Crash Course Pizza

Sure, pizza was born in Naples, but it’s become as American as apple pie, or perhaps even more so – a recent study found that almost half of Americans eat pizza weekly. Over the years, the beloved dish has evolved into myriad styles ranging from classic Neapolitan Margherita pies to regional takes like the ubiquitous New York slice and the knife-and-fork affair known as Chicago deep dish. Whether you’re determined to make restaurant-quality pizza at home or just looking to pop a frozen pie into the oven to enjoy on your sofa (we won’t judge), this is your guide to the perfect pie.

1. Pizza didn’t become popular in the U.S. until the 1940s.

Variations of pizza can be traced back to the Roman Empire, but what we have come to know as the dish today was invented in Naples in 1889. Legend has it that the Margherita was first crafted by pizzaiolo (pizza maker) Raffaele Esposito in honor of the visiting Queen Margherita of Savoy. To celebrate the colors of the Italian flag, his pizza featured mozzarella (white), basil (green) and tomato (red). The first pizzeria in the U.S. is thought to have opened in New York City in the first decade of the 20th century. The dish continued to grow in popularity after World War II, when veterans returning from Italy brought an appetite for pizza home to the states. Decades later, the dish is ubiquitous. 

2. Styles vary widely by region.

From cracker-thin pizzas to thick, cheesy pan pies, pizza may look – and taste – totally different depending on your zip code. Grab a slice and study up on these regional styles.

3. Quality homemade pizza requires the right tools.

Ready to become a pizza pro? First, make sure you’ve got the right equipment. We tapped Taylor Hamilton, pizzaiolo at Union Loafers in St. Louis, to share his must-have tools.

Pizza Stone

Stone

“A quality stone is a must for good pizza at home – unless you’re making pan pizza, which can be equally delicious. Look for a thicker, rectangular stone that will fit your oven, and avoid any of the thin, circular ones they sell in grocery stores. They’re cheap and bound to crack.”

Pizza Scraper

Scraper

“In pizzerias, we usually use putty scrapers like you’d find at the hardware store in lieu of dough scrapers. They’re finer, flexible, more durable and can double as a bench scraper when cutting and shaping dough.”

Digital Scale

Digital Scale

“A digital scale is essential for making good dough. Always use recipes by weight rather than volume, and weigh your dough when dividing into balls for consistency.”

Peel

Peel

“A peel is a definite plus, but if you don’t have one, simply make your pizza on parchment paper and use a sheet tray to slide it into the oven. Results are the same and it eliminates the factor of your pizza sticking to the peel and becoming misshapen.”

Pizza Cutter

Pizza Cutter

“Don’t forget the pizza cutter – scissors are no fun.”

4. Yes, you can grab a quality local pie in the freezer section.

Want pizza in a pinch? Next time you’re browsing the frozen-foods aisle, keep an eye out for these locally made frozen pizzas.