Pizza has been around since the first century BC. Pizza as we know it originated in the 18th century when the people of Naples, Italy added tomato sauce to bread. Up until that point, tomatoes were considered poisonous and people were afraid to eat them. Imagine their delicious relief when they discovered otherwise!
Italian pizzas come decked out in mozzarella, a very soft buffalo or cow's milk cheese, or provolone, a mild cheese that tastes like Monterey Jack. If you want to make a pizza yourself, go to your local grocery store and pick up a bag of shredded "Italian Cheese," which is a mix of Mozzarella, Provolone, Asiago and Romano cheeses.
Garlic, a spicy, sharp bulb that grows in sections or "cloves," is used in seasoning and cooking worldwide. However, the undisputed Kings and Queens of garlic are the Italian cooks. They use garlic everywhere, and pizza is no exception. Whether there is garlic in the sauce or in the dough, the pizza gets a lovely shot of flavor.
A ham and pineapple pizza is called a Hawaiian pizza. Sometimes it is cooked with Canadian bacon, which looks and tastes a lot like ham. This pizza is traditionally made with Mozzarella cheese and is very popular in Australia, Canada and Sweden. Strangely enough, the only place this pizza isn't popular is on the island of Hawaii!
America's favorite pizza topping, besides cheese, is Pepperoni! In Italy, however, pepperoni is just one type of salami. Originally, pepperoni had red bell peppers in it. These made the sausage bright red and gave it that signature flavor. Next time you go to Italy and you want pepperoni, you've got to order "salami piccante," or spicy salami.
A pizza's crust makes a big difference. Traditional Italian pizza has a thin, crispy crust. Chicago-style pizza has a very thick, fluffy deep dish crust - up to three inches thick! Some people think that toppings make a pizza, other folks firmly believe that a good pizza is all about the dough.
Italians take their pizza very seriously. There are government regulations for what can go into a Neapolitan pizza, the signature pizza of Italy. Perhaps the most famous of these government-guarded pizzas is the Pizza Margherita. The ingredients are simple: basil, tomato sauce, garlic, sliced Mozzarella cheese and oil. The result is always delicious.
A common sausage for pizza is called Italian Sausage. It's made out of pork and onions and flavored with herb ingredients like fennel or anise. These rich, flavorful sausages are served with their "casings," or the filmy part that keeps the sausage in its shape, removed. The meat itself is crumbled into large bite-sized pieces on the pie.
An excellent sauce for pasta, tomato sauce is also very important for pizza. The sauce has tomatoes, garlic, onions and herbs like basil, parsley, oregano and thyme. Some pizzas go off the beaten path and use Alfredo sauce, pesto sauce or BBQ sauce underneath their toppings, but when it comes to traditionally good pizza, there's nothing better than some tomato sauce.