You might be starting out your own pizzeria or have even just decided to make some pizzas at home for yourself or your family, but now you’ve got this one question on your mind: “does oregano go on pizza?”
Oregano is one of the most common ingredients in modern pizzas. The taste and aroma of oregano is so distinctive and interlinked with pizzas, that many people identify them with pizza itself or misidentify them as the aroma and taste of mozzarella, another extremely common ingredient in pizzas.
In the rest of the article, we are going to learn a bit about why you should put oregano on pizza, what types of pizzas it is associated with most commonly, what type of oregano to use and when to add it, as well as potential negative aspects of adding it and what some substitutes are, giving you a holistic final answer to does oregano go on pizza.
Why Should You Put Oregano on Pizza?
If you’re going for a very traditional and classic pizza taste, oregano should be an essential ingredient on your list. The herb has a long and strong history in Italian cuisine, and it’s this history that has transferred over to American pizza-making traditions, giving us the quintessential pizza taste that we all know and love today.
This isn’t to say that oregano is absolutely mandatory on your pizzas. By all means, go forth and experiment if you want to create something new or off the beaten path. But if what you’re after is a classic pizza and your other ingredients include things like tomato sauce, mozzarella, and pepperoni, oregano will complete the big picture.
What Is Oregano?
Oregano is a herb derived from a plant in the mint family, which explains a lot of its distinctive taste and aroma (but more on that in a bit).
The most commonly used subspecies of oregano for pizza is the hirtum subspecies, sometimes simply called Greek oregano. This is not to be confused with another species in the same genus, Origanum onites, which is also often referred to as Greek oregano. That said, some cultivars of oregano are hybridized with other species, so ultimately you have a lot of plants it can be sourced from.
Oregano’s history in cooking dates back centuries in Southern Italy, where it is used with all sorts of dishes prepared in all sorts of ways. Its introduction to American cuisine and, by extension, American pizzas was in large part linked to American soldiers who had fought in Italy coming back home following the end of the Second World War.
What Taste and Aroma Does Oregano Bring to Pizza?
For many people in America and other parts of the West, if asked to describe what the aroma of oregano evokes, the answer has shown to be simply pizza. This doesn’t really isolate it from the other ingredients common to pizzas, though, so let’s try to dig into it a little deeper.
Oregano is most often described as having an earthy taste and aroma. Some will also describe it as warm, regardless of the actual temperature of the dish. Using more standard qualifiers, a lot of people describe oregano as sweet but at the same time slightly bitter.
To make matters more complicated, there is a significant difference in taste and aroma between dried and fresh oregano, and the different cultivars will have different tastes and levels of intensity.
What Types of Pizzas Does Oregano Go On?
Because of its classic pizza taste and aroma, oregano is most strongly associated with some of the most classic types of pizzas. Although a traditional Margherita pizza actually uses basil as its base herb, a lot of pizzerias, more so outside of Italy than within, will prepare these pizzas with oregano instead.
You will find oregano in a lot of other Neapolitan pizzas as well, including the marinara pizza, which actually includes oregano as a base ingredient even in the original recipe, not just international adaptations.
Ultimately, you can put oregano on any kind of pizza if you want a herb that offers that very distinctive earthy taste, very different to its frequent competitor, basil. Oregano is also known to complement the taste of tomato sauce very well, so that makes it a good candidate for inclusion to just about any type of pizza that’s out there.
What Type of Oregano Should You Add to Your Pizza?
Asking does oregano go on pizza is one part of the equation, but the next part is to find out what type of oregano you should put on your pizza. We have already discussed the different cultivars you might get when you buy oregano, but let’s look at a different dimension of it: Whether your oregano is dried or fresh.
Dried oregano is by far the more common of the two when it comes to use as an ingredient in pizza. This does not necessarily mean that it is the best, however. Dried oregano does have a lot stronger of a flavor than fresh oregano, but again, this isn’t necessarily a benefit.
Overuse of dried oregano can have the unintended effect of canceling out a lot of the taste of a lot of other ingredients. For example, mozzarella cheese is a frequently used ingredient in pizzas, and it’s a mild cheese by design. Too much dried oregano can mask or mute the taste of the cheese all the way to the point that many people associate oregano’s aroma with mozzarella.
Fresh oregano has a much more mellow flavor and is unlikely to overpower the other ingredients. The flipside to that is that it can be too mellow, leaving diners missing the distinctive earthy aroma they expect.
You can reach a sort of compromise by using smaller quantities of dried oregano, but ultimately, if you experiment, you can find a combination that you and the people eating your pizzas like the most.
When Should You Add the Oregano to Your Pizza?
There is no consensus on during which part of the pizza-making process you should add your oregano, but you will get different results depending on when you do it.
Perhaps the most common method is to add the oregano when you’re preparing the sauce. This allows the herb to release all of its oils in the most efficient manner, giving you the most of the taste.
Some people will sprinkle the oregano onto the sauce after it is prepared and put on the pizza. This can give you more variance in taste since it won’t be as evenly spread throughout the entire pizza.
You could also try sprinkling it onto the cheese before sending it in to bake. If you do this, you’ll find the cheese itself will be infused with the aroma of the oregano, giving you a sort of floral essence.
Pizza chefs nationwide may disagree on the exact outcomes of each of the methods above, and this is because there are so many more factors to how a pizza ends up tasting. If you’re fired up about making some great pizzas, try out a bunch of different methods, and you’ll find one that gives you just the flavor you’re after.
Can Oregano in Pizza Be a Bad Thing?
Oregano is so commonly used in pizzas that whatever negatives it may have must be outnumbered by the positives, but that doesn’t mean that it’s a perfect ingredient. Have you ever heard someone say that eating pizza gives them heartburn after the fact? Although it doesn’t affect everyone this way, this has been found to be a result of the dried oregano.
The heartburn does not recur with the same people when they eat a pizza with fresh oregano, so using that instead is one way around the issue if you still want to keep the original oregano flavor, although it will be a lot mellower.
What Are Some Alternatives to Oregano in Pizza?
The most obvious alternative to oregano as a herb in pizzas is basil. As we learned earlier, basil is actually the traditional herb used in Italian Margherita recipes, so it should not be too much of a deviation from expectations.
If you want to stay closer to home, marjoram is a herb in the same genus that is favored in Northern Italian cuisine and is similar enough that their names are sometimes used interchangeably.
You’ve been trying to find out does oregano go on pizza, and you’ve learned that it does, it’s exceptionally common, and there are more ways than you probably realized to incorporate it. Which type and method will you use for your next pizza?
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