A famously excellent gastronomy product recognized by all, the Neapolitan pizza has a background story that since made it an icon of the Made in Italy. Started out as a popular street food, to fold and to hold, the Neapolitan pizza is now facing a gourmet evolution without forgetting its precious past and traditional techniques. Soft dough and high crust, these are the key elements of a real Neapolitan pizza, prepared following strict rules and a true craft passed on from generations, especially in the Campania region. It’s no wonder that the city of Paestum, Salerno province, is hosting Le Strade della Mozzarella, a congress dedicated to the Mozzarella di Bufala Campana DOP, also focusing on this particular subject, this coming 12-14 of May.
Fine Dining Lovers asked to the pizza makers attending Le Strade della Mozzarella, to reveal us the secrets of a true Neapolitan pizza: the flour, the leavening, the tomatoes used, and of course, the Mozzarella di Bufala Campana DOP. Here is advice from Ciro Oliva (Pizzeria Oliva), Franco Pepe (Pepe in Grani), Ciro Salvo (50 Kalò), Francesco and Salvatore Salvo (Pizzeria Salvo) and Gino Sorbillo (Sorbillo, Lievito Madre al Mare).
"Which is the perfect flour? We tend to use high protein flour (11,5%), and almost exclusively type 0 soft wheat”, explain Francesco and Salvatore Salvo. Gino Sorbillo agrees with them on the protein level, but he prefers type '00'. Ciro Oliva talks about soft yet non-elastic flour, good for digestion, and it has to be type '0'. If you want to try imitating this ancient form of art, Franco Pepe gives you a piece of advice: "Buy your flour from the bakery, there you can find the most complete kind, it’s better than at the supermarket. By getting the best flour, you are already starting off on the right foot.”
Strong of soft? How much water? The Salvo brothers use a lot of water to maintain its softness, so does Ciro Salvo. "It’s difficult to balance ferments and flour. A trick is to pour water first and then add flour”, comments Franco Pepe, “the quantities should be at your discretion, you will learn in time. Ciro Oliva claims you need “1 liter of water, 1,4 kg of flour, 50 g of salt in the winter and 2/3 g of ferment; in the summer, you can add 6 g of salt to make your dough taste stronger, don’t forget to let it sit out, never put it in the fridge”.
Humidity and leavening time? Gino Sorbillo says he needs to work in a dry room, no stream of hot or cold air. Use brewer’s yeast 3%, or a yeast base, 10% (dry/ freeze-dried). Ciro Oliva says his trick is to sit it on a wooden kitchen board: “Many use a plastic board, wood is better because it takes out the humidity off the dough leavened for 12/14 hours. It makes the dough lighter, 5 kg can go down to 3,2 after leavening." The Salvo brothers let it rise from 12 to 20 hours, the difference depends on the flour and on the quantity of starch in it. Franco Pepe adds that the temperature should be mild, 22-23 degrees Celsius.
"Neapolitan pizza needs to be cooked in a wood-fired oven, low domes and a small vent, to keep the temperature at 400 degrees, and to cook in exactly one minute and a half”: this is the Salvo brothers’ secret. Ciro Oliva says his own secret is to cook the pizza right by the entrance of the oven.
What tomato is perfect for Neapolitan pizza, how should you cut it, how much should you put? "Never, and I say never, use passata! You can use Pelati di San Marzano (Peeled San Marzano tomatoes)", explains Gino Sorbillo. Franco Pepe also insists on San Marzano and adds the Piennolo del Vesuvio kind to the list of his favorite tomatoes. How to cut it? Ciro Salvo breaks it into small pieces with his bare hands, and adds salt. What is the best way to use it? Here is Ciro Oliva’s perfect recipe, including quantities: “ For a 250 g pizza, you need to use 80 g of mozzarella and just a spoonful of tomatoes, be careful not to put more, there needs to be balance between the ingredients”.
6. MOZZARELLA DI BUFALA CAMPANA DOP
Neapolitan pizza and Mozzarella di Bufala Campana DOP are a perfect gourmet union. Still, there are some secrets you can learn: the Salvo brothers explain that the Bufala’s milk has more fat, and that the Mozzarella di Bufala Campana DOP makes the dough softer, it also breaks less than mozzarella from cow’s milk. Franco Pepe suggests you drain it first, or use mozzarella from the day before. How should you cut it? Ciro Salvo suggests you cut it with a knife just before you use it. “The slices shouldn’t be too big and should cover the entire surface like animal spots.” Gino Sorbillo says it’s crucial not to overwork it, as well as letting it drain in order to avoid a watery pizza.
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