The Italian Origins Of The Humble Potato Pizza

It's been well documented that the people of Naples, Italy are credited with discovering pizza as we know it today: a baked crust topped with cheese, tomatoes, and toppings. According to History, the waterfront community was home to a high population of working-class individuals in the 18th and 19th centuries. The men and women who lived there needed inexpensive food that they could eat quickly to keep up with the demands of their jobs. Pizza was the perfect solution.

Surprisingly, History claims pizza became popular in America much sooner than it did in Italy outside of Naples. Neapolitan immigrants in the early 20th century brought their recipes with them to the delight of those already in the U.S., and pizza was a favorite. By the time World War II ended, pizza's popularity around the world had reinvigorated native Italians' love for the dish, and each region created its own signature pie. For example, in Torino, pizza has a thick, soft, round crust, while in Rome, you can find pizza tonda romana, which has a cracker-thin crust, per Eataly. A resourceful people, the Italians topped their pizza with fresh, local ingredients. While tomatoes, some sort of cheese, and meat or fish would be commonly served atop a pizza pie, so would vegetables, including one that Americans are more likely to see in fried form than on their pizza: the potato.

When in Rome

Walking into an Italian pizzeria is nothing short of amazing. The aroma of the baking crust and the sharp scent of aged cheese is intoxicating, as is the rainbow of toppings that entice you through the glass-covered front countertop: white cheese, green basil, red tomatoes, pink prosciutto, and ... yellow potatoes? 

In Rome, you're likely to see pizzerias offering slices topped only with paper-thin pieces of potato, a sprinkling of herbs. While not very exciting to look at, the Italians adore this simple and delicious option. Kitchn claims that potatoes are a common pizza topping all over Italy, but especially in the capital city. It's usually flavored with a little salt and olive oil, but not cheese or sauce, although other regions in the country will add these two elements. Italian Food Forever suggests that pizza con patate, as it is known, is considered a peasant food, or something that is satisfying and affordable, possibly explaining why the ingredient was added in the first place. 

Like other Italian foods, potato pizza has regional differences. In southern Italy, potatoes are mashed and incorporated into the pizza crust, making it soft and tender. In addition, potato chunks are used as a topping along with cheese. You are certainly not limited to additional toppings for potato pizza, but if you're going for authentic, simple Roman-style, Christina's Cucina recommends you use the best potatoes, olive oil, herbs, and salt you can find, since you should be able to taste everything.