Classic Chicago Deep Dish Pizza
Our recipe for this classic Chicago deep-dish is the real deal! Making the dough and sauce from scratch is key, the rest is a piece of pie!
- Pizza Dough:
- 1 pckg. yeast
- 2 TBSP sugar
- 1 cup warm water
- 1/4 cup shortening
- 1/4 cup cornmeal
- 3 cups King Arthur flour
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 28 oz can crushed vine-ripened tomatoes
- 2 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp granulated sugar
- 2 medium cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt, plus more to taste
- 1/2 tsp ground pepper
- 2-3 TBSP chopped fresh basil (optional)
- 3/4 pound fresh mozzarella, sliced very thinly
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
- 1 TBSP garlic powder
- Step 1 In a small bowl, combine the active dry yeast, sugar, and warm water together (you can microwave the water for 30 seconds if you want!) and let sit for one minute.
- Step 2 In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, cornmeal, and salt. Add the yeast mixture and shortening into the dry ingredients and stir until dough forms.
- Step 3 Bring the dough to a floured surface and knead until it forms a smooth ball, you will notice it is slightly flaky – this is what you want!
- Step 4 Move the dough to large bowl and cover. Let the dough proof at room temp for about an hour and then punch it down. Drizzle with olive oil and refrigerate overnight. *If you don’t have time to refrigerate overnight, cover and let rest for at least 1 hour. But refrigerating overnight is key! See explanation below.
- Step 5 The next day, preheat your oven to 450 and prepare your sauce. Add all ingredients to a saucepan and stir to incorporate. Slowly simmer for at least 30 minutes (ideally an hour) over low heat.
- Step 6 When you’re ready to assemble the pizza, oil the dough all over and lightly oil the pan as well. This will help the crust crisp up. Push the dough into the pan, trying to spread out as evenly as possible.
- Step 7 Top the dough with the slices of mozzarella, making sure you cut enough to cover the full surface of the dough. Pour your sauce over the cheese and use your hands to spread it out evenly, coating the cheese.
- Step 8 Top with sprinkled Parmesan and garlic powder, then bake at 450 for 25 min or until the crust just starts to brown.
- Step 9 Allow the pizza to cool slightly, then use too long spatulas to remove the pie from the pan and place on a cutting board. Slice and serve!
Having lived in Chicago for almost a year after college, it should come as no surprise that we quickly became deep dish fanatics. We lived literally a block from Giordano’s flagship location so, really, it was inevitable. Even though we have been back in New York now for almost a decade, deep dish still holds a special place in our hearts, and I don’t think that will ever change.
All of the deep dish purveyors in Chitown like to boast that their deep dish is the “original” or theirs is “the best,” but we found Lou Malnati’s to be our all around favorite. Don’t get me wrong, you really can’t go wrong with any of the big names in deep dish – but Lou’s is the trifecta. Best crust, best sauce, best ratio of toppings to cheese to sauce. We always found Giordano’s to be a little too cheesy (it was like fondue pizza!) and Gino’s crust a little too cornmeal-y. This is just our personal preference of course – you should absolutely taste-test them all yourself – but we’ll always recommend Lou’s first and foremost to anyone looking for Chicago recs.
Over the years, it became an unofficial tradition to order deep dish on Valentine’s Day, probably right around the time they started selling them heart-shaped. We used to go out to eat every Valentine’s and make a whole night of it, but after a few meh-experiences, we both agreed that staying home and bringing in a special meal was way more enjoyable. Thanks to sites like Goldbely and Lou Malnati’s direct – you can actually overnight frozen deep dish pizzas to anywhere in the country (for only a small fortune!), so it became our little treat.
But, this year, it should come as no surprise that we set out to make our own deep dish, from scratch! An ambitious task, sure, but one we were pretty confident we could pull off. Since the Malnati family won’t ever give up their secret recipe, we had to do an extensive amount of experimentation before settling on this featured recipe. And much to our delight, we were spot on! In our opinion, this recipe is near-perfection. It tastes just as good as Lou’s, and maybe even a teensy bit better since it’s fresh from our own oven. We’ll let you be the final judge, but we feel this deep dish recipe is the real deal!
