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What is a pinsa-style pizza? Meet the trendy pizza with a cloud-like crust

Pinsa might be fairly new to the U.S., but the unique dough recipe has been around for hundreds of years.

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/ Source: TODAY
By Michelle Gant

Chicago style. New York style. Detroit style. Neapolitan style. Sicilian style. If you’re a pizza lover, chances are you’re not just familiar with different variations, but you probably have strong opinions about most of them, too.

In 2020, it's time to add a new pizza type to your repertoire: pinsa.

While this style of pizza might be fairly new to the U.S. (it's slowly been popping up on restaurant menus from coast to coast over the past year), it’s actually been around since ancient Roman times. Back in the day, it was often made by people living in the countryside around the city. Some chefs say it predates all other styles of pizza due its rustic style.

On Friday, Anthony Scotto of New York City's Fresco by Scotto stopped by the TODAY kitchen to demonstrate just how this beautifully light pizza is made.

Pinsa Romana (Roman-Style Pizza)

Pinsa comes from the Latin word “pinsere,” which means to press down with your fingers, according to Michael Schall, co-owner of Camillo and Bar Camillo, two Roman restaurants, in New York City.

“People keep saying, ‘It’s not pizza, it’s pinsa.’ I completely disagree," Schall said. "It’s pizza. It’s dough topped with tomatoes and cheese and toppings and cooked in an oven."

Compared to its more popular counterparts, pinsa crust is lighter and airier, like a cloud of dough. This is primarily due to the ingredients. Traditional pizza is made with 00 flour, making it heavier and harder to digest. Pinsa uses a mixture of flours, including wheat, rice and spelt, along with more water and less salt, according to Peter Guimaraes, co-owner of Bice Cucina in New York.

Due to its higher water content, pinsa dough is not rolled out or spun in the air like traditional Neapolitan dough. Instead, it’s simply pressed flat by the chef’s fingers. The result is a crust with more “peaks and valleys,” according to Schall. This type of dough is also more durable and better for leftovers.

Pinsa dough also requires a longer rising time (48 hours) due to the higher protein content in the flours used.

“This makes for a crust that’s easier to digest since the yeast has finished doing its work by the time it goes into the oven,” Schall said.

Another difference is how pinsa is cooked. In professional kitchens, pinsa is baked in a pizza oven at a far lower temperature (600 degrees) than Neapolitan-style pizza (usually around 800 degrees). It also takes longer to bake; pinsa stays in the oven for about two and a half minutes, while other pizzas are ready in less than a minute. (When you're making pinsa-style pizza at home, you'll be leaving the dough in much longer since conventional kitchen ovens do not get this hot.)

When it comes to toppings, pinsa and pizza aren’t that different. You’ll usually find pinsa topped with ingredients like tomatoes and cheese (mozzarella, provolone, Parmesan and more), along with more flavorful toppings like artichokes, anchovies, guanciale (cured pork jowl), salami and fresh lettuces, Schall explained.

Today, pinsa is becoming easier to find outside Italy, with more restaurants adding it to their menus. There are even new restaurants dedicated solely to pinsa opening up. Montesacro in San Francisco was one of the country's first eateries to offer pinsa, according to Schall. They now have a New York location, as well. There’s also Gourmet Romano in Los Angeles.

Asked why pinsa is having a moment right now, Schall said it all comes down to the fact that everyone already loves pizza and this just happens to be a different version of an old favorite.

“There are so many different varieties of Italian cuisine, this is just another example," he said. "There’s no such thing as bad pizza, and there is plenty of room for styles coming from different regions."