Keep It Fresh

October 26th, 2022

One of the things that Italians have taught us through their cuisine is that the use of fresh ingredients can elevate a piece of dough to indescribable levels. Take the Margherita pizza for example: just tomato and cheese with fresh, aromatic basil scattered on top. It doesn’t get any simpler than that, yet it’s unarguably the most incredible flavor any human can dream of. And how do you get fresh ingredients other than by growing them around you?

In fact, if we were to point the odd ingredient out of the Margherita recipe, you might be surprised to learn that it is tomatoes. Something so naturally fitting in these popular pies is the only ingredient traditionally used by Italians that is not native to the Mediterranean. Tomatoes are actually native to Peru, a beautiful country in South America with their own outstanding cuisine, which curiously has great Japanese influence. When this delicious red juicy fruit was taken to Europe, people associated it with another plant in the same botanical family called the belladonna (meaning beautiful lady in italian), which is poisonous. Thus Peruvian tomatoes were first deemed as dangerous as Adam’s apple. It was a Neapolitan pizzaiolo (word now used to describe the chef who specializes in making real italian-style pizzas) who planted tomatoes deep into the pizza world.

Other than tomatoes, the most classic Italian toppings are generally ingredients that are found in abundance in the Mediterranean. Any scholars reading this might argue that garlic is another intruder, as it is original to Central Asia. Yet it has been cultivated on the shores of the Mediterranean for over 5,000 years, long enough to be considered a local. Today, the trees, fruits, shrubs and herbs natural to that region are reproduced in other areas with similar climates. What’s known as Mediterranean climate agriculture can be found in southern and southwestern Australia, central Chile, coastal Californian and, of course, the Mediterranean Basin, where things like bay laurel, olives and rosemary are grown. Then tuna, the only seafood really accepted on true Italian pizzas, is majorly caught in the Mediterranean Sea.

As with Margherita, real Italian pizzas do not come overflowing with toppings. They would never have chicken or meat (unless cured) with the exception of sausage. Instead, an educated choice of cheese is accompanied by fresh herbs, often oregano and basil, the adopted tomatoes and olive oil, also rooted in the Mediterranean soil. Then there are multiple variations in the pizza menu near me including endemic produce such as artichokes, eggplant, rocket (also known as arugula), and mushrooms. Capers, also native to the hot climate of this heavenly region, and anchovies, a saltwater fish native to the Mediterranean and the Black Sea, can be found in some experimental yet proudly Italian pizza recipes. While capsicum and zucchini are not native to this soil, they love this climate as much as we love to occasionally savor them on our favorite pies.

There is no right or wrong when it comes to pizza toppings, especially when you realize that these traditions were founded over availability rather than preference. As pizza made its way to the United States, many Italian chefs migrated as well, discovering new ingredients to experiment with. Moreover, some Mediterranean ingredients were considered as pizza toppings only after they had crossed the Atlantic ocean. Such is the case of fennel and broccoli, for example.

Whatever you like, you must be hungry after all this chatter. Feel free to search for Detroit pizza near and order your favorite pizza toppings from your favorite pizzeria.