A few notes on prepping the pizza:
Not surprisingly, one, if not the most crucial element of this pie is – you guessed it! – the crust! The rich flavor of this buttery/flaky crust is what separates this deep dish pizza from all others. And believe it or not, the essential ingredients to success are the two C’s – cornmeal and Crisco! There are endless debates over the relative benefit of butter vs. shortening in pizza crust, but to achieve that coveted flaky crust, shortening is the way to go. For those who are worried about losing out on the buttery flavor, we compensated for that with both the olive oil coating of the dough and the pan (see Step 6), but you can also substitute butter-flavored Crisco and achieve the same taste.
Using King Arthur’s all purpose flour is also important, in our opinion. This is one of the most solid, reliable high quality flours on the market, mainly due to it’s high milling standards. The brand boasts some of the tightest milling specs in the industry which means their bags of flour are consistently great every single time, plus all of their flours are unbleached, too! (See Joy the Baker’s post for more on this subject!) We’ve never been disappointed by anything we make with this brand, especially when it comes to pizza dough or pie crusts, so it’s our go-to. In the recipe above, we added just enough flour to keep the dough moist, but not sticky. You may need more or less.
We cannot say it enough – but it is imperative to refrigerate the dough overnight. I know this sounds like more work than it’s worth, but if you think about it, by getting the labor intensive portion out of the way the night before, you actually save time the day of. All you have to do is assemble your pizza and pop it in the oven, which is great if you’re entertaining or celebrating a special occasion (a la Valentine’s Day!) I like to think of it this way – the overnight “rest” in the fridge gives your crust the time to develop and hone it’s delicious flavor!
I’ve been on the hunt for the ultimate pizza sauce recipe for a longgg time now. For whatever reason though, I was always focused on honing the seasonings and not starting with choosing the right tomatoes themselves. Well this week, I finally had my sauce epiphany and boy was it worth the wait!
Forevermore, vine-ripened tomatoes will be the only base I even consider for my pizza sauce. These tomatoes, which are allowed to ripen on the vine before they’re picked, are the juiciest and most flavorful by far. Our recipe above is guaranteed to have that tart, fresh tomato flavor any time of the year and is the perfect match for your pizza, whether it’s deep dish, thin crust, or even a calzone! Just look at those juicy chunks of tomato. Hungry yet!?
The final steps to mastering this pizza are pretty simple, but worthy of a few photos to walk you through the process. It should go without saying that you clearly do not need to run out to buy a heart shaped pizza pan, but if you feel so compelled – that’s the best option. If not, this 12″ round pan will do the trick too.
Oh and a quick note on toppings. This time around, for our first homemade deep dish, we went as classic as possible, just to make sure we had mastered the crust and sauce perfectly. (We didn’t want any of the other flavors to confuse us!) But we definitely plan to make a sausage version later down the line (when I’m not pregnant!), as well as a “The Lou” – a version with spinach and mushrooms that is out of this world! Stay tuned.
1. Start by coating the pan with olive oil, then oiling the dough all over as well. The oil really helps the crust crisp up and enhances that buttery flavor. Place the dough in the center and lightly press into pan, working the dough into the corners and 1 inch up the sides. Make sure you’re spreading the dough as evenly as you can, checking for holes and bubbles as you go.
2. Layer the slices of mozzarella cheese over the dough, overlapping slightly. Make sure you cover the entire surface of the dough, like so:
3. Pour the sauce into the center of the pan and then use your hands to spread the sauce around evenly:
4. Top with Parmesan cheese and garlic powder and then pop in the oven to bake!
Fresh out of the oven!
Oh and since I made such a fuss out of the crust and how golden and crispy it will be – I figured I should put my money more my mouth is. Can you say perfection!?