Pizza is one of the most iconic Italian foods, a symbol of Italian culinary culture. From its original toppings (tomato sauce, mozzarella and basil leaves) that somehow remind of the Italian flag, to those slices handed out to our dining companions: there is something bonding about pizza that makes it truly special, despite its simplicity.
Italian pizza lovers never fail to recognize pizza napoletana (Neapolitan pizza) as the queen mother of all the other variants that nowadays are prepared and served all over the country. The dough -made with Italian wheat flour, water, yeast and salt – is kneaded by hand. In order to obtain the typical crust, the dough is also stretched by hand because this technique moves the air from the center towards the edge, making it puffier. Neapolitan pizza is baked for 60 to 90 seconds in a wood-fired oven. The Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana, founded in 1984 in Naples, certify pizzerias that use the proper artisan traditions of authentic Neapolitan pizza such as, besides the ingredients and method to prepare the dough, the original toppings: hand-crushed San Marzano tomatoes, fior di latte or mozzarella di Bufala, fresh basil and extra-virgin olive oil. All the ingredients, of course, must be natural and fresh.
Just like for any other Italian food preparation, countless are the versions of pizza available throughout the country: almost every region seems to put a spin on the original recipe in order to meet the local taste. Pizza Tonda Romana, for example, is very thin and crispy; the crust is flat and usually a bit burnt. Sfincione, instead, is the name given to the typical Sicilian pizza: thick and fluffy, it is usually served in square slices. One of the latest trends that seems to be taking over the Italian pizza realm is called Pinsa Romana.
The word pinsa comes from the Latin verb pinsere, which literally means “push the dough by hand”. So, as trendy as it may now be, Pinsa Romana is not exactly an innovation. Mentioned in the Aeneid (as the first food eaten by Aeneas as soon as he arrived near Rome), pinsa can be effectively considered as an ancestor of the pizza we all know. The Ancient Romans used it as a tray to serve their juicy culinary preparations as the dough, at the time, was far too hard to be eaten alone.
Besides the evident difference in shape (pinsa is oval, whereas the traditional pizza is round), the dough of Pinsa Romana is made from a combination of soy, rice, wheat flour and sourdough. It is left to ferment for up to 72 hours, then baked at a low temperature. Compared with the classic pizza dough, the pinsa one provides a different amount of water (about 80%) and a lower percentage of yeast. The result is a more digestible and less caloric preparation. As for the toppings, choices are countless just like for pizza.