What is neapolitan pizza - igneus wood fired pizza ovens uk

What is Neapolitan Pizza?

The term ‘Neapolitan’ resonates in the pizza world. However, did you know that to classify a pizza as truly Neapolitan, it must adhere to specific criteria? Pizza is a globally cherished food with diverse styles, variations, and approaches to doughs, sauces, and toppings. Additionally, the method of cooking the pizza varies. However, there is no debate about what constitutes a Neapolitan pizza. Stick around to discover precisely what those strict criteria are!

A Brief History

The origins of pizza in its most simplistic form are somewhat debatable. Pizza began as a simple flatbread adorned with various basic toppings, nothing like the pizza we know today and love.

Ancient Egyptians and Greeks are known to have made such dishes, but the Romans who truly grasped the basics of pizza evolved it into the traditional, authentic Italian pizza we know and love today. This original Italian pizza has its roots in Naples, Italy, believed to have been created in the late 18th or early 19th century.

So, what about ‘Neapolitan’ then?

Neapolitan pizza (Italian: pizza Napoletana), also known as Naples-style pizza, is that very pizza first created in the late 18th or early 19th century. It is remarkably simplistic in nature, with just a handful of ingredients—tomatoes, mozzarella, olive oil, and fresh basil—on a traditional wheat dough. It gained popularity for two main reasons: it was cheap and easy to make. The pizza had no meat or fish as part of its toppings, making it accessible for the poor. In fact, the original Neapolitan pizza didn’t even have cheese, as it was too expensive for the poorest people of Naples.

The Royal Pizza

Despite being a staple dish among the lower classes in Italy, Neapolitan pizza was quickly adopted by the richest of Italian society. It gained traction when King Umberto I and Queen Margherita visited Naples, and baker Raffaele Esposito famously made Neapolitan pizza for them. He aimed to give them a meal reflecting the colours of the Italian flag—red, green, and white—hence the tomatoes, basil, and mozzarella. The pizza was an instant hit with the King and Queen, truly launching Neapolitan pizza as a national dish. The Queen’s name, Margherita, is why Neapolitan pizza is now widely known as Margherita worldwide.

What makes Neapolitan Pizza so special?

The European Union’s Traditional Specialty Guaranteed (TSG) status protects Neapolitan Pizza, ensuring that only pizzas made according to traditional methods in Naples or its surrounding areas can be called ‘Neapolitan pizza’. This designation preserves the authenticity and integrity of the style, explaining why Margherita is a widely known term for essentially the same thing.

To further emphasize the commitment to authenticity, Naples has certified pizzerias that strictly use traditional methods for making the famous pizza. They use staple ingredients like San Marzano tomatoes, grown in the volcanic soil of the Campania region, fresh buffalo milk mozzarella (mozzarella di bufala), fresh basil, and the best quality extra virgin olive oil.

The way these certified pizzerias cook the pizzas plays a significant role in their certified status. They use wood-fired pizza ovens, providing the truly authentic taste derived from the wood itself and the char it creates on the crust.

At Igneus, we’re passionate about recreating that authentic taste. All our pizza ovens are wood-fired using proper hardwood, creating a hotter, cleaner burn that enhances the overall quality of the pizza.

What makes Neapolitan Pizza different then?

The key factor that sets Neapolitan pizza apart from other styles worldwide is its simplicity and strict ingredient list. People love Neapolitan pizza because the flavors are clean and distinctive, with just enough of each ingredient to avoid overpowering others.

A good example is the tomato sauce, which is incredibly simple—hand-squished San Marzano tomatoes with a touch of olive oil and salt. In contrast, other pizza styles often use overly complex tomato sauces with ingredients that compete against each other, potentially making the sauce overpowering. This is common in American versions of pizza, such as Chicago or New York Style.

Another differentiator is the dough, made from simple, high-quality ingredients—typically flour, water, salt, and yeast—without any added fats or sugars. The use of highly refined, soft-grain flour, such as Italian Tipo 00 flour, is common. The dough undergoes a slow fermentation process, allowing it to develop complex flavours and a soft, elastic texture. Its crust is thin, noticeably different from pizza in other parts of Italy.

High Quality Ingredients

One final thing to mention is the importance of how the pizza is cooked. Using a proper, wood-fired pizza oven, such as the Igneus Minimo, Bambino, or Classico, enables you to recreate the true Neapolitan style pizza at home for your friends and family to enjoy!

Wood-fired cooking provides the authentic taste, just like it would have been in the late 18th or early 19th century. It also cooks the pizza super quickly, in as little as 60-90 seconds!

We genuinely hope you’ve enjoyed this article! Our team is always available to offer help and advice as needed.

Thanks for reading!

Team Igneus