Possibly authentic (though maybe not) Chicago-style stuffed pizza

Last time I left New England and ventured into the Midwest (virtually speaking), I  found myself in a heap o’ trouble.

Blogging a recipe for Chicago deep-dish pizza, I implied – well, to tell the truth, boldly stated – that this recipe made an “authentic” Chicago-style pizza.

Boy, did I ever get set straight!

“I am from Chicago, born and raised, so there are a couple things I noticed are not quite ‘authentic’…”  – Katie

”Gino’s East does NOT use cornmeal in their crust and NONE of the authentic deep dish pizza restaurants that you mention use cornmeal. It is a myth that continues to be perpetuated.” Ed from Chicago

“Look at the title of the blog [since changed – PJ] . To me, it implies that the recipe is authentic and true to what you will find in Chicago pizzerias. The article itself does not really make that claim. I absolutely agree that you should make pizza how you like it. But the title implies authenticity and those of us who have noted some inauthentic additions are merely pointing that out. Still looks like an awesome pizza, authentic or not! I have yet to try a recipe I have not liked on this site.” – Jess

Jess, a former though not current Chicago-an, added her input a number of times during the ensuing back and forth about the blog and recipe. In fact, we both became so engaged in the subject, we started emailing one another.

Jess offered to send me her recipe for Chicago stuffed pizza. Hoping to stay out of trouble, I eagerly accepted.

And what a (delicious) project it turned out to be! If you love to spend time in the kitchen, this one’s for you. Jess not only makes her own sauce – she makes her own sausage.

WOW. I’d never made sausage before – though as it turns out, it’s incredibly easy.

The sauce was delightful – a very simple combination of tomatoes, garlic, and onion, Jess’ take on a Cook’s Illustrated recipe.

Her directions were perfect. And if I’d followed them, I wouldn’t have made QUITE the project out of the whole thing that I did.

For instance – “Pat the sausage into the bottom of the crust.”

Did I do that? Of course not. I put the whole layered thing together, carefully fanning the cheese, spreading the mushrooms, dolloping bits of chopped spinach overall; crust, sauce…

Opened the fridge to pull out the Parmesan cheese for the final layer – [swear word of your choice]! There was the sausage, the very first thing I was supposed to put into the crust.

So what could I do? I went ahead and baked the pizzas without sausage. The vegetarians were happy. I was not.

Take two: Make the crust, let it rest overnight in the fridge. Make the sausage, make the sauce, prepare the remaining fillings. Roll out the dough, put it in the pans.

REMEMBER THE SAUSAGE. Check. Phew!

Fan the mozzarella atop the sausage; spinach and mushrooms in one, artichoke hearts and olives in the other (loathe though I am to stray beyond what might be considered “proper” for a Chicago stuffed pizza); add the top crust, that yummy sauce, Parmesan… and for one of them, pepperoni on top.

Hey – I saw a Chicago stuffed pizza online with pepperoni on top, I swear!

Bake.

Remove two hefty 3-pound pizzas from the oven, and let them settle a bit, to avoid a messy lava-flow.

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Turn out of the pan.

Oh, my…

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Cut a warm slice.

Take a delicious bite.

Yo, Chicago – if this isn’t your idea of authentic, I don’t want to know about it.

Jess says I’m good to go (right, Jess?). And that’s good enough for this New Englander.

Ready for a weekend project? Let’s make Chicago-style Stuffed Pizza.

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Here are two specialty ingredients I use in this pizza: pizza seasoning, a blend of Italian herbs and spices, garlic, onion, and salt; and semolina, golden durum wheat ground too coarse to call flour, but perfect nonetheless for bread, pasta, and pizza crust.

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Put the following in a mixing bowl:

6 cups (27 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
3/4 cup semolina
1 3/4 teaspoons instant yeast
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons melted butter

Mix till thoroughly combined.

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Add 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 cups lukewarm water. Use enough to make a smooth dough. You’ll use less in the summer, or if you substitute all-purpose flour for the semolina; and more in the winter, or if you’re in a dry climate.

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Mix till everything is cohesive…

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…then knead to make an elastic, fairly stiff dough.

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Place in a large, greased bowl; cover, and let rise at room temperature for 1 hour.

