What is Neapolitan pizza?

Adam Jones | 15/01/2020
traditional Neapolitan pizza - tomatoes, basil and mozzarella
traditional Neapolitan pizza

When it comes to food, pizza is Italy’s ambassador to the world. Tucking into a warm slice of pizza is to take a bite of the Italian dream. There are many different types of pizza to order but there’s only one pizza above all others in terms of its taste, history, craft, and simplicity: Neapolitan pizza.

What is Neapolitan pizza?

So what is Neapolitan style pizza? Born in the city of Naples, (hence Neapolitan), on the fertile soil of Campania under Mount Vesuvius, this pizza has “Traditional Speciality Guaranteed” status, which means it must be made in a precise way to be called Neapolitan pizza. This is why it’s on UNESCO’s list of intangible cultural heritage.

Neapolitan pizza is a flat style of pizza made with tomatoes and mozzarella cheese. Now, this can’t be just any tomato or any piece of mozzarella—to lay claim to the pizza’s protected status, only specific products will do. 

What type of cheese is used to make Neapolitan pizza?

In terms of cheese, pizza makers must use one of two specific kinds of cheese. The first is Mozzarella di Bufala Campana, itself a protected cheese made from the milk of water buffaloes that live in the Campania and Lazio regions. The second is Fior di Latte di Agerola, a cow’s milk mozzarella from the Agerola area. 

What type of tomatoes are used to make Neapolitan pizza?

Now that we’ve sourced our cheese, it’s time to pick our tomatoes. Once again, we have two options, both of which grow in the fertile volcanic soil south of Mount Vesuvius. These are Italy’s famous San Marzano tomatoes, which you can often find exported around the world. The second is the lesser-known Pomodorino del Piennolo, a smaller grape tomato from the region.

How is Neapolitan pizza different?

This perfect pie isn’t just the sum of its ingredients—it’s the tradition and precision of its craft. The pizza was invented in Naples back in the 16th century when early explorers brought the tomato back to Europe from Peru. Most people didn’t know what to make of the food, but poor people weren’t about to turn their noses up at something new to eat. They began putting tomatoes on their flatbreads, and the dish began to catch on.

Hundreds of years later, Naples has honed pizza into a precise craft. The Neapolitan pizza has specific requirements for ingredients, size, construction of its dough, and the way it’s prepared in a wood-burning oven.

What is Neapolitan pizza dough and crust?

Let’s talk about Neapolitan pizza dough. The ingredients for the dough are relatively simple, but to construct it well, you’ll need a precise hand. All you’ll need to get started is water, salt, yeast and some special flour. Neapolitan pizza dough uses a specific wheat flour (type 0, type 00, or a mixture of the two) that provides a high protein content to give the dough its elasticity.

The dough must be prepared by hand or a low-speed mixer, then left to proof for 8 hours or more. Neapolitan pizza dough is then stretched and prepared entirely by hand to a thickness of around 3 millimetres. Once the dough is ready, it’ll receive its toppings then receive a quick finish in a scorching wood-burning oven. The whole cooking process only takes between 60 to 90 seconds. When it comes out of the oven, the dough will be tender, soft, have a fantastic smell and of course, be extremely delicious. 

The skill it takes to prepare this dough means that many people go to pizza school in Naples to make sure they’re doing it properly. Any small mistake can result in a ruined pizza. This attention to detail in every part of the process—the sourcing of the ingredients, the preparation of the dough, the precise cooking style and temperature—is what makes this pizza so unique.

Is your mouth watering yet? Consider hopping a train from Rome to Naples to discover the city and take a look at some authentic pizza options.

What is the difference between Neapolitan and Margherita pizza?

Neapolitan pizza can have a wide variety of toppings and variations. Of these, Pizza Margherita is by far the most well known. Pizza Margherita traditionally consists of tomatoes, sliced mozzarella, basil, and extra virgin olive oil.       

When this pizza comes out of the oven, you’ll be greeted with the powerful scent of baked bread, the acidity of the tomatoes and mozzarella, the smell of basil, and the herbal touch of the oil. It’s perfection in every bite. 

If you’d like to sample some authentic Neapolitan pizza, but don’t want an extended stay in Naples, our Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius Day trip from Rome includes a delicious taste of this authentic Italian cuisine for lunch. 

Whatever option you choose, don’t miss out on a pizza you’ll talk about for the rest of your life!