The History of Pizza

Pizza is the ultimate convenience food. You can pick up a slice and eat it in one sitting — it’s an entire meal by itself and it doesn’t even require silverware. It’s no surprise that pizza has a rich history. It wasn’t always the perfectly circular, mozzarella-topped pie that comes delivered in cardboard boxes to your home. Here’s a look at how we got pizza.

Who invented pizza?

Earlier this year in the ancient city of Pompeii, researchers found a fresco with a peculiar looking flatbread on it. It wasn’t pizza, but it looked similar. Archaeologists speculated that it was flatbread with maybe some pesto and fruits on top, as the Deseret News previously reported.

The discovery reinvigorated debates over who invented pizza. That’s a difficult question to answer because the concept of pizza is surprisingly difficult to define.

Before there was the now-traditional circular pie with tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese, ancient Egyptians, Romans and Greeks ate plenty of flatbreads, according to the History Channel website.

These flatbreads were a predecessor to pizza.

While those flatbreads didn’t have tomato sauce, they had other familiar ingredients. One ancient Roman cookbook described a circular piece of dough topped with ingredients like cheese, chicken, garlic, oil and more, per Mashed.

But pizza really became pizza in the city of Naples.

It wasn’t until after tomatoes became acceptable to use in Europe that pizza was invented. By 1779, a book described pizza as having dough, cheese and tomato sauce, so it’s commonly accepted that, around this time, pizza was invented. Rafael Esposito is credited with the invention of the margherita pizza in the late 1800s, according to Reader’s Digest.

Soon thereafter, pizza would come to the U.S. and spread across the globe to become the cheesy dish we know today.

What was ancient pizza like?

Ancient pizza was more like a flatbread than it was a traditional pizza.

Flatbread was made with water, some grains, salt and sometimes beer, The Guardian reported. It would be eaten with an herbed cheese on top along with some fruit or vegetables or fish.

To make an ancient-style pizza, take a flatbread of your choice like pita or lavash and add pesto, pine nuts and whatever kind of cheese and vegetable toppings you’d like. Onions, garlic, leeks and cabbage were popular vegetables for the ancient Romans.

What are the different kinds of pizza?

There are several different kinds of pizza. Here’s a look at some of the most popular kinds.

Neapolitan style: This kind of pizza has a super thin crust in the center but the crust gets much thicker toward the edges. It often comes with a sauce made of San Marzano tomatoes, fresh mozzarella cheese and basil.

Chicago deep-dish: Like the name suggests, this is deep-dish pizza. It has a thicker, crispy crust and is known for being stuffed with toppings.

New York style: Think of thin, foldable slices. New York slices are big, but the crust is very thin, there’s a thin layer of toppings and the slice is covered in cheese.

Detroit style: It’s similar to Chicago deep-dish in that they both have thicker crusts, but Detroit-style pizza is square. The crust is crispy and thick, and it’s topped with tomato sauce along with Wisconsin brick cheese.

Greek pizza: The crust is oily, crispy and baked in a pan rather than directly in a pizza oven. The cheese is melted — often with crispy spots along the top — and the sauce has lots of oregano in it.

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