Pinsa Is Pizza's Roman Relative—and You've Got to Try It

It's basically a "cloud" of pizza. Need we say more?

Pinsa is having a moment. It's popular in pizzerias and restaurants in American cities, particularly in eateries with a strong Italian focus. This resurgence comes in the wake of a broader rekindling of interest in the cooking of Rome. But why try pinsa instead of your favorite pizza? What makes it unique? We're sharing all the need-to-know details.

What Is Pinsa?

Pinsa is considered a Roman flatbread with a distinct, cloud-like crust. Though pinsa looks a lot like traditional pizza, it has a unique set of characteristics. Despite this, it's easy to argue that pizza is also flatbread from Italy—so why call this dish something different?

To put it simply, pinsa is a type of pizza. A pizza is, by definition, a flatbread with cheese, sauce, and other toppings. In fact, pizza dough is the first ingredient in some flatbread recipes, like grilled lamb flatbread or chicken flatbread sandwiches.

Pinsa vs. Pizza

So how exactly does pinsa differ from the traditional pizza we're used to eating? Several key differences include how the dough is made, the crust, and what you put on top.

Dough Makeup

Typical pizza dough uses 100 percent standard wheat flour, often ground to 00 fineness. Pinsa, on the other hand, is much more flexible. In addition to standard wheat flour, an ingredient such as spelt (an ancient grain and a healthy white flour alternative) is typically used.

Chefs also incorporate soy and rice flour into pinsa dough. This flexibility stems from scarcity. When people baked pinsa in the old days, they shaped dough with whatever they had

Shape and Fermentation

Pinsa tends to be stretched into oblong, lengthened ovals. Fermentation time, too, can set pinsa and pizza apart. Standard pizza dough can ferment for anywhere from a few hours to a few days. Pinsa makers tend toward longer fermentations, often two days or more.

Dough Hydration

Another difference between pizza and pinsa lies in dough hydration (meaning wetness). Hydration varies widely for standard pizza. Some pizza styles, like the Roman al taglio (square pies cut with scissors), are high hydration, making for a lighter, airier crust. Modern pinsa makers also tend toward high-hydration doughs.


So how does this all look in a final oblong length of pinsa? The main difference lies in the crust. Because we're using less grain, pinsa dough has less gluten. In a nicely crafted pizza dough, whether aiming for a soft, Neapolitan-style crust or a more resisting New York-style bite, there is a springy quality—a sort of light bouncy pushback against your teeth. This comes partly from gluten (although there are other factors, like crust protein content).

Pinsa doesn't have this springy bite as much as pizza does. Instead, pinsa dough is light and crisp. On the edges where it has been crimped, it can have a bite that is almost cracker-y. Non-grain additions give pinsa crust less of the wheat-field depth of pizza dough. It has been said that this relative lightness makes pinsa easier to digest.


The flexible, whatever's-available spirit of pinsa dough extends to its toppings. You'll see a nice range. There isn't a raging pineapple-or-no-pineapple debate when it comes to pinsa. Pinsa makers get pretty freeform and often use the seasons as their guide. We've seen pinsa with everything from potato coins to tomato sauce to nuts, deli meat, and burrata that you fork open and smear.

The ultimate question about pinsa might be this: Can it hang with pizza? Pizza has such a wide range of styles. It has evolved so much in the last 20 years. That's a high bar for pinsa to meet. But a better way of approaching pinsa is not to think about it as something that can compete with or replace pizza. Instead, look to it as a food that has been enjoyed for so long that, hey, maybe you'll enjoy it, too.

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