A classic Chicago-style deep dish pizza is characterized by a buttery crust, tons of cheese, and a super flavorful sauce. This recipe has all of those and is much easier than you might think.
When we decided on deep dish pizza for our Illinois state dinner I thought I would have to order it through a mail-order company. It seemed overwhelming to me to make something so complex. I didn’t think it was possible to recreate a deep dish pizza that was as good as what you get in a restaurant. But what I discovered is that while it does take some time for the dough to rise, it is actually a pretty simple recipe. And it tastes incredible! You will need to make this when you plan to be home for a solid 4 hours, but the hands-on time is just twenty-five minutes, or so. And I promise when you make this recipe you will be the hero of pizza night at your house!
Making A Buttery Crust
I always get a little intimidated when I make something using yeast, as I worry about what will happen if the yeast doesn’t activate. But as long as your yeast is not expired, and your liquids are not too hot, there is really nothing to worry about. You want your liquids to be between 100-110 degrees. You can temp the water and butter separately, but I like to melt the butter, then get my water to the correct temp and mix them together. Give it one last temp check to make sure it is in range, and then add it to my dry ingredients. (If it is too hot, wait a few minutes until it cools to the correct range. If it is too cool, put it back in the microwave.)
To make the crust we use both flour and cornmeal. The cornmeal gives it a great taste and texture and makes the crust the classic yellow color that you see at Chicago restaurants. Once your liquids are added to the dry ingredients, use the dough hook, and mix it on low for five minutes. If you don’t have an electric mixer then you can knead this by hand. You want to continue kneading until the dough is soft and squishy. In your electric mixer, all of the dough will pull away from the sides, without anything sticking. The way that flour absorbs liquids will change slightly by brand, so you may need to add a tablespoon more flour if it is sticky, or a tablespoon more water if it is dry. When you push your finger into the dough you want it to indent without anything sticking to your finger, and then it should slowly start to spring back. Put this dough in a bowl with some oil, and turn the dough to coat it in oil. Cover and set in a warm place for 1-2 hours, until it doubles in size.
Once the dough is about 8 cups in volume, it is ready for the butter. Another cooking technique that intimidates me is laminating. But we are overcoming our fears and growing our cooking skills! And this method of laminating couldn’t be easier! All you have to do is roll out your dough into a 15×12-inch rectangle. The size doesn’t have to be exact. No need to take out your measuring stick. This is how you create the flaky layers of the pizza crust, so you want to maybe a half-inch or so in thickness. Spread your softened butter over your dough. Then roll it up from the shortest side, rolling up the length of the dough. Cut it in half, put both pieces back in your oiled bowl, and place it covered in the refrigerator.
A Perfectly Savory Sauce
Once your dough is in the refrigerator you can begin making your sauce. This sauce is as simple as some butter, fresh garlic, fresh basil, crushed tomatoes, and seasonings. We like our sauce to be savory, but if you like a little sweetness, just add one tablespoon of sugar. In a medium-sized saucepan, melt your butter and saute the garlic for just a minute. Then add the rest of your ingredients, stir them in, and cover your saucepan. Covering the pan is super important here! I made the mistake of leaving the sauce uncovered the first time I made this recipe, and ended up with pizza sauce splatters all over my kitchen. I am still finding splashes of sauce in random places! Save your sanity, and cover your pan! Then turn it to medium-low heat and let it simmer.
How Do You Layer A Chicago-Style Deep Dish Pizza?
It’s finally time to build your masterpiece! I can feel your anticipation! We are making two pizzas, each in 9-inch cake pans. Put some oil in the bottom of the pans. This will help keep them from sticking, and also will give a little crispiness to the outside of the crust.
On a floured surface, roll out your first section of dough to about a 12-inch circle. Then lift it up, center it over your cake pan. Drop it into the pan, then press along the bottom and up the sides, making sure to remove any air bubbles and having the dough sit flush against the pan. Repeat those same steps with your other dough. Doesn’t the dough feel great? You can tell it is going to make a really good crust!
