If you're from Chicago, you know there's no other version of pizza that compares to deep dish, stuffed, Chicago-style pizza. Unfortunately, as far as pizza goes, it's not the healthiest version. So I tried to make a healthier version of Chicago-Style Pizza. It's not quite the same buttery version I grew up with, but man, this healthier Chicago-Style Pizza is pretty darn good!
Before I tell you about my signature pizza, I have to tell you that I was born and raised in Chicago, where pizza is a completely different animal. A religion almost. I understand that in other parts of the country, or even in the world, pizza is a flat thing with sauce and toppings, but ask anyone from Chicago, and they’ll tell you it’s stuffed like a pie.
We had Giordano’s and Gino’s East whenever we were in the Loop, and Lou Malnati’s in the suburbs if we wanted something closer to home.
Every once in a while my parents would load us into the station wagon and we’d make the extremely long drive from the northern suburbs where we lived, down to the “south side” (of the city) for Connie’s Pizza – my dad’s favorite.
We must have had regular flat pizza somewhere in-between (I recall my mom making the flat stuff), but whenever we went out for pizza, I always remember it stuffed.
So needless to say, my signature pizza is Chicago Style. It’s not the quickest, or easiest thing to throw together for a quick dinner- I’ll be honest. It’s a labor of love, with two packages of dough to make or thaw and then roll out, several steps for the filling and topping, and of course, a longer bake time. But when I pull that thing out of the oven…
Chicago-style pizza is not a low-calorie meal. It’s got double the crust, and it’s packed with at least a pound of cheese, and usually Italian sausage along with anything else you can think of. A large pizza probably weighs about ten pounds and can feed a small nation.
Mine is a little bit better, but this is not an every-night meal kind of a meal.
If I’m feeling extremely ambitious I will make a honey-wheat dough, but usually, I buy pre-made whole wheat dough. I think it’s just fine. I also use less cheese and try to pack it with lots of veggies. My favorite combo is baby spinach, mushrooms, and peppers, but you can use any vegetable (or meat) combo you like.
How to Make Chicago-Style Pizza
The secret to Chicago-Style is no sauce on the inside. It goes like this:
flat filling (ie meat, spinach)
lumpy filling (ie broccoli, artichokes)
little filling (sautéed onions, mushrooms, peppers)
spices (Italian seasoning)
a second layer of dough
Lots of work, but SOOOOO worth it!
It's best to have a deep dish pizza pan like this one which is 12-inches.
I like the kind with holes on the bottom because the steam can escape and the crust gets crispier. You can also use a cast-iron pan. Worst case, you can use a cake pan, or oven safe sauté pan.
I do recommend cooking the vegetables or sausage before stuffing the pizza. They will taste better when caramelized, it cuts down on baking time a bit, and it keeps the filling from getting too watery or oily.
Healthier Chicago Style Pizza
- 8 ounces hot or sweet Italian turkey sausage removed from casings
- 2 one pound packages pre-made whole wheat dough
- ½ pound mozzarella cheese shredded
- 1 medium onion sliced thin
- ½ medium sweet pepper sliced thin
- 4 ounces button mushrooms sliced
- 2 cups baby spinach
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 1 14 oz can Muir Glen chopped or crushed tomatoes with juice
- 2-3 cloves fresh garlic minced
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
- Adjust your oven rack to the lowest position, and preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
- Place the turkey sausage in a large saute pan and cook over medium heat, breaking up the meat into small pieces. Add the mushrooms, onions, and peppers if using. Continue cooking this mixture until the meat is no longer pink, and the vegetables are softened and caramelized, about 10 minutes.
- Prepare a 12-inch deep dish pizza pan by spraying well with cooking spray, and lightly dusting the bottom with cornmeal.
- Stretch or roll out one pound of the dough to cover the bottom or the pan, and press up the sides a bit.
- Lay shredded mozzarella cheese over dough in an even layer.
- Layer cooked sausage, and any flat filling like sliced onions, mushrooms, or spinach over the cheese.
- Sprinkle with basil and oregano
- Stretch or roll out the second pound of dough, and gently place it on top of the pizza, pressing the sides into the bottom layer of dough, so that they are well sealed.
- Bake pizza for 20 minutes or until top dough is hard and just starting to turn light golden on the sides, and bottom dough is firm and starting to crisp.
- While pizza is baking, sauté minced garlic in olive oil in a small saucepan for about 30 seconds. Remove the pan from the heat and add canned tomatoes. Stir to combine, and let simmer for 15 minutes to thicken.
- Season with salt to taste.
- Remove pizza from the oven, and reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees.
- Spoon tomato-garlic mixture over the top of the pizza evenly, and return to oven for another 15-20 minutes, or until bottom crust is crispy and light brown.
- Let pizza stand for 15 minutes before cutting. If desired, sprinkle grated parmesan cheese on top before serving.
Have you had Chicago Style Pizza? Where? (don’t say Uno’s unless it’s the original!)