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As you can see by the ruler, this isn’t a really vigorous riser.

For best flavor, after its initial 1-hour rise, refrigerate the dough for several hours, or for up to 24 hours. You can use the crust after its first 1-hour rise, but its flavor will improve with the longer, slower rise offered by refrigeration.

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While the dough is rising, we’ll make the sauce.

Or not. Feel free to use bottled pizza or spaghetti sauce; your own recipe, or whatever you like. Bottom line, you’ll need about 28 to 30 ounces of sauce – just under 4 cups.

To make your own, start with canned (or boxed) tomatoes. Here’s a 28-ounce can on the left; a 26-ounce box on the right.

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Canned crushed tomatoes on the left; aseptically boxed chopped tomatoes on the right. Your choice; I happen to like the chunkier boxed tomatoes, so that’s what I used.

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Coarsely grate 1 small onion; you’ll have about 1/2 cup of onion. Sauté it in 1 tablespoon of butter.

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When the onion is starting to brown, add 2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed. Cook for about 30 seconds, and remove the pan from the stove.

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Add the following:

1 teaspoon dried oregano; or 1 teaspoon Pizza Seasoning
4 teaspoons sugar, or to taste
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt, to taste*
*The amount will depend on the saltiness of the canned tomatoes. Under-salt a bit, as the sauce will cook down and the flavor intensify.

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Simmer gently for up to 1 hour, to concentrate the flavors. This is what the sauce looked like after 30 minutes.

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And here it is after 45 minutes – see how nicely it thickened?

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While the sauce is simmering, fry up some mushrooms, if you like. This is 8 ounces of button mushrooms, each chopped in half.

I happen to like mushrooms in my pizza. If you don’t care for them – leave them out. Or substitute peppers. No Pizza Police here.

Sausage is traditional in Chicago stuffed pizza. You’ll need 1 pound of bulk sausage.

Don’t like sausage? Leave it out.

Want to make your own? Here’s how.

Mix together the following:

1 pound ground pork
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon sweet or hot paprika
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
3/4 teaspoon fennel seed, lightly crushed
1 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (more for spicier sausage)
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground sage
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

Refrigerate till ready to use.

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OK, let’s start assembling this baby. Place the dough on a lightly greased work surface. A kneading/rolling mat works well here.

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Divide the dough into two pieces. One should be about three-quarters of the dough; the other, one-quarter. If you have a scale, one piece should weigh about 36 ounces; the other, about 13 ounces.

Divide each piece of dough in half again. You’ll now have four pieces of dough: top and bottom crusts for two 9” stuffed pizzas.

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Start with one of the larger pieces of dough.

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Stretch, then roll the dough into a round large enough (about 15” to 16”) to line the bottom and sides of one pan, with some overhang.

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You’ll be rolling the dough quite thin; it helps to cover it with some lightly greased parchment as you roll.

Roll one of the smaller pieces of dough into a circle about 9” in diameter.

Cover both pieces of dough, and go away for 15 minutes. Or use the time to roll out the other two pieces of dough. Either way, you want to let your rolled-out dough rest for 15 minutes; it relaxes the gluten, allowing you to handle the dough without it shrinking.

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Butter the bottom and sides of two 9” x 2”-deep round cake pans, then drizzle olive oil in the bottom of each.

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Fold the larger piece of dough into quarters…

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…and center it in the pan.

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Take half the sausage, and pat it into an 8” round, to nestle  into the crust. I found it works well to put it on an 8” parchment round

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…flatten it under another round of parchment…

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…then pick the whole thing up and flop it into the crust, peeling off the parchment.

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You’ll need 1 pound of sliced mozzarella, 8 ounces for each pizza. “Tile” (fan) the mozzarella into the crust, atop the sausage.

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Add your fillings of choice. This pizza’s getting black olives and artichoke hearts. The other will get those mushrooms I fried earlier, plus a box of frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry.

This bears repeating: no Pizza Police! Use whatever fillings you like.

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Put the smaller piece of rolled-out dough atop the fillings.

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Crimp together the top and bottom crusts.

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It’s coming together nicely, eh? Cut slashes in the top, to allow steam to escape as the pizza bakes.