Our next step is layering the cheese. For this step, you can shred a block of mozzarella cheese, or use slices of fresh mozzarella. We tried both ways and couldn’t tell a difference between the two pizzas. But whatever you do, don’t use pre-shredded mozzarella! The pre-shredded cheese has additives in it to dry out the cheese so that it doesn’t stick together. It doesn’t melt well, and it will make your pizza less delicious.
After you have a thick layer of cheese in each of your pans, add whatever other toppings you would like in your pizza. Our recipe calls for cooked sweet Italian sausage, but you can swap that out for pepperoni, vegetables (par-cook before putting on the pizza), or any other favorite pizza topping. Then pour some of that delicious, rich sauce over the top. You should have about 3 cups of pizza sauce, so just split it equally over each pizza. Top with a little Parmesan cheese and you are ready to bake!
Your Perfect Deep Dish Pie
The pizza bakes for about 28 minutes. You’ll know it is done with the outside crust is golden brown. Remove it from the oven and let it sit for about 10 minutes so that the sauce sets up. If you cut into it right away everything will spill out. But good things come to those who wait! It is so thick that it will stay hot, and that wait time is the finishing touch to your perfect pizza!
What Do I Do With the Leftovers?
We are a family of four with pretty big appetites, and find that one-third to one-half is the perfect serving size for us. Depending on how many you are serving, you may end up with leftovers. These can be refrigerated for up to 5 days. When ready to eat, reheat in your oven at 300 for about 15 minutes, or until hot.
Chicago-Style Deep Dish Pizza Recipe
- 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 pkg yeast (2 1/4 tbsp)
- 1 1/4 cups warm water (100-110 degrees)
- 1/2 cup butter, 1/4 cup melted and 1/4 cup softened
- olive oil for coating
- 2 tbsp butter
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 can crushed tomatoes, 28 ounces
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
- 6 large fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped
- 3/4 lb mozzarella cheese, sliced or shredded
- 3/4 lb Italian sausage, sliced and cooked
- 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
- Combine the flour, cornmeal, salt, and yeast in the bowl of your stand mixer. Add in the warm water and the melted butter. I like to mix the water and butter together first so that I just have to temp one bowl. It's important they are not too hot, or they will kill your yeast.
- Using your dough hook attachment, stir the ingredients on low speed for about 5 minutes, or until the dough is soft and begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl. The dough should feel soft and squishy. Add a tablespoon of water if it feels hard, or a tablespoon of flour if the dough is sticky, and knead to incorporate.
- Put a small amount of olive oil in a large bowl. Place the pizza dough in a ball inside the bowl, and turn to coat all over with the oil. Cover and let rise for 1-2 hours, until it doubles in size. This should be in an area that is away from any drafts.
- Once the flour has doubled, turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Punch down the dough to remove any air bubbles and roll into a large 15x12-inch rectangle.
- Spread 1/4 cup of softened butter over the top of the rectangle. Roll the shortest side up to make a dough log. Cut the log in half. Form each log into a ball and place back into our greased bowl. Cover with foil and place in the refrigerator for one hour.
- While the pizza is rising in the refrigerator, place melt remaining butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Saute garlic for 1 minute, until fragrant, being careful not to burn the garlic.
- Add crushed tomato, salt, oregano, red pepper flakes, and basil. Once it begins to bubble, cover, and turn heat to medium-low. Simmer for 30 minutes, or until it is thick and hearty, stirring occasionally.
- After 30 minutes, remove lid. If the sauce is thick and heart then it is ready to use. If it is thin, continue cooking until it thickens. Taste and adjust seasonings, if desired.
Assembling the Pizza
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Grease two 9" cake pans with cooking spray.
- Remove one roll of dough from the refrigerator, leaving the other one in the bowl. Roll it out a 12" circle. Place over the cake pan and using your fingers, press the dough into the pan being careful to remove any air pockets so that it is pressing tightly against the pan. Repeat with the second dough. Brush the top edges with olive oil
- Layer mozzarella cheese slices over dough, using half for each pizza. Top with cooked sausage. Pour 1 1/4 cups of sauce over each pizza. Sprinkle 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese over the top of each pizza.
- Place the cake pans on top of a large baking sheet to catch any spills. Bake 20-28 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown.
- Remove pizzas and cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then serve.