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~ My Second-City Chicago-Style Deep-Dish Pizza ~

IMG_4246Aside from several layovers at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport during the 1980's, my experiences with Illinois are limited:  #1)  Piccalilli, a highly-seasoned absolutely-delicious green sweet-pickle relish that my friend from Champaign makes and gave me her recipe for. #2) Chicago-style hot dogs in full regalia, which I devoured during every airport layover.  #3) One Chicago-Style pizza that I ate at Uno's Pizzeria on Rush Street in Chicagoland proper -- OMG.

IMG_4262"Step into my pizza parlor", said the spider to the fly.

IMG_2458All three made a big impression on me, because every once in a while I make a batch of piccalilli, and, I keep a jar of sport peppers and kriptonite-colored pickle relish in my refrigerator at all times to satisfy my cravings for a hot dog that's been "dragged through the garden".  You can find my recipe for ~ A Hot Dog with a Salad on Top? Only in Chicago! ~, by clicking on the Related Article link below.  

My Uno's Chicago-style pizza encounter was a life-changing enough food experience for me make arrangements ($$$'s under the table to the manager du jour IMG_4003that evening) for me to walk out the door with two brand new, 14" deep-dish pizza pans with removable bottoms in a take-out box.  Money talks. Flirting helps.  Don't every let anyone tell you otherwise.

You see, even in my latter twenties, I was a sophisticated enough foodie to know that even with this very important pizza tasting experience under my belt, without the correct pizza  pan, concocting a real-deal deep-dish recipe in my home kitchen would be tough going.

IMG_4009For the purpose of writing this post (30+ years after the fact), I am sorry to report I cannot find the pans I own for sale anywhere, but, I did manage to find two 14" deep-dish Nordic Ware pans that I have used and can recommend. They don't have removable bottoms (which means you'll have to "scoop" your pizza out of the pan), but, my recipe will work for you in them (about $25.00 on  My son Jesse makes my recipe in his 14" well-seasoned Lodge cast-iron skillet and gets great results too.

Never had a Chicago-style deep-dish pizza experience?

IMG_4204Had I never experienced it, coming up with a recipe to share here on KE would have been totally impossible.  You see, Chicago-style deep-dish pizza has no real connection with any pizza we eat here in the East (or anywhere else in the USA for that matter) except that in the end, a tomato and cheese pie made with a yeast crust is called a pizza.  This lovingly written post is meant to be a tribute to this pizza, an introduction to this pizza-eating experience, and, a general guide to making this pizza at home.  It is not a boast about my having the best rendition (although it is very, very good) or a contest between me and any Chicago pizza joint.  Enjoy. 

"Chicago-Style" Pizza (general history and info regarding thin crust, stuffed & deep-dish):

The original "Chicago-style" pizza is thin-crust pizza -- it's found on every street corner and it came along long before deep-dish (circa 1940's) or stuffed (circa 1970's) pizza.  Yes, thin crust pizza is fantastic in Chicago, but honestly, though different, you can find really good thin ones in other parts of the country too.  Stuffed pizza, which is available everywhere in Chicago too, is a deep-dish pizza with a bottom and top crust.  It too is a specialty of Chicago, but, like thin-crust pizza you can find great stuffed pizza elsewhere.  It is the deep-dish pizza that made Chicago pizza famous, and it's impossible to find one to compare anywhere else, so, when people say "Chicago-style" pizza, they are indeed referring to deep-dish.  What do all "Chicago-style pizzas have in common?  Sausage.  Chicago is the hog producer to the world - Chicago is hog heaven.

Chicago-Style Deep-Dish Pizza (general information):

IMG_4142The crust is sometimes referred to as rich and biscuit-like.  I liken it to a focaccia that gets slighly-fried due to the oil in the pan. The yeast dough is enriched with yellow cornmeal (which gives it a yellow hue) and corn oil or butter.  Once the dough has risen, it gets hand-pressed into a 2"-3"-deep pan with oiled fingertips where it rises again for a short time before being assembled. Because the pizza is 2"-3" deep and filled with hearty ingredients, it is more akin to eating a savory main-dish pie than a light, lunchy snack. One slice, two max, this is a main course slice of pie.

