Although they might look alike at first glance, pinsa and pizza have some critical differences. I’ll teach you all about pinsa in this article!
What’s the difference between pinsa and pizza? Pinsa and pizza are different in the following ways:
- Water content
- Dough texture
If you’re new to the world of pinsa, this is one post you’re not going to want to miss. Ahead, I’ll delve deep into pinsa, including its origins, and then differentiate it from standard pizza. I’ll even tell you how to make pinsa dough and what to put on it!
What Is Pinsa? How Is It Different Than Pizza?
If you thought pizza was the only food of its kind, that’s fortunately not the case. There’s also pinsa, which is sometimes also spelled pinza. You pronounce it like “peen-sa,” so the two words even sound alike.
Like pizza, pinsa is from Italy. The name though is Latin in origin, and comes from the word pinsere, which means “push the dough by the hands.”
So how is pinsa different than pizza? Allow me to explain!
Admittedly, pizzas come in all shapes and sizes. You’ve got the basic cylindrical pie, smaller personal pies, and square-shaped Sicilian pies. For the most part, though, you expect a pizza to be circular.
Not so with pinsa.
A pinsa’s traditional shape is that of a long oval. In some instances, the shape is more rectangular, but it all depends on the baker.
Either way, pinsa is usually long and lean compared to pizza, which is shorter and fatter.
Pinsa comes from Ancient Roman times, in which it was made with spelt, millet, barley, and wheat flour.
Today, not much has changed. Making pinsa involves combining wheat and rice flour with soy.
Sure, when making pizza, you can experiment with all sorts of different flours, but the most frequently used kinds are bread flour or specialty flour like 00 flour.
Once you add ingredients like rice flour or soy as you do with pinsa, you get a completely different result, as I’ll talk about a little later in this section.
Here’s another factor influencing what pinsa feels and tastes like compared to pizza: water content.
Yes, traditional pizza dough does use water to give the dough its sticky texture. Pinsa dough though has even more water, about 75 percent, and even as much as 80 percent of the flour’s weight.
You might think this will make pinsa soggy, but it doesn’t. If anything, each bite feels more hydrating.
Everything about the way you make pinsa and pizza is completely different.
When prepping pizza dough, you combine ingredients like flour, water, salt, sugar, yeast, and olive oil. After making the dough and kneading it, you let it sit for an hour or two.
The yeast consumes the sugars you added to the dough, which allows it to rise. This is fermentation, but it occurs on a short-term scale.
Pinsa dough has a much longer fermentation period. At the very least, the dough ferments for two days, but three days is the standard.
Pinsa is not a meal you prepare if you want to eat it later that same day. You need to plan well in advance.
So why the longer fermentation time for pinsa? The types of flour used to make pinsa contain more protein, so their rising time is naturally longer.
Pizza isn’t exactly healthy, even if you blot it with a napkin to remove the excess oils.
While pinsa isn’t the most nutritional meal you could select, it’s quite a deal healthier than pizza, and for a myriad of reasons.
First, there’s the increased water content. The more water in the recipe, the less junk, such as carbs. The increase in water also benefits digestion.
Then there are the types of flours used to make pinsa, which are naturally healthier than bread flour and even 00 flour.
Even the long fermentation process makes pinsa a healthier choice than pizza. As the ingredients in the dough ferment, the proteins and complex sugars will break down, becoming amino acids and simple sugars.
There’s less starch left too, which is another benefit to digesting pinsa.
I think we’ve all had a pizza or two that’s hard on the digestive system. You might swear off pizza for a few weeks after a harrowing experience only to eat it again once you forget about your stomach woes.
Pinsa should leave you with far fewer of those woes.
Think about the best pizza you’ve ever had. Its dough was probably charred on the outside but light and crispy on the inside, right?
It’s that pillowy softness that makes pizza so addictive, and it’s also a feature that pinsa has in spades. Not just sometimes either, but all the time.
You know how pizza can be made in many ways depending on where you order it. While that’s true of pinsa as well, a light, fluffy, airy dough texture is the standard. Some people liken it to biting into a cloud.
How to Make Pinsa Dough
If you want to experience the differences between pizza and pinsa first hand, now you can by making your own pinsa dough from scratch. This pinsa romana dough recipe is courtesy of the food magazine Fine Cooking.
Here’s what you’ll need:
- Vegetable oil
- Extra virgin olive oil (1 tablespoon)
- Sea salt (1 tablespoon + ½ teaspoon)
- Cold filtered water, 39 to 41 degrees Fahrenheit (1 ¾ cups)
- Active dry yeast (1/8 ounces)
- Soy flour (1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon)
- White rice flour (1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon)
- Wheat flour (3 ¾ cups)
Plug in your stand mixer and take out the bowl. In the bowl, combine the soy, rice, and wheat flours, then add the yeast. Pour in 1 ½ cups of water.
Connect your dough hook to the stand mixer and turn on the mixer, running it on low for two to three minutes. You’ll know you’re done when all the flour is incorporated into the ingredients and they’ve taken on a dough-like consistency.
Sprinkle in the salt and then add the olive oil. Turn your mixer on again, this time running it on medium. While the mixer runs, add water little bits at a time until the dough has a sticky but not tacky texture.
Allow at least two minutes for the water to absorb, then turn the speed of your mixer to medium-high. Let the dough knead for about 10 minutes or until it’s shiny and elastic.
When the dough is ready, turn off the mixer, remove the dough hook, and take out the dough. Put it in a large, clean bowl that’s lightly covered in vegetable or olive oil.
Put plastic wrap over the top of the bowl and move the bowl to the fridge for the next 48 to 72 hours.
What Toppings Can You Put on a Pinsa?
You’ve got your pinsa dough, so what can you put on it? I’m glad you asked. Here are some pinsa topping ideas to inspire you.
Listen, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel when it comes to making pinsa. If you’d rather, you can keep it simple and top the pinsa with cheese, any of which you like.
A nice, gooey, melty mozzarella will always be a winner, but sharp cheeses can be an interesting choice as well.
My recommendation? Have fun experimenting with the different types of cheeses that are good on pinsa!
Lemon, Ricotta, and Zucchini
If you want to turn heads on your next pizza night, then whip up a lemon, ricotta, and zucchini pinsa that you delicately grill.
You’ll need three medium-sized zucchinis. Cut each one lengthwise into slices that are about ¼ inches.
Add two tablespoons of red wine for flavor, dump in two cups of whole-milk ricotta, include three tablespoons of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, and don’t forget a teaspoon of grated lemon zest.
Pear and Robiola
Are you familiar with robiola? It’s a soft-ripened type of cheese from Italy that includes sheep, goat, and cow’s milk.
When you combine robiola with sliced pear and a topping of dry nuts, you get a mature treat for the taste buds.
Using a sourdough starter to make your pinsa will bring out the full depth of the sweet pear, so give it a try if you have the time!
Mushrooms, White Wine, and Provolone
Here’s another delicious combination of toppings for your pinsa: mushrooms, white wine, and provolone cheese.
You need a pound of mushrooms for the pinsa, so this recipe is not for those who dislike the fungi or only mildly tolerate it.
Pour in half a cup of dry white wine and add 12 ounces of provolone. Smoked provolone will really taste great!