cooked more slowly at a relatively lower temperature (500°-600°).

What Is The Difference Between Neapolitan And Margherita Pizza?

Neapolitan pizza is a style of pizza from Naples, Italy. Margherita pizza is a type of Neapolitan pizza featuring fresh mozzarella cheese, fresh San Marzano tomatoes and fresh basil leaves.

Why Neapolitan Pizza Is The Best

Neapolitan pizza is the best because it’s a light, fluffy and easily digestible meal for one person. Margherita pizza is also the original style of pizza that kicked off the popularity of pizza all over the world – so you know it must be good.

Is Neapolitan Pizza Healthy?

Neapolitan pizza is a healthy style of pizza from Italy that features only fresh, nutrient packed ingredients, a fermented dough and a sensible portion size for one person. So if you’re looking for a healthy pizza, look no further than a Margherita or Marinara pizza from your local Neapolitan pizza restaurant.

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One Comment

  1. Neapolitan pizza is a style of pizza native to Naples, Italy. It’s the original and oldest style of pizza as we know it today and it often features a fermented pizza crust, fresh mozzarella cheese and raw San Marzano tomatoes.

    Are you a Neapolitan pizza fan? What’s your favorite kinds and where did you get it?

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