It’s Monday, So Pizza

A pizza in a wood-fired oven. All photographs by Nathan Myhrvold / The Cooking Lab, LLC.

Phaidon‘s books frequently allow us to offer a fun alternative to our heavier fare. Today is one of those days to go for the fun:

The surprising history of pizza

Modernist Pizza might apply the latest science to the pizzaiolos’ role, but it also dishes up deep history too

Pizza Margherita.

Modernist Pizza certainly applies a little science to the task of making a great slice. In this huge, comprehensive, three-volume publication, authors Nathan Myhrvold and Francisco Migoya share innumerable practical tips and innovative techniques to create great pizzas. Myhrvold is Microsoft’s former Chief Technology Officer and studied under Stephen Hawking at the University of Cambridge, and so almost all of those tips and techniques aren’t simple repetitions of old hunches and dogma, but the product of numerous test-kitchen experiments. Want to know the precise effects of ageing on mozzarella? Or which parts of your oven really cook your pie? Then get this set of books.

However, the authors also took time to look into pizza history, to discover how this Neopolitan street speciality made its way around the world. In a particularly enlightening section, the book traces the earliest pizza recipes.

The first French recipe, published in 1875, instructed cooks to bake bread dough topped with oil, salted anchovies, halved tomatoes, chopped garlic, parsley and mozzarella (which the recipe described as a soft sheep’s milk cheese), in a clean bread oven for 20 minutes.

The first English recipe comes in 1898, essentially repeating the French version, and describing pizza as “a sort of cake that is a favourite dish in Naples.”

The first Italian recipe for Pizza alla Napoletana came in 1904. There were two variations: one topped with anchovies and oil; the other with Swiss Cheese and oil. In 1911, a later Italian recipe came with more conventional toppings of anchovies, mozzarella and tomatoes.

In 1927, the Saturday Evening Post published America’s first pizza recipe. Its author, George Rector, included it in his Cook’s Tour column, describing the pizza as “part of a typical Tuscan meal.” Again, the toppings were tomatoes, anchovies, mozzarella and olive oil…

Read the whole book description here.

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