Repeat the whole process with the remaining dough and ingredients, making another 9” round pizza.

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Cover the pizzas, and let them rest while you preheat your oven to 425°F, about 30 minutes.

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Just before baking, top the pizzas with the sauce…

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…and sprinkle with a total of 1 1/4 cups of freshly grated Parmesan, Romano, aged Asiago, or your favorite hard cheese grated cheese.  Use half the cheese (a scant 2/3 cup) on each pizza.

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See how the crust has started to puff?

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Put the pizzas in the oven.

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Bake till the crust is golden brown and the filling is bubbly, 20 to 25 minutes.

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Lucky we used a 2”-deep pan, eh? Go thou and do likewise.

I decided to add a garnish of pepperoni on top of one of the pizzas. TOTALLY over the top.

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Remove the pizzas from the oven, and allow them to rest for about 15 minutes.

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Loosen their edges…

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…and gently turn them out of the pan onto a rack to cool.

To do this, place a round cooling rack atop one pan, and turn the whole thing over. Lift off the pan, place a rack on the bottom of the pizza, and turn the whole thing over again, so the pizza is now right side up.

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Like this. One 3-pound pizza, coming up!

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Use a pair of scissors or baker’s bench knife to cut wedges. Serve warm, with a fork.

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Here’s a good view of the layers: crust, then sausage, mozzarella, spinach and mushrooms, crust, tomato sauce, and more cheese.

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Now, you CAN make this entire recipe into one enormous 6-pound pizza by baking it in a 14” deep-dish pizza pan.

Be my guest! I found it kind of hard to handle.

Jess – thanks for the recipe, and most of all for the hand-holding and support along the way.

I love how baking and food and the Internet bring us together. ALL of us: Midwesterners, New Englanders, Brazilians (I know you’re reading this, Ricardo)… Enjoy, everyone. Life’s too short not to eat pizza.

Especially Stuffed Pizza.

P.S. Speaking of decadent – take a look at a reader variation on the three-cheese semolina bread recipe posted last Friday. The addition of cheddar cheese (extra-sharp, or chipotle); and a can of chipotle chiles in adobo sauce turn this bread into a smoky-hot-cheesy “volcano” of flavor. Scroll to the end of the blog for pictures and instructions. WOW.

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was a Maine journalist before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. PJ bakes and writes from her home on Cape Cod, where she enjoys beach-walking, her husband, two dogs, and really good food!

comments

  1. Mark Cohen

    Thanks for the recipe—I worked in a Chicago-style pizzeria in FL for several years; they licensed their recipes and techniques from Nancy’s, one of the progenitors of stuffed pizza:
    – we used black steel pans, similar to those used for Detroit-style pizza but round
    – the sausage was always cooked beforehand; roasted in an oven, drained, crumbled
    – the sauce was always puréed smooth, no chunks, and wasn’t cooked
    – the mozzarella was always grated (on large holes of grater), not sliced
    – the cheese almost filled the pan to the top, less if there were no other fillings; probably closer to 12 oz for a 9-10” pie (our pans were 8”, 10”, 12”, 14”)
    – the bottom crust was brought to the top edge of the pan, and trimmed with a spatula. Then the top crust went on top of the cheese and was pinched to seal around the edge (about 1/4” of head space above top crust)
    – we lightly sprinkled grated Parmesan on top and drizzled with olive oil
    – after baking, we slid a spatula under, tilted the pan, and slid out the pie. Let it sit for a minute or two before slicing

    Reply
    1. Mark Cohen

      Also, we didn’t do a double rise. The dough was cold-fermented for a day, taken directly from the fridge and stretched and baked. It didn’t have a second rise in the pan; I think that could produce too thick/fluffy of a crust.

  2. ToddB

    I wonder if this can be modified with gluten-free dough and if anyone has tried what was their technique. Having celiac disease I really miss my Uno’s Pizza.

    Reply
  3. Margarita

    Loved this recipe, thank you!

    I do have 2 follow-up question. 1. Why does the recipe call for frozen spinach? Will the recipe turnout different with fresh spinach?
    2. We only finished one pizza, and decided to freeze the left over 2nd pizza. Do you have recommendations on how to reheat the pizza without overcooking and drying out out?

