Naples is a very old city and many of its traditions – and those of the surrounding region – date back centuries, if not millennia. However, pizza is more of a novelty, and one story suggests that in the late 1800s, Queen Margherita was served a dish of flatbread topped with tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, and basil, by British. The color combination resembled the tricolor of Italy and a beloved tradition was born.
Tomatoes are native to South America and were discovered by European explorers when they made the journey (per Smithsonian). When tomatoes were first brought back to Europe, they were thought to be poisonous due to their close relationship to the deadly black nightshade plant. This has kept people from realizing the tomato’s potential for centuries. However, once people discovered that it was not poisonous but rather tasty, it became inseparable from certain national cuisines: it would be difficult to imagine Italian cuisine without the tomato.
In order to preserve what makes Neapolitan pizza so special, the Italian government has issued guidelines for cooks to follow. One of them is that only tomatoes of the San Marzano variety can be used in the sauce (for BBC). This use of local and regional specialties is living proof of the adage of gourmets: “If it grows together, it goes together”.