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Italian pizza is customarily baked yeast bread topped with cheese, tomato sauce or tomatoes and herbs. Fancier versions commonly include a variety of fresh or canned toppings. It may be baked in a traditional wood-fired oven or a common kitchen oven powered by gas or electricity.
The crust of authentic Italian pizza is normally hand-tossed and thin. Over the years, different thicknesses of crust have been introduced. Italian pizza can now commonly be found with hand-rolled medium thick crusts. Chicago-style Italian pizza has a thick, cornbread-like crust that is pressed into a deep-dish pan and topped with tomatoes cheese, spices and herbs. All types of Italian pizzas are commonly topped with other vegetables, meats and seafood based on the tastes of the consumer.
Neapolitan pizza is generally considered the original Italian pizza. It is traditionally topped with Italian tomatoes, either canned or fresh, and buffalo milk mozzarella cheese. Authentic Neapolitan pizza crust is made with natural yeast, water and a hard, wheat flour, although some bakers believe any strong, high protein bread flour is acceptable.
There are three certified variations of Neapolitan pizza. One of these called pizza marinara has no cheese. The tomatoes on this pizza are normally topped with garlic, oregano and basil and then extra virgin olive oil is dribbled over the surface right before baking. The popular pizza Margherita recipe calls for a topping of sliced, fresh mozzarella covered with tomato, basil and extra virgin olive oil. Additionally, a pizza Margherita extra is topped with fresh mozzarella fillets imported from Campania.
Lazio-style pizza is ordinarily available in two basic versions. The simpler kind, sold as take-out, features a thick, rectangular crust similar to the texture of English muffins. The restaurant variety has a round, thinner crust. These pizzas can be baked in traditional or wood-fired ovens. Both types offer a range of toppings that can be mixed and matched to meet the tastes of the customer. These garnishes frequently include a wide assortment of vegetables, including tomato, mushrooms, olives and artichokes. Oregano and basil are popular herb additions. Popular meat and seafood toppings include German sausage, anchovies, ham and prosciutto. Cheeses such as mozzarella, stracchinio, fontina, Gorgonzola and ricotta are popular additions. All varieties are traditionally given a healthy swirl of olive oil on top as well.
Other traditional Italian pizzas that have gained popularity in recent years include white pizza and calzones. White pizza has no tomatoes or tomato sauce. Instead, it usually has a pesto sauce or just ricotta and mozzarella cheese along with olive oil, basil and garlic. A calzone resembles a giant turnover and is simply a round pizza crust stuffed with the diner’s choice of ingredients, folded over and sealed before baking.