Content provided by the Health & Wellness Team at GBS Benefits
From the Dietitian’s Desk
With Becca Rick, MS, RD
Neapolitan pizza, also known as Margherita pizza, was initially considered a peasant dish in Naples, Italy. Neapolitan pizza consists of dough topped with San Marzano tomatoes, olive oil, basil, and Mozzarella di Bufala Campana. As Italian cuisine has evolved, the classic flavors of Neapolitan pizza still resonate with the masses.
Italy has a long and esteemed gastronomic history represented by national cuisine and local food traditions from smaller regions. Italian cuisine is exemplified by terroir (pronounced “terˈwär”), the interaction between a region’s ecosystem and cultural practices that influences the distinctive taste of a food or beverage. Terroir is traditionally referenced in the context of winemaking, encompassing the authenticity and uniqueness of a particular region’s environment. However, a respect for terroir exists with numerous specialty products like cheese and tomatoes.
Mozzarella di Bufala Campana
Mozzarella di Bufala Campana is a fresh cheese made from the milk of domestic water buffalo. These water buffalo feed on natural grasses and flowers of the Caserta and Salerno provinces. The climate and flora of these regions influence the flavor and nutritional composition of the milk. The milk is made into mozzarella cheese, which has a protected denomination of origin (PDO) status. The PDO ensures quality through the authentication of the terroir and the recipe used for making a food or beverage.
As compared to mozzarella made from cow’s milk, mozzarella made from buffalo milk is higher in protein, fat, calcium, and vitamins A & E. Both forms contain a variety of probiotics, which are microorganisms found in the gut that provide a health benefit.
San Marzano Tomatoes
San Marzano tomatoes also have PDO status and are grown in the town of San Marzano sul Sarno, near Naples. San Marzano tomatoes boast a sweeter taste and richer tomato flavor than other varieties. The tomatoes are grown in volcanic soil near Mt. Vesuvius, which results in the tomato’s renowned delicate acid profile and exemplifies the importance of terroir. According to Italians, true Neapolitan pizza must be made with San Marzano tomatoes.
Preserving the terroir and cultural traditions of foods through PDO verification is vital to ensure authenticity, care for the local environment, and the continuation of food trades. Italian gastronomy is renowned for authentic dishes like Neapolitan pizza, reflecting a source of local and national pride.
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