Stop the presses: pizza is not Italian.
Okay, well it really depends on how you define pizza. The baking of flatbreads dates back to 500 BC in the Middle East, but these didn't have toppings. The Greeks were actually the first to dress their bread with various toppings such as oils, herbs, and cheese (called plakountos). It is also noteworthy that Naples, the birthplace of modern pizza, was founded by the Greeks (called Neopolis).
"The culture of poverty and hunger in Italy created a folk cuisine in which a few ingredients were skillfully blended to create a variety of tastes."
-Carol Helstosky, Pizza: a Global History
Pizza was developed as an easy and affordable way to get nutrition. Eaten primarily by peasants, pizza was regarded as an unrefined dish. It hardly had the esteem we give it today where people make pilgrimages to Naples in order to taste "authentic" pizza.
The authentic pie we think of today is the Margherita, named in honor of Queen Margherita in the late 1800s. The pie was fashioned to resemble the Italian flag (red, white, and green). Once it came to America, we made it our own. Between Brooklyn and Chicago, we truly are a (Pizza) Nation, divided.
So, as I promised, here is the recipe for my favorite pizza sauce.
6 oz. tomato paste
1/4 cup water
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. thyme
pinch of salt
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper (or to taste...I like my sauce spicy!)
Stir together the tomato paste and water. Add the garlic, oregano, thyme, salt, and pepper.
Let the sauce sit so that the herbs can really set in.
Be wary in choosing your ingredients. Fresh tomato is always preferable to tomato paste, but for a lack of great tomatoes, I turned to the latter. I used Cento Tomato Paste as it was the only paste whose ingredients were purely tomato. Everything else had an additive, so be sure to read what you're buying especially since some of the tomato pastes are sold pre-seasoned!
Sources: Passion-4-Pizza, Wikipedia, Pizza: a Global History
Photo Credit: Scott Bauer