Ancient grains are still all the rage on the health food scene and as more chefs and consumers incorporate ancient grains into their diets, we’re also seeing age-old culinary traditions and dishes return to the menu. One such example is the return of the pinsa. No, not pizza, pinsa. The two dishes may look similar but are fundamentally quite different in looks, flavour, and nutrition content. There’s been a growing interest in pinsa abroad for quite some time but, the trend has only just arrived in South Africa thanks to local eatery, Pinsa, founded by entrepreneur Andrey Tarasov.
Located at Paarl’s Freedom Weekend Market, Pinsa offers the ideal treat for health-conscious foodies. Serving a comprehensive menu of delicious wood-fired pinsa dishes as well as a selection of panini and piadina (folded flatbread) options, the tendy spot offers the perfect opportunity to try something new.
But what is the difference between pizza and pinsa?
An Italian original, like its Neapolitan cousin the pizza, the pinsa hails from ancient Rome. While both dishes are dough-based, it’s the ingredients that go into the dough that differentiates the two. Pizza dough is made solely from wheat flour, a little bit of water, and a lot of salt while, pinsa dough uses a combination of rice, soy and wheat flours which are mixed with ice-cold water (80%) and minimal salt. The super-hydrated dough is then cold fermented for 72 hours, which breaks down the starches. This game-changing process is said to make pinsa lighter and more easily digestible.
The dish is also much loved for being lower in calories, fat, and having less sodium than pizza. It’s also made with far less cheese, bringing the combined cholesterol and calorie count down by as much as 60%.
Pinsa has a lighter, airier crust than pizza and is similar to eating a beautifully light artisanal bread loaf than a heavy, starchy pizza base. Pizza is also round and flat, while pinsa is more rustic looking — it’s oval in shape, with a soft pillowy centre that cushions the toppings, and a crispy crust.
The name, pinsa, originates from the Latin word “pinsere”, which means to “stretch and extend”; perfectly describing the method used to shape the dough. While pizza dough is traditionally rolled out into a round, pinsa dough is usually pressed by hand, resulting in its rustic look.
The first taste
I popped to The Freedom Weekend Market with a friend to get a taste of this Italian import, and I was in love from the very first bite. I’m a big lover of artisanal bread (I could easily live off nothing but freshly baked bread and cheese) and tasting pinsa for the first time was a real revelation for me.
Of course, the crew behind it all makes a big difference. Heading up the baking crew at the first pinseria in Paarl is artisanal baker and chef, Ciska Rossouw (of Loaves by Madame Baker fame). Her enthusiasm for ancient bread-making traditions is boundless and she is on a mission to create the most incredible pinsas this side of Italy.
And boy has she succeeded. These pinsas are super soft and scrumptious on the inside, with a light, airy crust that is just screaming to be savoured. Forget leaving the crust for last, with these treats from Pinsa the crust becomes the main event. You’ll find yourself making a point of enjoying the crust as a standalone treat which you can lovingly slather with homemade sauce.
Luckily, each pinsa order comes with a delicious complimentary jar of crust sauce. Choose from basil pesto, red pepper pesto, truffle aioli, garlic and chilli oil, and barbeque sauce options, for those crunchy bits that are too good to leave behind.
My foodie friend and I shared a Bella Napoli (Mozarella, Copa, & fresh basil – R130) and Something Meaty (Bacon, chicken, chorizo, cherry tomatoes, & crispy onion – R150) pinsa paired with basil pesto and truffle aioli sauces. If you love simple flavours, then you’ll adore the Bella Napoli. As for the sauces, both the basil pesto and truffle aioli are sure-fire winners and transform the crust into a taste sensation of note.
We ended our meal on a sweet note with the Dolce pinsa. Made with a generous layer of chocolate spread topped with mixed berries and hazelnuts (R85), this dessert pinsa beyond moreish. The fruit adds a beautiful freshness to the dish, helping to break through the sweetness, enticing you to dig in for yet another bite. This sweet treat is definitely designed to be shared by a few people after a delicious pinsa meal but if you really have a sweet tooth you could easily devour one all on your own.
Find the full Pinsa menu here.
Where to find Pinsa
Find Pinsa at the Freedom Weekend Market every Saturday from 9:00 till 17:00 with live music, Sundays from 9:00 till 16:00, as well as from 16:00 till 19:00 on the first Friday of every month.
Pinsa’s menu prices range from R55 for a kids’ margherita to R150 for large pinsas. Gluten-free options are also available. For more info, check out the Pinsa website.
Find the Freedom Weekend Market at 301 Wemmershoek Rd, Paarl. The market boasts a spacious outdoor eating area with wooden tables and a dedicated children’s play area and is the ideal place to meet up with friends and family for a relaxed meal with a splash of retail therapy.