Most people think of pizza as right up there with pasta as authentic Italian food, but not all pizzas are created equal in authenticity. As far as proper Italian pizzas go, there are certain ingredients, like basil, that are must-haves.
Basil is a key ingredient in many Italian dishes, including pizza. If you want to have an authentic Italian-style pizza, then you’ll want to have some basil – fresh basil is best – on hand.
For more on how Italians use basil on their pizza, keep reading.
Do Italians Put Basil On Pizza?
Italians enjoy basil in many dishes. It’s mixed in sauces and incorporated into salads.
It’s also a major part of pizza preparation, in several forms.
How Do Italians Prepare Basil To Put On Pizza?
Most Italians and pizzerias that specialize in authentic Italian pizza have a few guidelines for putting basil on pizza.
– Fresh Basil is better than dried.
– The brighter the green, the fresher the basil, and the better it tastes.
– Whole leaves are better than cut because they don’t wilt as fast.
What If I Want Shredded or Chopped Basil?
Italians generally put the whole leaves on their pizza, but not always.
When using chopped or shredded basil, Italian chefs recommend drizzling or lightly coating the leaves in olive oil, to keep it fresh and prevent it from wilting and losing flavor.
When Is The Best Time To Add Basil To Pizza?
When it comes to dried basil, the general recommendation is to add it just after baking. Baking it on the pizza can cause the dried basil flavor to become too strong.
When it comes to using fresh basil, there are two different schools of thought.
– Add it just before baking
– Add it a few minutes after pulling it from the oven.
Adding It Just Before Baking:
Adding your fresh basil just before baking allows the flavor and aroma to permeate the pizza during the cooking process, adding a wonderful scent.
If you choose to add the basil right before baking, you may want to chop or shred it. You may also want to lightly brush your basil with olive oil to keep it from wilting too much in the heat.
You can also add it just after you’ve put the pizza in the oven, though the timing can be tricky for this.
Adding It After Pulling It From The Oven:
Adding basil right after baking allows you to use the freshest basil possible. This gives you maximum flavor and basil texture and is a great way to use the whole basil leaves, especially.
If you choose to add basil after baking, wait a few minutes after you pull it from the oven. If the pizza is too hot, the leaves are more likely to wilt and lose their flavor, as well as their appearance.
You can use whole leaves, or you can sprinkle shredded leaves over the top of the pizza like a seasoning. Either preparation will give you a good flavor.
Basil On Authentic Italian Pizza:
There’s pizza, and then there’s authentic Italian pizza, sometimes also called the Margherita Pizza. Margherita pizza has a very distinct appearance and composition.
The basic components of Margherita Pizza are:
– Thin dough for a crispy crust.
– Freshly sliced mozzarella cheese
– Basil leaves
– Olive oil (optional)
How Is A Margherita Pizza Made?
Once the dough is prepared, you can do one of two things.
1. Lightly coat with olive oil, and lay other ingredients over that.
2. Finely dice (some say puree) the tomatoes and spread them over the crust
– Add slices of tomato, if using an olive oil base, evenly spaced around the pizza.
– Slice your mozzarella and layout, evenly spaced around the pizza, and in between the tomato slices
– Lay out your basil leaves, shredded or whole, over the pizza.
Note: If you prefer to add your basil after baking, save this step for later.
– If you used diced tomatoes as the base, you can lightly brush the pizza with olive oil as a finishing touch.
Note: if you add the basil before baking, this step is recommended to keep it from wilting as much.
– After that, bake your pizza until the crust is golden brown.
Are There Any Other Ways To Add Basil to Pizza?
If you’re looking to add basil, but don’t want to just add the fresh leaves to the top, you can mix the basil with your tomatoes, or your sauce.
The mixed-in basil will add flavor, and easier to avoid wilting or burning, but it’s not necessarily as aesthetically pleasing.
Also, according to Italian cooks, you won’t get the full benefits of the basil, even if you do enjoy the taste.
Why Do Italians Put Basil On Their Pizza?
There are many reasons for including basil on pizza. One of the most common reasons is the taste, as basil adds a bit of pep to any dish.
Another reason is aesthetics. The green leaves of the basil add color, and on a traditional pizza add the green of the distinctive ‘flag of Italy’ appearance.
The third reason is the health benefits. Basil has many health benefits associated with it.
What Are The Health Benefits of Basil?
Basil has several health benefits that make it an excellent addition to the Italian diet, or any other.
– Antioxidants to fight free radicals and reduce the risk of certain diseases
– Compounds that help reduce chronic long-term blood sugar
– Essential oils in Basil, as well as magnesium, help reduce high blood pressure and the risk of heart disease.
– Mineral compounds that help reduce anxiety and memory loss.
– Essential oils act as anti-inflammatory agents to reduce bowel issues and arthritis
Nutrients aside from essential oils and antioxidants include magnesium, potassium, Iron, Zinc, Calcium, and Vitamins A and K
Add all these elements together, and it’s no wonder Italians prefer basil as the herb of choice to flavor their food, especially their pizza.
So, grab a slice and enjoy the delicious combination of basil and pizza, whether you prefer to eat it with utensils or with your hands, as we discussed in the article “Do Italian Eat Pizza With Their Hands?”.
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