"The word 'piza' first appears in a document concerning the Duchy of Gaeta and its adjoining lands dating to 997," according to Gusto: The Very Best of Italian Food and Cuisine. "The 1600s saw the preparation and consumption of the 'pizza alla mastunicola,' or a flatbread topped with cheese and basil, and 'pizza ai cecinelli,' filled with small fish. However, the term 'pizza' took on its modern meaning with tomatoes, brought to Italy after the discovery of America, and transformed into a sauce that was used to garnish the first true pizzas some time in the 1800s."
Variations inspired by Gusto: The Very Best of Italian Food and Cuisine, with a foreward by Cesare Casella, published by Abbeville Press Publishers.
Take a prepared pizza crust - fresh or already baked (store-bought is just fine for a quick dinner) - and either use one of the following topping suggestions or create your own masterpiece. Just follow the crust's package instructions for baking.
Pizza with Olives: The olives used are usually black and may be added whole, pitted, or even cut into rings.
Pizza Cabrese: Use slices of ripe tomatoes.
Pizza Margherita: This Neapolitan pizza was prepared to honor Queen Margherita of Savoy in 1889 and is topped with tomato sauce, mozzarella, fresh basil, salt, and olive oil.
Pizza Marinara: Along with the Margherita, it is the only pizza variety to have antique roots (back to 1734). It is topped with tomato sauce, chopped garlic, oregano, basil, and sometimes anchovies.
Pizza with Ham and Mushrooms: Cooked ham is usually added after cooking while the mushrooms are added before.
Pizza with Four Cheeses: One of the "white" (tomato-free) pizza varieties, it often includes such cheeses as Mozzarella, Pecorino, Gorgonzola, and Parmesan.
Pizza Four Seasons: This Margherita is topped with cooked ham, artichokes, mushrooms, and olives. The toppings are arranged separately and not mixed.
Pizza Romana: In Naples and its surroundings, it is called "Pizza Romana," and in the rest of Italy "Pizza Napoli." It's topped with tomato sauce, Mozzarella, anchovies, and oregano.
Pizza alla Diavola: Its name comes from the main topping, spicy salamino (a salami, sometimes called pepperoni), which is added to the pizza before cooking.
Pizza with Sausage: There are many versions of this pizza, which may include fresh sausage, dried sausage, or spicy sausage.