Pizza originated in Naples and started off as poor man's street food in the 18th & 19th centuries as a plain flat bread gradually acquiring toppings such as tomatoes. In 1889, a famous Neapolitan pizza-maker, Raffaele Esposito, made a pizza for Queen Margherita using ingredients to match the colours of the Italian flag - tomato, basil and mozzarella. The pizza was a hit with the Queen and over time has become a hit all over the world! When you visit Naples be sure to visit the oldest pizzeria, Sorbillo, for the best Margherita and others. Of course, you can always make your own and this is my homemade version - I have given you the classic Margherita topping and also one with prosciutto and rocket. But of course you can experiment with whatever toppings you like. If you can't get fresh yeast, then you can make the dough with the dried variety, but check instructions on the packet.
Make it yourself
2 x large pizzas
For the dough:
- 500g strong flour
- 5g salt
- 10g fresh yeast
- 325ml lukewarm water
Topping for Margherita:
- 150g tinned chopped tomatoes or tomato passata
- Salt & pepper
- 1 x tablespoons extra virgin olive oil & extra for drizzling
- 1 x tablespoon grated parmesan cheese
- 1 x ball mozzarella
- A few fresh basil leaves
Topping for Prosciutto and Rocket
- Extra virgin oil for drizzling
- 1 x ball mozzarella
- 1 x tablespoon grated parmesan
- 4 x slices of Parma ham
- Handful of rocket
- Juice of ½ lemon
- First make the dough. Dissolve the yeast in the lukewarm water. Combine flour and salt in a large bowl. Gradually add the yeast mixture, mixing well until you obtain a dough. Place dough on a lightly floured work surface and knead for about 10 minutes. Cover with a cloth or cling film and leave to rest in a warm place for at least 30 minutes until the dough has doubled in size.
- Preheat the oven to 220 degrees centigrade.
- Take the dough, knock it back, then divide into two pieces, cover each with a cloth and leave to rest in a warm place for a further 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile prepare the toppings. For the Margherita, place tomatoes or passata in a small bowl, season with salt & pepper and stir in 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil. Roughly chop the mozzarella.
- Sprinkle some flour onto a clean work surface and with your fingers spread each piece of dough into a roughly round shape with a border, make the dough as thin as you can but be careful not to tear it. Sprinkle some semolina or flour onto 2 large flat baking trays and place the pizza bases on them.
- Drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil over each base. On one, spread the tomato evenly over, sprinkle with parmesan, scatter a few basil leaves over and top with mozzarella.
- On the other base, arrange mozzarella and parmesan all over, top with Parma ham.
- Place both pizzas into the hot oven and bake for 8 - 10 minutes.
- In the meantime, toss the rocket in a little extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice.
- Remove the pizzas from the oven, top the Parma ham pizza with rocket and serve immediately.
Learn from the pros on your next holiday
Learn the secrets of dough tossing and pizza dressing with a pizza-making masterclass. We've got three available, in Rome, Florence and Sorrento. In each, you'll don an apron and create your pizza under the guidance of a local chef - and once it's been baked in the wood-fired oven, you'll get to tuck into your creation (with a glass of wine, of course). Click on the locations below to find out the details of each one.