The basic assembly is a bit different from the classic Neapolitan pizza that I am used to making. The cheese, usually sliced, goes in first, to line the bottom and sides of the crust (to keep the crust from getting soggy and keep the cheese from burning during the somewhat lengthy baking time required).  Precooked sausage filling (or filling of choice) comes next, going in on top of the cheese.  Tomatoes or tomato sauce go on top of the filling.  A generous amount of freshly-grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and herbs finish it off before it goes into the oven to bake.

IMG_4233Chicago-style deep-dish pizza is not hard to make, it's fun,

but, read these instructions carefully prior to starting:

IMG_4053For one 14" crust:

3  cups unbleached, all-purpose flour

1/2  cup yellow cornmeal

2  packets granulated, dry yeast, not rapid-rise

1  teaspoon garlic powder

1  teaspoon sugar

1  teaspoon salt

1 1/4  cups hot tap water

1/4  cup corn oil, plus 2 additional tablespoons for preparing pan

no-stick cooking spray

IMG_4010For the sausage filling:

2  tablespoons corn oil

1  pound sausage (sweet or hot, your choice), casings removed

1  cup diced yellow or sweet onion 

3/4  cup diced green bell pepper

1  cup thinly-sliced white button mushroom caps 

sea salt and peppercorn blend

For the sauce:

1 1/2  cups pizza sauce, preferably homemade, or your favorite brand (You can find my recipe for ~ Preschutti Pizza, Part 1:  Our Favorite Sauce ~ in Categories 2, 5, 8, 12, 19 or 22.)

IMG_4104For the cheeses and spices:

12  slices provolone cheese, not too thick, not too thin

10  slices mozzarella cheese, not to thick, not too thin

1/2  cup finely-grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

dried basil, dried oregano or Italian seasoning blend

peperoncino (red pepper flakes)

Part One:  Making the Cornmeal Pizza Crust

IMG_4070~ Step 1.  In workbowl of food processor fitted with steel blade, place the flour, cornmeal, garlic powder, sugar and salt.  Using a series of 10-12 rapid on-off pulses, quickly blend ingredients together.

IMG_4065In a 2-cup measuring container, place hot water & oil.

With processor motor running, slowly, in a thin stream, add the water/oil mixture through the feed IMG_4084tube (on the top of processor).  

IMG_4074Continue to add water/oil just until a large ball forms, then stop adding liquid immediately. Continue to knead the ball of dough in the IMG_4092processor, about 30-45 revolutions around the workbowl.

~ Step 2.  Spray the inside of a large, 2-gallon food storage bag with no-stick spray.  Carefully (the blade is sharp) remove dough from processor and form into a ball.

IMG_4098~ Step 3. Place dough in bag, zip bag closed and set IMG_4100aside, until dough doubles in bulk, 45-60 minutes.  

While dough is rising make the sausage filling (or 3 cups of your favorite filling) and warm 1 1/2 cups of pizza sauce as directed below:

Part Two:  Making the Sausage Filling & Warming the Sauce

IMG_4017 IMG_4033 IMG_4036~ Step 1.  Place corn oil in a large skillet.  Remove casings from sausage and add the meat to the skillet, breaking it up into pieces as you add it.  Prep IMG_4025onion, green pepper and mushrooms, adding them to the pan as you work. Lightly grind sea salt and peppercorn blend over all.  I add 30 grinds of salt & 60 grinds of pepper. Do it to taste but do not over salt.

Over medium-high heat, saute, sitrring constantly, until vegetables are soft and sausage is completely cooked through and plump, not brown or dry, about 15 minutes. IMG_4040Continue to use the side of the spoon or spatula to break the meat up into bite-sized chunks and pieces during the cooking process.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a paper-towel lined plate to drain and cool.  You'll have 3 generous cups. I always prepare the filling and sauce a day ahead, refrigerate them overnight and gently rewarm them in the microwave just prior to assembling pizza.  Married flavors always taste better the next day.