    Thank you for your response in advance.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Margarita! We tend to use frozen spinach instead of fresh because we can squeeze out some of the liquid and it doesn’t make things as soggy as fresh spinach will. You’re welcome to use it, just expect a higher moisture content and a potentially soggier crust. We’d recommend letting the pizza thaw, still wrapped, on the counter. Then, wrap it in foil (tenting the top so the cheese doesn’t stick) and bake it for 5 minutes or so around 250F just to reheat it. You can remove the foil if you’d like it to re-crisp, just keep an eye on it through the oven window to make sure it doesn’t get too dark. Annabelle@KAF

  4. Beatriz Gyori

    Looking forward to making this pizza for my family.
    Your detailed recipe and visual steps inspired me greatly. Thank you!

    Reply
  5. Barry

    Hi. I am a Chicagoan now living in New Hampshire. There are no stuffed pizzas to be found anywhere in New England, so I am going to be forced to make my own. Your recipe looks wonderful, and I can’t wait to try it.

    The only comments I can make regarding the “authenticity” of your recipe are: 1) Sausage, although of course popular, is not “traditional” in Chicago stuffed pizza (although if you go to Gino’s East, Lou Malnati’s, or Pizzaria Uno, you may have had their sausage patty “deep dish” pizza–very different experience in my opinion from the stuffed, crust-wise and experience-wise; most people eat deep dish with their hands and stuffed pizza with a fork). All ingredients are used (spinach is also popular, just not for me). 2) In order to be more like the restaurants in Chicago, you would probably want to put more than 8 oz. mozzarella cheese in the pie, and far less grated cheese on top (it’s really only sprinkled, if there is any, on a stuffed pizza…again, maybe you’re thinking of a deep dish pizza), as the sauce is what you should see and taste on the top of the pie. 3) I personally have NEVER seen pepperoni or any topping other than sauce on top of a Chicago stuffed pizza, and I am embarrassed to say I’ve had a LOT of pizzas–yes, we’re talking hundreds over the years–at dozens of Chicago locations. Again, maybe you saw a Chicago-style deep dish pizza?

    Anyway, don’t know if that helps with the “authentic” part. I cannot wait to try your recipe! Thanks!

    Reply
  6. Gloria

    I am here tonight to get a fantastic pizza dough recipe, I see from the comments that everyone loved this one. I am making pagach (pagash, polish potato pizza) and I think this crust would work out great, right? Also I want to use my cast iron skillet, is this okay? But now I have to run to the store to get Instant Yeast because all I have is Active. What is the difference anyway, between Instant and Active, can I use Active? After making the pagash I will make this recipe, can’t wait.

    Reply
    1. Gloria

      My deep dish pagash is in the oven. I used the instant yeast, and a mixture of AP flour, semolina and durum to make a total of 6 cups. The dough didn’t need any more flour or water, I kneaded it and it was perfect. It rose nicely and rolled out nicely too. The reason I used this dough is because original pagash has a bread type dough and has another layer of dough on top. I put the pie in my cast iron skillet to give it a nice crunch. I am Italian and I did visit Chicago one weekend and did have an original deep dish pizza and for what I can remember it looked just like this one. So, of course I can’t wait to make the Italian way and I sure hope my crust comes out perfect. One thing, I didn’t keep it refrigerated after rising, I did wait about 2 hours before putting this bad boy together, it looks great so far. Grazie…

    2. The Baker's Hotline

      Gloria, we think this recipe would be a great base for your potato pizza! Baking in a cast iron is a great idea; either use two 9″ skillets or a larger 11″-12″ skillet. You may need to add a few extra minutes to the overall bake time to account for the length of time the pans require to heat up. As for your question about yeast, we’ve written a full blog about which yeast to use, which we think will be helpful in future baking endeavors. (Usually you can use active or instant yeast in recipes, making small to no adjustments to account for this.) Kye@KAF

  7. Fay

    Thanks for posting this wonderful recipe. I cannot wait to try it. How would it work if I make my sausage layer into a big patty and pan fry it before putting it in the pizza?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Interesting thought, Fay. We haven’t tried it, so we can’t say, but we do recommend that you feel free to make the fillings your own–however you like them. Happy pizza making! Mollie@KAF

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