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Italy's best pizzas and where they come from

As a citizen of the world, you're probably familiar with pizza. What began as a peasant's dish in Naples, scraped together from cheap ingredients and thrown in the oven, has since become one of the most popular meals in the world.


Much of the time, pizza tastes incredible no matter what you put on it – within reason, of course. But there are still some sure-fire hits that get our mouths watering any time of day. So here's to you, pizza. We're celebrating our favourite pie by breaking down their ingredients and their very own humble beginnings.


Margherita

The Margherita is perhaps the best-known and most beloved pizza variation. Some die-hard pizza restaurants in Italy refuse to serve anything else, citing it as one of the true and original Italian pizza recipes.

The Margherita pizza is a simple classic. Its toppings consist only of tomato sauce, mozzarella and basil. The story goes that in 1889, it was devised by the head chef of Pizzeria Brandi in Naples for Queen Margherita of Savoy. He chose these few ingredients because together, they resembled the colours of the Italian flag. He subsequently named the Pizza Margherita in the queen's honour, and the pie was an immediate hit.

Pizza Del Papa

This wildly-wonderful pizza's name translates to The Pope's Pizza. It was given this name after chef Antonio Starita of the Pizzeria Starita in Naples served it to Pope John Paul II in 2000. And if it's been sanctioned by the pope, you know it's got to be good.

The Pizza Del Papa puts a whole new spin on traditional pizza. It's a warm and sumptuous pizza with a sauce made from butternut squash instead of tomatoes, topped with smoked mozzarella, courgette, bell peppers and basil leaves. The dough is made like traditional Neapolitan dough, so it should be soft and thick.

Neapolitan

Neapolitan pizzas are taken so seriously in Italy that there are special regulations that state exactly how the pizza should be made, otherwise it isn't authentic. In terms of toppings, an original Neapolitan is as basic as basic comes, with just San Marzano tomatoes and mozzarella Campana, both of which are grown and produced in Italy.

It's the preparation of a Neapolitan pizza that's trickier. The pizza base must be hand-kneaded and not rolled with a pin or anything mechanical. Its diameter must not exceed 35 centimetres and it cannot be thicker than a third of a centimetre at its centre. Then, it must be cooked in a domed, wood-fired oven.

Four Seasons

Four Seasons pizzas are renowned for being incredibly popular within Italy. If we had to say there was a pizza everyone could enjoy, it would be this one – that's because it's traditionally divided into four distinct quarters with four distinct toppings, each of which represents a different season.

Typically, the quarters consist of artichokes - which represent spring, tomatoes or basil representing summer, mushrooms in place of autumn and ham or prosciutto sometimes paired or swapped with olives, all of which represent winter. Historically, these ingredients were only really fresh and available during the months for which they stand in, and together represent the full seasonal spectrum. Nowadays with our tendency to import goods, these ingredients are available year-round.

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