What’s the difference between Neapolitan vs Sicilian pizza? We’re about to find out!
Pizza is undeniably the world’s most favorite food, and it has transformed in more ways than we could imagine. Today, there are lots of styles to choose from, each of them has a distinct flavor, appearance, and texture.
Since its humble beginnings in Italy, pizza has become a staple food in every part of the world. This Italian cuisine isn’t just a round of crust topped with tomato and cheese anymore.
Several different styles have emerged, and it seems like every country has their version of pizza.
There’s lahmacun from Turkey, tarte flambee from France, flammkuchen from Germany, okonomiyaki from Japan, sfiha from Lebanon, New York style, and more.
However, among these many types of pizza, two styles are well-known throughout the globe.
Neapolitan and Sicilian pizzas are the most common styles and are often seen on pizzeria menus.
So, what makes Neapolitan vs Sicilian pizzas different from each other? Moreover, what are their similarities?
Both Neapolitan and Sicilian pizzas originated from Italy, although you can already tell from their names where they mainly came from.
Furthermore, these two styles are considered the classic types of pizza that have stood the test of time.
Some people may think these old-fashioned styles are no longer the trend in modern pizza market. However, these classics have consistently been deemed as the most preferred styles despite their simplicity and austereness.
Neapolitan vs Sicilian pizzas may have similarities, but they have more differences between them.
This Neapolitan vs Sicilian pizza comparison article will present their fundamental differences, their history, ingredients, and other relevant aspects that make them unique.
Considered as the original pizza, Neapolitan style is prepared with fresh, simple ingredients without any fancy toppings. The dough itself is necessary, and preparation can be done in artisan method without the aid of any mechanical equipment.
As simple as it may seem, Neapolitan isn’t the most comfortable style to prepare at home. This is because there are strict rules to follow in making Neapolitan pizza.
A unique organization called AVPN (Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana) was founded in Naples in 1984. This organization aims to certify pizzerias in serving Neapolitan pizza according to with the traditional standards.
VPN Americas is the official AVPN delegation for USA, Canada, and Central America. So, if you own a pizzeria in the U.S, you’ll need to be VPN-certified to offer Neapolitan pizza on your menu.
Sicilian pizza, on the other hand, is derived from Sicilian sfincione. Before the name pizza was officially introduced, Italians have been finding ways to add flavorings to their usual flatbreads (focaccia).
One of the methods of putting flavors to flatbread is by topping it with herbs and spices.
Sicily came out with their version of this cuisine. However, instead of using thin crust bread, they used a thick, spongy crust topped with tomato sauce, strong cheese, anchovies, and more.
Moreover, sfincione is often covered with bread crumbs for added texture.
Traditionally, sfincione is served on Christmas and New Year’s Eve in Sicily. However, the evolution of this Sicilian dish made it possible for everyone to eat it all year round.
It’s quite easy to differentiate a Sicilian pizza from other styles. It has a unique square cut and has a spongier texture.
Putting toppings on plain flatbread has been prevalent since the Neolithic age. So, no definite reference points out where pizza originally came from. However, the most important documentation of how it came to be occurred in the 16th century, Naples.
During that time, the name pizza was used to refer a galette flatbread topped with oil and tomatoes. Initially, this second dish was known as the dish for poor people and is often sold in the street.
However, this Italian food was given a different image on June 11, 1889. Raffaele Esposito, a Neapolitan chef, created a pizza to honor the Queen consort of Italy, Margherita of Savoy.
He brilliantly garnished it with basil (green), mozzarella (white) and tomato (red) to represent the national colors of Italy. Esposito named his creation ‘Pizza Margherita’ which would later be known as Neapolitan pizza.
The simple dish slightly evolved over the centuries, and more ingredients and toppings were added. As far as the Italian culinary tradition is concerned, it is, therefore, safe to assume that Neapolitan pizza is the foundation of modern pizza.
Moreover, to adhere to the tradition, specific guidelines and requirements are set for the making of Neapolitan pizza. Sicilian pizza became a favorite dish in Sicily by the mid-19th century, and it was commonly known as sfincione.
Unlike the traditional thin crust Neapolitan, the Sicilian dough is typically rectangular and thicker. Furthermore, Sicilian pizza has more toppings and flavors than the rustic Neapolitan.
When the American soldiers were stationed in Italy, they came across these Italian foods, both Neapolitan and Sicilian pizzas. The soldiers fell in love the exquisite taste of pizza.
So, when they returned to the United States, they longingly crave for it. Later on, news about this delectable Italian cuisine spread across the nation and a culinary trend began.
