February 9 is National Pizza Day! We asked our Farmers’ Almanac readers what their favorite meal was, and it’s no surprise which came out on top: pizza! Here are the results:
What is your favorite “All-American” dinner?
Fried Chicken (29%)
Hot Dogs (4%)
And the #1 topping across the U.S. is pepperoni!
Did you know…
- Approximately 100 acres of pizza are consumed each day in the U.S.
- 17% of all restaurants are pizzerias.
- 93% of Americans eat a minimum of one pizza each month.
- Pepperoni – America’s favorite topping – accounts for 36% of all pizza orders.
- Frozen pizzas first became available in 1957.
Origins of Pizza
While it is impossible to know exactly where the first pizza pie dough was first tossed in the air, Italy has traditionally been considered the birthplace of the pizza. Tomatoes originated in the New World, beginning as a wild plant found in Ecuador and Peru, eventually migrating north, where the Aztecs modified them into larger, more edible varieties. They were brought to Italy in the 16th century by the Spanish. Wealthier Italians originally thought tomatoes to be poisonous, but the poor ate them along with their usual diet of bread, cheese, and olive oil. As time passed, the combination caught on with the general population. Naples is credited with creating what we know as “pizza” today and Neapolitan pizzas are considered to be the world’s best.
Pizza in the U.S.
In the late nineteenth century, Italian immigrants brought pizza to the U.S. The first pizzeria, Lombardi’s Pizzeria Napoletana, was opened in New York in 1905. But pizza didn’t really catch on with Americans until after World War II when soldiers stationed in Italy returned home with a passion for pizza. The popularity of pizza spread rapidly during the 1950s and 1960s and has been an American favorite ever since.
Frozen pizza and pizza delivery are convenient, but you can’t beat a fresh homemade pizza right from your oven at home. Making your own pizza is healthier and allows you to customize the pie to your particular tastes. Try these recipes!
Basic Pizza Crust
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 package instant yeast (.25 ounce)
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 8 ounces milk, warmed to 110 degrees
- 4 ounces water, warmed to 110 degrees
- Combine dry ingredients in large mixing bowl.
- Add warmed liquids all at once to dry mixture. Stir until well mixed, incorporating all dry ingredients.
- Cover bowl with clean towel and set aside for 20 to 25 minutes, allowing dough to rise.
- Knead by hand 6 to 8 times on floured surface, adding additional flour to surface as needed to keep dough from sticking.
- Roll into desired shape and thickness.
- Place dough onto greased pizza pan; add favorite sauce and toppings.
- Bake at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes, depending on thickness of crust.
In a mixing bowl, combine:
- 8 ounces tomato sauce
- 2 tablespoons tablespoons Italian seasoning
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- Once you have the sauce and dough, fire up the grill. Charcoal lends a nice flavor to your pizza, but any grill will do. If using charcoal, be sure to allow enough time for the coals to get nice and hot. A charcoal chimney, available at your local hardware or department store, will speed up the process.
- Brush both sides of the pizza dough with a light layer of olive oil, place it on the grate, and close the lid. While the dough is cooking, assemble your favorite toppings. Good options include shredded cheese and/or fresh mozzarella (sliced thin), fresh basil, fresh garlic (sliced), onions, kalamata olives, peppers… The sky is the limit. Add whatever you enjoy.
- Using a pair of tongs, check the underside of the dough. Remove it from the grate when it is golden-brown. A few darker spots and bubbles will add flavor. On a separate plate or cooking sheet, flip the dough so that the cooked side is face-up. Add the sauce and toppings, and return the pizza to the grill until the bottom turns golden brown and the cheese melts. Slice and serve.
Chicago Style Pizza
- 1 thick crust pizza dough shell
- 1 cup pizza sauce
- 12 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese
- 1/2 pound ground beef, crumbled, cooked
- 1/4 pound pound Italian sausage, crumbled, cooked
- 1/4 pound pork sausage, crumbled, cooked
- 1/2 cup pepperoni, diced
- 1/2 cup Canadian bacon, diced
- 1/2 cup ham, diced
- 1/4 pound mushrooms, sliced
- 1 small onion, sliced
- 1 green bell pepper, seeded, sliced
- 2 ounces grated Parmesan cheese
- Place thick style pizza crust dough into oiled 12-inch pizza pan, folding excess over to make small rim.
- Spread with pizza sauce; sprinkle with all but a handful of the mozzarella cheese.
- Sprinkle with meats and vegetables.
- Top with remaining mozzarella and Parmesan cheese.
- Bake pizza at 400 degrees until crust is golden, about 25 minutes.
- Let stand 5 minutes before slicing.
- 1 1/2 cups (packed) stemmed spinach leaves
- 1/2 cup (packed) fresh basil leaves (about 1 bunch)
- 1 1/2 tablespoons oil from oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes or olive oil
- 1 large garlic clove Olive oil
- 1 thin crust pizza dough shell
- 1/3 cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, sliced and drain
- 2 cups grated mozzarella cheese
- 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- Blend first 4 ingredients in processor to coarse puree.
- Transfer pesto to small bowl. (Can be prepared one day ahead. Press plastic directly onto surface of pesto to cover; refrigerate.)
- Grease 12-inch pizza pan with olive oil. Arrange dough in pan and cover with pesto.
- Sprinkle with sun-dried tomatoes, then cheeses.
- Bake at 400 degrees until crust browns and cheese melts.
Barbecue Chicken Pizza
- 10 ounces boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 tablespoons spicy-sweet barbecue sauce
- 1 thin crust pizza dough shell Cornmeal, semolina, or flour for handling.
- 1/2 cup spicy-sweet barbecue sauce
- 2 tablespoons shredded smoked Gouda cheese
- 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
- 1/4 small red onion, sliced into 1/8-inch pieces
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
- In large frying pan, cook chicken in olive oil over medium-high heat until just cooked, 5-6 minutes; do not overcook.
- Refrigerate until chilled. Once chilled, coat chicken with barbecue sauce; set aside in the refrigerator.
- Place dough onto pizza pan. Spread barbecue sauce evenly over dough.
- Sprinkle smoked Gouda cheese over sauce. Cover with 3/4 cup shredded mozzarella. Distribute chicken pieces evenly over cheese.
- Add red onion and sprinkle an additional 1/4 cup mozzarella over top.
- Bake at 400 degrees until crust is crisp and golden and cheese at center is bubbly, 8 to 10 minutes.
- Remove from oven and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon cilantro.
California Style Vegetable Pizza
- 1 thin crust pizza dough shell
- 1/2 cup izza sauce
- 1/2 cup lightly steamed broccoli
- 1/2 cup artichoke hearts, chopped
- 1/3 cup black olives, sliced
- 1 tomato, sliced
- 6 green pepper rings
- 6 red pepper rings
- Place pizza crust in oiled 12-inch pizza pan, pushing edges up a little to form a rim.
- Spread sauce on dough.
- Arrange vegetables with tomatoes and peppers.
- Bake at 400 degrees approximately 15 minutes until crust is brown and crisp.