IMG_4059Note:  In Chicago, it is the norm to find minced or chopped garlic, 2-4-6 cloves, added to the sausage filling mixture.  Because my recipe for pizza sauce contains quite a bit of garlic, I do not add it to my filling.

~ Step 2.  On stovetop, gently warm 1 1/2 cups of my pizza sauce, your own pizza sauce or your favorite brand of pizza sauce.

Note:  Both the filling and the sauce should be slightly warm (not hot and not cold) at assembly time.

Part Three:  Forming the Crust and Assembling the Pizza

IMG_4113 IMG_4117 IMG_4125 IMG_4126~Step 1.  Place 2 tablespoons of corn oil in pizza pan.  Using a paper towel, grease the bottom IMG_4135and sides of pan.  Place dough in prepared pan.  Oil your fingertips in the paper towel.  Begin flattening, pressing and working the dough across the bottom and up the sides of the pan.  You want the dough to be even in thickness throughout (bottom and sides) with no rips or tears.  This takes a little time, but you will "get into it".

~ Step 2.  Set pizza aside for 20-30 minutes, to allow dough to rise a little more in the pan.

Note:  When filling the pizza, do not compress any of fillings into the pan, including the cheese. 

IMG_4147 IMG_4162 IMG_4163 IMG_4166~Step 3.  Arrange the provolone slices in the pan, side by side, slighly overlapping, on the bottom and up the sides of the pan, to within 1/4" of the rim.  Arrange the mozzarella slices on top of the provolone slices, side by side, slightly overlapping on the bottom and up the sides of IMG_4172the pan, to within 1/4 " of the rim. Using a large slotted spoon, evenly distribute all of the sausage filling on top of the cheeses.  Remember, do not pack it down. Spoon/drizzle the tomato sauce over the sausage filling, allowing it to drizzle down through the nooks and crannies throughout the sausage. Sprinkle the Parm-Regg evenly over all.

Lightly, season with basil, oregano or Italian seasoning blend and red pepper flakes -- to taste.

Part Four:  Baking, Serving and Eating Pizza

IMG_4190~ Step 1.  Bake on lower third of 425 degree oven 10 minutes. Reduce temp to 350 degrees and continue to bake for 25 minutes. Remove from oven and place on cooling rack for 10 minutes, prior to slicing and serving.  If your pizza pan has a removable bottom:

After cooling on rack for 10 minutes, position the entire pizza pan on a small cake or pizza pedestal.  The pizza on the bottom of the pan will remain on the pedestal and the sides of  pan will drop to countertop.  Remove pizza (still on the bottom of the pizza pan) from the pedestal, slice and serve immediately (directly on and from the bottom of the pizza pan):

IMG_4221Good to the very last bite -- this is a really REALLY good home rendition of a Chicago-Style deep-dish pizza -- trust me!

IMG_4291My Second-City Chicago-Style Deep-Dish Pizza:  Recipe yields 8 very hearty slices of pizza.

Special Equipment List:  food processor; 4-cup measuring container; 2-gallon food storage bag; 12"-14" skillet; paper towels; 14" round/2" deep, deep-dish pizza pan; cooling rack; pizza cutter or knife; metal spatula

IMG_4294Cook's Note:  In the event you have leftovers, this hearty pizza can be successfully reheated the next day: in the toaster oven, not the microwave.  Place 2-4 slices of room temp pizza on a broiler-type pan that fits into your toaster oven. Loosely place a sheet of foil over the top, making no attempt to seal it. In 10-12 minutes at 375 degrees, they emerge with a crispy bottoms and ooooooey-gooey cheese.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2014) 


PSUinBOSSton: To the best of my knowledge, all-purpose flour and bread flour can be used interchangeably cup for cup. Due to the difference in gluten content, bread flour produces a chewier texture in bread products and cookies too. If that is your preference, go for it!

Very cool on this, thank you. Have had it in Chicago and it is fine there, but I am weirdly picky about certain things. I like the idea of looking at a home made deep dish as closer to a casserole. Plan to give it a try.

One question, when I make my NY style dough, I obviously always use bread flour over all purpose. Is there some reason to stick with all purpose in this recipe?


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