These two classic styles became an instant hit among Americans. However, importation of Italian ingredients was too costly and time-consuming for most American-based pizzerias.
To solve this problem, bakeries tried to substitute Italian ingredients with locally-produced ones. Moreover, even opted for cheaper coal-fired baking instead of wood-fired baking.
As a result, Americans have to create their version of Neapolitan which was later named ‘Neopolitan.’ Moreover, Detroit and New York also have their versions of Sicilian pizza.
Neapolitan pizza has three official variants, namely:
Basic dough topped with plum tomatoes (preferably San Marzano), mozzarella cheese (fior di latte), basil, and extra virgin olive oil.
A cheese-less Neapolitan dough garnished with plum tomatoes, garlic, oregano, and extra virgin olive oil.
This is pretty much the same as the original Margherita except that it uses mozzarella di bufala (from buffalo’s milk) instead of fior di latte (from cow’s milk).
Known initially as sfincione in Sicily, the original Sicilian pizza has a rectangular, fluffy base that has a spongy consistency.
Its thick crust is topped with tomato sauce, onions, anchovies, herbs, and bread crumbs. Traditional Sicilian style often uses caciocavallo (cheese from sheep’s milk) instead of mozzarella because most milk in Sicily is produced from sheep.
Sicilian regions such as Palermo, Catania, and Messina also have their authentic version of this Sicilian dish.
In the province of Palermo, the sauce is spread on top of the toppings to prevent it from soaking into the thick dough.
The province of Catania uses two-layered dough wherein the first layer was covered with Toma cheese and anchovies. Other toppings could be added such as broccoli, sausages, potatoes, and tomato sauce.
Then the second layer is brushed with egg which is then used to cover the pie.
In the province of Messina, it is in the form of a folded pizza (calzone) stuffed with Toma cheese, endive, anchovies, and tomato.
America’s version of this Sicilian dish follows the same thickness, square shape, and ingredients as the original type.
However, New York-style Sicilian uses mozzarella cheese instead of caciocavallo or toma cheese used in the traditional Sicilian dish.
Baking an authentic Neapolitan pizza would require a wood-fired oven that is capable of reaching over 900 degrees F.
The requirement for wood-fired oven makes it almost impossible to cook Neapolitan pizza at home. (Well, unless you have this type of oven at home.)
Moreover, you can’t just use any wood. You’ll need to use two types of woods (one light and one dense) to supply sufficient heat.
The dense wood (preferably oak) provides much potential energy to heat the oven floor and confine the temperature inside.
On the other hand, the light wood (ideally birch) is capable of consistently creating flames. The oven needs both types of wood to achieve extreme temperatures of up to 1000 degrees F.
Baking Sicilian pizza doesn’t require a wood-fired oven although this cooking procedure can produce the best result.
Unlike Neapolitan, Sicilian pizza only requires 425 – 600 degrees F to be baked. So, you can use your regular home oven and make Sicilian pie in the comfort of your home.
A Neapolitan pie is typically 11 to 12 inches round and is not usually served in slices due to its soggy core.
On the other hand, a large-sized Sicilian pie measures 16 x 16 inches and is served in either 9-slices or 15-slices size.
Under extreme temperatures within 900 – 1000 degrees F, a Neapolitan pie will cook up to 90 seconds.
When the mozzarella cheese starts to bubble, and the underside began to show charred spots, those are the signs that the pie is done.
In a 425 degrees F oven, you’ll need about 15 to 20 minutes to bake a Sicilian pie. However, if you’re using a wood-fired oven, the pie should be cooked in just 90 seconds.
To further understand Neapolitan vs Sicilian pizzas comparison, let’s try to look at the ingredients used and each method of cooking.
Traditional Neapolitan pizza is the representation of this dish’s humble beginnings. With simple ingredients and minimal toppings, it allows you to savor every bit of its freshest ingredients.
The neapolitan dough merely is made of flour, yeast, salt and water with no flavor-enhancers or preservatives added.
However, keep in mind that there are specific requirements when it comes to the choice of ingredients.
In making the dough, only use Italian flour grade 00 or Tipo 00 flour. Make it a general rule of the thumb that if it’s not Tipo 00, it’s not Neapolitan. However, what exactly is Tipo 00 flour?
Italian flour is generally graded from 00 to 04 according to the fineness of the milling. Flour grade 00 (or simply Tipo 00) is the most excellent grade of milled flour with a protein level slightly lower than standard bread flour.
When used to make the dough, it creates a soft and smooth flavorsome crust which is the ultimate requirement for authentic Neapolitan pie.
