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The History of Pizza

February 05, 2016

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You would probably be hard pressed to find someone you know who hasn't enjoyed a slice or two of pizza at some point; it's one of the most commonly eaten foods in North America. We know that pizza is a quick and delicious meal, but did you know that it has a history that spans over a thousand years?

Fun Fact: National Pizza Day is February 9th!

Who doesn't love a simple margherita pizza? Who doesn't love a simple margherita pizza? Courtesy of thekitchn.com

Flatbread

The precursor to the modern version of pizza was first recorded as early as 997 AD in Italy. It probably appeared as a flatbread, possibly in the form of Foccacia, a bread that has herbs, oil, and toppings added to make it more flavorful. An interesting note on the history of flatbread in general is that nearly every international cuisine features this tasty treat. For example, Naan and Roti are staples in India, and pita bread is commonly found in Mediterranean kitchens. 

Roti is an example of a type of Indian flatbreadRoti is an example of a type of Indian flatbreadCourtesy of idiva.com

Just add Cheese

There are a lot of different theories on the origins of mozzarella cheese, which is the cheese most commonly used on real Italian pizza. Mozzarella is traditionally made from water buffalo milk, and historians disagree on whether the water buffalo was introduced into Italy or whether it originated there, but one thing remains fairly certain - the cheese is first mentioned in the 12th century, and its advent allowed pizza makers to take their flatbread to the next level! By the 16th century, an early form of pizza was being sold on the streets as food for the poor, but it was not considered much of a culinary achievement. 

Buffalo mozzarella is the tasty cheese used on traditional Italian pizzasBuffalo mozzarella is the tasty cheese used on traditional Italian pizzasCourtesy of Antichi Sapori

Tomato, Tomahto

You may be surprised to hear that, up until the mid-16th century, tomatoes were unknown in Italy. Tomato plans are native to South America, and it wasn't until explorers started importing tomatoes back to Europe that they were introduced to the population there. It took some time for Italians to begin using tomatoes in cooking, as originally they were considered to be ostly decorative. By the 18th and 19th century, tomatoes had begun to be used more regularly, and the form of pizza that we now know and love really came into being. 

Did you know tomatoes are originally from South America?Did you know tomatoes are originally from South America?Courtesy of Filbert Acres Farm

Pizza Today

Pizza continues to be a popular food in Italy and around the world. It was first introduced in the United States in the late 19th century by Italian immigrants, and gained popularity in Canada around the 1950s. Nowadays, if you live in a city, you can find pizza on almost every corner, with toppings various enough to please any palate. 

These days, you can get all kinds of pizza, including this delicious kale and sausage!These days, you can get all kinds of pizza, including this delicious kale and sausage!Courtesy of thekitchn.com

As you can see, the origin of pizza is inextricably tied into the history of Italy. Think about it - where did your favorite foods come from and how have they been affected by the history of the countries they originated in? See, history isn't boring - it can be delicious!

Have Your Say!

What's your favorite food? What is your favorite type of pizza? Comment below and let us know!