Pinsa Romana : the story and the original recipe

Among the modern dishes that come from the roots of traditions and that were improved over years, especially talking about doughs and flours for baked goods, we find with no doubt the excellent Pinsa Romana. For those who do not know this extraordinary and nutrient food, we can draw on the etymological roots of this word: “pinsa” derives directly from the latin “Pinsere”, which means “to extend, to stretch”.

It referres to the typical movement made to roll out the dough: starting from an oval shape the dough must be rolled out extending it to obtain the final shape. It is not rare to find a Pinsa Romana with rectangular shape.

This dish was prepared for the first time in our story by Roman people, with an original but simple recipe, prepared with ground cereals and easy-to-find ingredients such as aromatic herbs and salt to flavour the Pinsa. They think that the Pinsa is born much earlier compared to the classic pizza that we are used to eat during leisure occasions.

Furthermore, the dough of the Pinsa has an high nutritional value even though it is much more lighter than other bakery products, but it contains less fat and complex carbohydrates. The presence of healthy and natural ingredients such as rice, soy and wheat is essential for the authenticity of a good Pinsa, which is suitable to all consumers.

Having mentioned its story, it is necessary trying to prepare it, following the so-called tricks of the trade in order to obtain a digestible and tasty dish. Among the main ingredients we find, at the centre, a good flour for Pinsa, normally constituted by simple wheat flour, rice for an adequate water supply to the dough which makes it more light and easy fot the human body to assimilate it, soy (which is essential to give friability), and acidic desiccated dough which increases the good digestibility of the product, because it participates to the leavening of the Pinsa.

Making the dough ripen through all the leavinening steps is an important process and it depends on the consistence and the quality of the flour. The dough of a good Pinsa can  reach the effective ripeness in about 5 hours, while, if using strong flours that can absorb a bigger quantity of water than tradition flours, it will take some days to reach the ripeness. So, it has to be considered the composition of a long leavening dough for Pinsa, which consists (for a liter of water used for the dough) of Pinsa Romana flour, few grams of yeast, salt and oil, being careful about the temperature of the dough which should reach about 23°C at the end of the process.

The dough procedure can be described in this way: put into the kneader the above mentioned ingredients, including yeast and flour, and start mixing. Pour almost all the water needed for the dough, while mixing at low speed for about one minute, then increase the speed during the following 8-9 minutes. At this point we have to add the salt, thereafter continue the kneading for three minutes. Then we must add the oil and mix the dough for two minutes. At the end we will add the remaning water pouring it slowly for about 5 minutes.

As already said, the time needed for the dough is about twenty minutes, after which it must rest for about half hour and ventilated at ten minutes intervals, at a regular temperature. The digestibility of this product is obtained with these preparation procedures, thereby it is important to pay attention in proportionating the various ingredients.

Talking about Pinsa Romana it is important to focus on the type of flour to use in order to obtain the best results in the production of this product that, even though it has humble origins, it must be tasted carefully to understand its qualities. The hydration of the dough, which is an excellent base even for who wants to stuff the Pinsa with traditional combinations, Margherita, Marinara, Caprese or with vegetables (courgette flowers, courgettes), is due to the Manitoba flour which has got many insoluble proteins including the glutenin. This protein has the important characteristic of producing gluten in its contact with the water needed for the preparation. The Manitoba flour is low in starches and this makes the product to rise considerably during the leavening phase, giving to the consumer  an elastic and well risen product. The original recipe is focused on the use of ground cereals and herbs and it considers also the baking in electric oven; it is often prepared also in the classic pizzerias that sell pizza by the slice as well as in the “pinserias” present throughout Lazio, in honour of this tasty and unique tradition.

Modern “Pinserias” also add organic flours and extra virgin olive oil to the dough, always sticking to the two or three days for the dough leavening. There are also seasonings on demand, also with the take-away service. The new seasonings which  are most popular in Rome are Speck and mozzarella di bufala, ham and figs, pumpkin cream, provola cheese and bacon, depending on the different tastes. While, for the more exclusive customers, the seasonings include lobster tails, chicken and tomatoes with amatriciana taste.

Furthermore, the oldest baker families in Rome and its surroundings, preserve an important tradition in the production of the Pinsa Romana, by virtue of a product which is still prepared following roman tradition. Those consumer who are particularly sensitive about the taste will be happy to know how to distinguish the classic pizza from the Pinsa, because of its flavourings which make it a unique product in spite of the modern taste of pizza dough. In particular, to make the pinsa always faithful to its originary taste while introducing an essential element for its current success, it was necessary to add a small-big revolution by Corrado Di Marco, a businessman who spread a mew mix of ingredients in the production of Pinsa Romana, that nowadays make it still distinguishable everywhere.

The preparation hides its secrets, and it is based on the right calibration between the rice used for the dough and the baking, and the moisture-absorbing capacity, which gives to the naturally leavened dough a light consistency, so that the final consumers has the feel of eating a kind of “baked cloud”. This product turns out to be so important to be eaten in every season, both in winter and in summer: the “schiacciata” seems always to be an excellent concentration of milk enzymes produced by the sour dough and the rice and soy flour, which recently replaced the classic version which was egyptian kamut-based – an ancient Egypt grain which is really appreciated for its quality, and that is generally non-OGM. The crumb inside has never changed over time, surrounded by a shell which brings with it the flavour of old recipes.

The final dish is a result of all the ingredients, even when modified in a personal way, to obtain a low-fat and low-calorie food, which is not contraindicated to those who are on a diet, provided that the final Pinsa Romana is not too garnished by other ingredients. This is also allowed by the final phases of the preparation, where the cooking has a leading role: the great quantity of water absorbed by the dough would make quite complicated a quick baking at acceptable levels, therefore the second phase of the baking gives to the Pinsa the possibility of having many different kind of fillings, preserving and developing the typical flavours of this ancient roman “spianata”.

Currently the Pinsa Romana is served in quite exotic places, or vice-versa in those rooted in tradition. In the Pinseria  the prices are usually affordable and there is a wide offer in the menu so that the consumers will find a kind of Pinsa which will satisfy their own tastes. The more suitable side dishes to the pinsa, which is usually served in steel plates – in order to preserve its characteristics and its aroma – are the typical “bruschette” like starter and some classic fried food. Many “Pinserias” of “Pizzerias” are available to modify the size of the Pinsa, usually prepared with the standard pizza sizes: small/medium and large.

Thus, the heir of the ancient “focaccia romana”, is a trendy and rich in tradition food, more than we might think: it is very popular on the main restaurants in Rome, this product does not make people miss the famous “pizza napoletana”, it can be combined with beer in draught or with handcrafted italian beer, that will enhance its flavour like it deserves. Other appetizers which can be served together with the Pinsa include vegetables or cold meats and sliced salami prepared on the spot. Of course we must consider the fact that the Pinsa, with its precise preparation methods, is also suitable for those who have to follow particularly calorie-restricted diets, being useful also in its nutritional and dietetic aspect, since it is enjoyable and light for everybody.

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