When talking about Italy and its main global exports, one would undoubtedly say that pasta and pizza top the list; the latter being a worldwide favourite, for its cheesy and tomatoey goodness. The classic yeasty dough is pretty basic, needing only four ingredients: strong flour, yeast, salt and water. However when it comes to toppings, one can go as crazy as they wish even though the Italians might frown upon it. The two classic versions of Neapolitan pizza date back to the late 19th century and include only a handful of basic ingredients. The oldest version, the Marinara is a concoction of tomatoes oregano, garlic and olive oil, whilst its cheesy sister, the Margherita includes tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese and basil.
The calzone would probably be considered as the cousin of the traditional pizza, having the same doughy bread as the base, filled with different toppings, instead of being topped, just like the pizza and then folded in half and baked to resemble a semicircle.
Even though no one can beat the classic, some pretty good variations of the bready goodness of pizza can be found all over Europe and beyond, with some changing its cooking method, shape or sometimes just adding and changing the toppings.
Tarte flambée is one of the specialities of the Alsace region in France and its neighbouring areas such as South Germany where it is called Flammkuchen (with varied spellings depending on the region). The name translates literally from both languages as ‘flame cake’. The dish is composed of bread dough rolled out thinly and covered with fromage blanc or crème fraiche. It is then topped with thinly sliced onions and lardons. After it has been prepared, it is cooked in a wood-fire oven. It can be round in shape or rectangular and is perfect as a snack or for sharing. The most common variations of this dish include gratinée, foriestière and munster. The main differences between these are the type of cheese that is used for each, and the fact that mushrooms are added for a foriestière. You can also make a sweet version for dessert which usually contains apples and cinnamon.
This Hungarian special is a delicious fried alternative to the baked pizza. The dough which is also made from yeast is shaped in a flat, circular way and deep-fried. It is then topped with different meats and vegetables according to personal preferences. However, the traditional way to enjoy this doughy delight is to top it with sour cream and grated cheese. Lángos can be easily found in Hungary and its neighbouring countries, both at street fairs and food markets. At any touristic spot you’ll be sure to find an opportunity to sample this tasty Hungarian dish.
Often described as the Turkish equivalent to pizza, the Pide is a cheap snack or comfort food easily available in almost any Turkish town. The dough, similar to the other dishes mentioned above, is a simple mixture made out of yeast which is skilfully rolled out into an oval and topped with any ingredient imaginable. The edges and ends are then pinched to form a border, and the ends shaped to a point forming almost a diamond. As with the pizza, the Pide can be topped and filled with any kind of filling that is desired; however, it usually always includes a meaty filling, be it lamb, salami or beef, together with a mix of vegetables and cheese. It is then baked to golden perfection in a hot oven.
The tiny European state of Malta has a lot of culinary influences from the food giant Italy given its status as a very close neighbour. However, throughout the years, some of the classic Italian recipes such as pasta dishes, soups and stews have been adapted to better fit the local food scene.
This can also be said in the case of the pizza, where even though the traditional Italian pizza can be found in abundance throughout the island, there is a local version called ftira, combining the concept of pizza with a host of local flavours.
The ftira can also refer to a round type of Maltese bread, often filled with tomatoes, tuna, olives, capers, local cheese, olive oil and all kinds of local culinary delights. Therefore, the ftira pizza can be considered as a delicious lovechild of the pizza and the ftira bread. In fact, the yeast bread dough (similar to the traditional pizza base) is topped with tomatoes, tuna anchovies, olives, onions, herbs, oil and all the good things that the Mediterranean has to offer. It is then topped with a layer of thinly-sliced potatoes which when baked give this amazing crunchy and crispy texture.
These ftajjar (plural for ftira), although known as Maltese, can be typically found in Gozo, the smaller sister island to Malta, which is only a 20 minute boat ride away from the larger island. Even if just for this incomparable local speciality, one surely can’t miss out on a visit to Gozo.
We hope you enjoyed this culinary exploration. If you know of any other variations of the classic pizza dish, let us know in the comments below. See you next week for another I·ATE Food Term of the Week!
- Wikipedia, Neapolitan Pizza. Available here [accessed 24/11/17].
- Wikipedia, Lángos. Available here [accessed 24/11/17].
- Wikipedia, Tarte Flambée. Available here [accessed 24/11/17].
- Merlin and Rebecca, What the Heck is Ftira?. Available here [accessed 24/11/17].
- The Telegraph, Move over pizza, it’s all about Turkish Pide now. Available here [accessed 24/11/17].
- Edible Communities, A Turkish Flatbread – Spinach pide. Available here [accessed 24/11/17].
- Peter Sommer Travels, Pide – Turkish pizza. Available here [accessed 24/11/17].
Liam Kennedy – Schuman Trainee at the Terminology Coordination Unit of the European Parliament. Graduate of Journalism with a Language (French) at Dublin Institute of Technology. Currently completing a Masters in Translation Studies at University College Cork;
Veronica Lynn Mizzi – Schuman Trainee at the Terminology Coordination Unit of the European Parliament. Graduate in the Maltese Language and Communication, and Master’s graduate in Translation and Terminology Studies from the University of Malta;