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National Pizza Day is Thursday — time to celebrate

Feb. 9, Thursday, is National Pizza Day. Did you know only 2 percent of Americans don’t like pizza, and one in three Americans eat pizza at least once a week.

That’s what www.nationaltoday.com found in its Pizza Day Survey. They asked 1,000 Americans to share a “pizza” their minds about America’s favorite sort-of-Italian food.

It’s hard to imagine that before World War II, pizza was little known outside of Italy or Italian immigrant communities. Allied troops, tired of their limited rations, found pizza — and once they returned home, the popularity of this bread-y, cheesy, saucy dish skyrocketed.

With 57 percent of Americans claiming to love pizza, while 22 percent can eat an entire pizza by themselves.

Some American prefer pizza over romance — 3 percent of Americans say they would rather eat a pizza than have a boyfriend or girlfriend. But who can blame them? Bread, cheese and sauce will never break their hearts.

Why We Love National Pizza Day

• There’s something for everyone — Thin crust or deep dish? Sauce or no sauce? Classic mozzarella or that new provolone? Wood-fired or out of the oven? Part of pizza’s appeal is that it’s never the same and can easily be adapted to changing tastes, preferences and diets.

• It’s festive — Admit it, you still remember those grade school pizza parties with a certain sense of child-like glee. Whether it’s the red, white and green of a classic margherita pizza or the sparkle of perfectly cooked pepperoni, pizza adds something extra special, wherever you are.

• Perfect salty, sweet, carb-y goodness — The interplay of cheese to sauce to crust creates an almost addictive food bomb of different aromas, textures and flavors. Other foods are hard pressed to do the same.

Top 5 most popular pizza toppings
1. Cheese — 82%
2. Pepperoni — 66%
3. Sausage — 58%
4. Mushrooms — 53%
5. Bacon — 51%

Top 5 favorite pizza brands
1. Pizza Hut — 31%
2. Papa John’s Pizza — 22%
3. Domino’s Pizza — 17%
4. Papa Murphy’s — 10%
5. Little Caesar’s Pizza — 8%

Other interesting insights about pizza

• Pizza ranks the No. 2 most popular fast food in America behind hamburgers. (43% of Americans rank pizza as their favorite.)

• Pizza is my favorite food — 18%

• I like to have a glass of wine with my pizza —10%

• My idea of a perfect Valentine’s Day is sharing a pizza — 9%

How to Celebrate National Pizza Day

• Pizza Paar-tay! — Why mess with a good thing? No matter what age you are, the words “pizza party” are guaranteed to delight and put a smile on everyone’s face.

• Dare to Pizza All the Time — Pizza for breakfast, lunch and dinner? Yes — that is the kind of perfect world we live in today. Crack an egg on it in the morning. Toss that salad on top for lunch. And why not go for the meat-lovers’ dinner?

• Rediscover Pizza For the First Time — Chances are, you know your perfect slice down to the finest details. But why not break out of the routine on National Pizza Day? We know you’ve been curious about that spinach and jalapeño pie at the place around the corner.

What you need to make an Italian pizza (from Walks of Italy)

(makes dough for four pizzas, each one about 12 inches in diameter):

• 2 1/2 cups of warm water

• 7 cups all-purpose flour

• 2 1/2 to 3 tablespoons (25 grams) of fresh yeast or 2 teaspoons (7-8 grams) of dried yeast.

• 6 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil

• 1 1/2 teaspoons salt

• 2 teaspoons sugar

1. Sprinkle the yeast into a medium bowl with the warm water. We don’t mean hot, and we don’t mean cold… we mean warm! That’s the kind the yeast likes best. Stir until the yeast dissolves.

2. Place almost all of the flour on the table in the shape of a volcano. (Think Mt. Vesuvius… appropriate since Naples is the king of all pizza cities).

3. Pour the yeast-and-warm-water mix, along with the other ingredients, into the “crater” of the volcano.

4. Knead everything together for 10 to 15 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic, keeping your surface floured.

5. Grease up a bowl with some olive oil and put the dough inside. Turn the dough around so the top is slightly oiled.

6. Cover the bowl and put the dough aside to let it rest for at least four or five hours.

7.  (optional for those who want their pizza really authentic). Make a cross on top of the dough with a knife. An old Italian tradition, this is seen as a way of “blessing the bread.”

8. Preheat the oven to about 400 degrees.

9. Dump the dough out of the bowl and back onto the floured surface. Punch it down, getting rid of any bubbles. (Now’s the time to enlist a kid with more energy than they know what to do with).

10. Divide the dough in half and let it rest for a few minutes.

11. Roll each section into a 12-inch disc. Now’s your chance to decide how thick you want your pizza to be! Do you want it pizza alta (Neapolitan-style) or pizza bassa (Roman-style)? Just remember, your crust will puff up a little bit as it’s baked.

12.  Transfer the dough onto an oiled pizza pan or baking sheet.

13. Add tomato sauce, if you want a pizza rossa (red pizza). Lots of pizzas in Italy are actually pizza bianca, without tomato sauce, so don’t feel like you have to. Brush the edges of the crust with a little bit of olive oil.

14. Bake each pizza for about 10 minutes, then add mozzarella cheese (sliced or grated) on top, as well as any other ingredients.

15. Let the pizzas bake until the crust is browned and the cheese is melted. By lifting up the pizza to peek underneath, you can make sure the bottom has browned, too.

16. Remove your pizzas from the oven and, for a real Italian touch, garnish with a few basil leaves.
 

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