Italy's Culinary Icon: A Journey through Pizza's Rich History

by BTM

Sun, 19 November 2023

The Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation annually celebrates the Week of Italian Cuisine in the World with this year’s edition being the VIII, themed "Dining with Italian Cuisine: Well-being with Taste’’. Italian cuisine extends beyond its delectable flavours, emphasising the benefits of a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins for overall well-being. Italian cuisine is a candidate for UNESCO’s list of Intangible Cultural Heritage. This recognition would not only honour the rich heritage of Italian cuisine but also the Italian culinary lifestyle, which is loved and imitated all over the planet.

Pizza, that iconic Italian dish adored worldwide, holds a rich and diverse history that spans centuries. Originating in Naples, the heartland of Italian cuisine, pizza, particularly the revered Pizza Margherita, embodies the essence of traditional Italian flavours. Crafted with precision, it comprises naturally fermented dough, San Marzano tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella, and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, all baked to perfection in a wood-burning dome-shaped oven. This culinary masterpiece earned its Specialità Tradizionale Garantita (STG) designation (reserved for agri-food products untethered to a specific territory but characterised by traditional production methods) in 2010 and achieved UNESCO's prestigious status as "intangible cultural heritage" in 2017. To safeguard this cultural treasure, the Verace Pizza Napoletana (VPN) or True Neapolitan Pizza Association was founded in 1984.

But the roots of pizza delve deeper into history, tracing back to ancient Etruscans in the 8th Century BC. These skilled bakers prepared round flatbreads called "panus focus," a precursor to the modern term "focaccia." In the 19th century, the word "pizza" was broad, describing various round-shaped breads and desserts. It wasn't until the late 1800s that the famous Pizza Margherita emerged, an homage of pizzaiolo Raffaele Esposito to Queen Margherita of Savoy and her husband, King Umberto I. Its ingredients, representing the Italian flag's colours - red (tomatoes), white (mozzarella), and green (basil) - transformed pizza into a symbol of national pride.

Pizza is a balanced and healthy meal, depending on the quality of ingredients. The Margherita pizza offers a complete meal with the right calories, low unsaturated fat, complex carbohydrates, calcium, proteins, and vitamins. Ingredients like Italian extra virgin olive oil, Bufala mozzarella, and tomatoes contribute to its nutritional value. The pizza's complex carbohydrate-based dough delivers slow-release energy, helping manage hunger and preventing blood sugar fluctuations. This promotes a sense of satisfaction and reduces the temptation for unhealthy snacks. Additionally, Bufala mozzarella, a vital pizza ingredient, is a top-quality Italian cheese rich in milk proteins, calcium, and vitamin D, while tomatoes provide vitamin C and antioxidants.  The careful selection of high-quality ingredients is crucial for a healthy and balanced dish. Finally, pizza prepared with natural yeast, long fermentation, and short baking time in a wood-fired oven is not only delicious but also easily digestible, suitable for all ages.

We hope you enjoy this culinary gem just as much as we do!