If you’re thinking about buying a can of tomato sauce for your Neapolitan pie, then you better stop right now. That’s not how you do a Neapolitan.
To make an authentic Neapolitan pie, you’ll need to make the sauce out from fresh tomatoes. And not just any type of tomatoes.
Plum tomatoes, preferably San Marzano tomatoes, are required to concoct the sauce.
What makes San Marzano a cut above the rest? This variety of plum tomatoes is named after the region near Naples, Italy.
San Marzano tomatoes are cultivated in the mineralized volcanic soil at the base of Mt. Vesuvius. So, this explains why these tomatoes have a distinct rich taste that can’t be found in other tomato varieties.
Making Neapolitan pizza sauce is quite easy. Just peel the tomatoes and remove all the seeds.
Turn the tomatoes into puree by using a food mill or a food processor. Pulse the puree until it turns into tomato sauce.
If you prefer a cheese-free pie, you have the option to make pizza marinara that uses no cheese at all.
However, if you prefer otherwise, you can only use mozzarella cheese on Neapolitan pizza. Furthermore, you need to pay attention to the specific kinds of mozzarella that you’re using.
There are two kinds of mozzarella that you can use – fior di latte and mozzarella di bufala. Other types of cheese are out of the discussion as long as Neapolitan is concerned.
Place the mozzarella slices on top of the pie after the sauce. Then finish it off with fresh basil leaves and a sprinkle of olive oil. That’s it! No other toppings are required.
One of the most distinguishing features of a Sicilian pie is its rectangular shape. Although some variants are served in a round form, traditional Sicilian pies typically have a square shape.
Unlike thin-crust pies, Sicilian has a rather porous and bready dough. It features more tomato sauce and less cheese.
The amount of toppings falls under moderate level because it has more than Neapolitan but fewer than the overloaded variants.
Never worry if you’re not able to obtain Tipo 00 flour, an all-purpose flour would do the trick.
In a bowl of stand mixer, combine flour, yeast, salt, and 2 tbsps olive oil. At medium speed, whisk the ingredients altogether.
Add water to the mixture and set the mixer to medium-high until the mixture forms into stretchy and smooth dough.
Allow the dough to ferment and rise at room temperature for 8 to 15 hours. When it’s ready to use, press the dough into an oil-coated square baking pan.
Don’t hassle yourself in finding San Marzano tomatoes because any tomatoes can be used in making a Sicilian sauce.
In a heavy medium saucepan, put 3 tbsps of olive oil over medium heat. Then add chopped onions, dried basil and crumbled oregano. Cook for about 6 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add minced garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Mix in tomato paste and let it cook for 3 minutes while stirring occasionally.
You can also add sliced tomatoes and simmer until the sauce achieves the desired thickness. Sprinkle salt and pepper to taste.
Original Sicilian uses caciocavallo cheese or toma cheese which is both mainly produced in Italy.
If you can’t get hold of these cheese varieties, you can use any kinds of mozzarella cheese instead.
In a Sicilian pie, the sauce usually holds the toppings. When you make the sauce, you can add more ingredients such as chopped anchovies, crushed red pepper, and mushrooms.
You have the option to place the cheese on the dough first before the sauce. Alternatively, you can go the other way around.
Finish it off by covering the pie with grated cheese and breadcrumbs.
Neapolitan vs Sicilian pizzas, both are classic styles coming from the same country of origin. However, despite their deep-rooted similarities, each is unique and different in their way.
Considered as the mother of all pizzas, Neapolitan pizza is not just a culinary innovation, but it’s also a norm.
While there are no strict rules in making Sicilian pizzas, Italian culinary tradition is still closely observed.
Sicilian pizza has more toppings than the simple Neapolitan indeed but it also has certain limits as to the quantity.
Some people who are accustomed to the over-stuffed styles would perhaps find these classic styles too plain.
This shows that everyone has its viewpoint when it comes to their perfect pizza.
Italians, for example, pay more attention to the crust and they tend NOT to pile it with too many toppings.
Americans, on the contrary, are mostly focused on the toppings and the variations of flavors the pie has to offer.
If you prefer the traditional Italian way of enjoying a pizza, you only need to choose between these two – Neapolitan vs Sicilian pizza.
Soft, thin crust vs thick, porous crust.
Round pie vs square pie.
Minimal toppings vs usual toppings.
The choice is yours.
Make sure you also take a look at neapolitan pizza, as well as our reviews section for plenty of useful information on your oven pizza making journey.
Feel free to leave us any comments or questions below. and we will happily help you out.