Both are Italian classics and covered in cheese, but if you’re looking for a slice of Margherita and a slice of “plain ole’ cheese” shows up, you’re going to be disappointed.
“Pizza Margherita” was allegedly created in the late 1800s by a Neapolitan pizzaiolo (pizza maker) named Raffaele Esposito to display the colors of an Italian flag with tomatoes (red), mozzarella (white), and basil (green). The real secret is using the highest quality ingredients.
The Neapolitan-style pizza has a simple sauce (often just crushed fresh tomatoes or canned San Marzano tomatoes), and is topped with only mozzarella di bufala, basil, and a drizzle of olive oil—and perhaps some salt. It cooks quickly at a high temperature (in a wood-fired oven) and has a thin and crispy crust.
Cheese pizza, while just as delicious, doesn’t follow any of the strict guidelines that make a true pizza Margherita. Fresh mozzarella can be used, but often that’s reserved for the fancier artisanal pizza places—and regular packaged, grated mozzarella still makes for a delicious dinner. Cheese pizzas have a significant amount more cheese and no visible sauce, and various combinations of cheese are often used (like fontina, Parmesan, and other mild picks).
What type of cheese is used to make Neapolitan pizza?
In terms of cheese, pizza makers must use one of two specific kinds of cheese. The first is Mozzarella di Bufala Campana, itself a protected cheese made from the milk of water buffaloes that live in the Campania and Lazio regions. The second is Fior di Latte di Agerola, a cow’s milk mozzarella from the Agerola area.
The Neapolitan pizza has specific requirements for ingredients, size, construction of its dough, and the way it’s prepared in a wood-burning oven. The ingredients for the dough are relatively simple, but to construct it well, you’ll need a precise hand. All you’ll need to get started is water, salt, yeast and some special flour. Neapolitan pizza dough uses a specific wheat flour (type 0, type 00, or a mixture of the two) that provides a high protein content to give the dough its elasticity.
The dough must be prepared by hand or a low-speed mixer, then left to proof for 8 hours or more. Neapolitan pizza dough is then stretched and prepared entirely by hand to a thickness of around 3 millimetres. Once the dough is ready, it’ll receive its toppings then receive a quick finish in a scorching wood-burning oven. The whole cooking process only takes between 60 to 90 seconds. When it comes out of the oven, the dough will be tender, soft, have a fantastic smell and of course, be extremely delicious.
The skill it takes to prepare this dough means that many people go to pizza school in Naples to make sure they’re doing it properly. Any small mistake can result in a ruined pizza. This attention to detail in every part of the process—the sourcing of the ingredients, the preparation of the dough, the precise cooking style and temperature—is what makes this pizza so unique.
What is the difference between Neapolitan and Margherita pizza?
Neapolitan pizza can have a wide variety of toppings and variations. Of these, Pizza Margherita is by far the most well known. Pizza Margherita traditionally consists of tomatoes, sliced mozzarella, basil, and extra virgin olive oil.
When this pizza comes out of the oven, you’ll be greeted with the powerful scent of baked bread, the acidity of the tomatoes and mozzarella, the smell of basil, and the herbal touch of the oil. It’s perfection in every bite.
If you’d like to sample some authentic Neapolitan pizza, but can’t make an extended stay in Naples, our Little Shop includes a delicious taste of this authentic Italian ingredients to make your own!