Discover the authentic Chicago-style deep dish pizza, made with a crunchy flaky crust and garnished with thick layers of cheese and tomato sauce.
It’s my Chicago Birthday, I just turned 1 year as a foodie in Chicago! To celebrate this special occasion, I baked a giant Chicago-Style Deep Dish Pizza. I have tried countless of them since I moved to Chicago, but it was my very first attempt to bake it myself. Being a huge fan of deep dish pizzas, I was quite exigent with the result I expected in taste and texture. While reviewing the existing deep dish pizza recipes, I found out that there were many different ones that had nothing to do with each other. It’s easy to get lost! So I simply tried to recreate my very favorite deep dish pizza, the one from Lou Malnati’s. No need to wait longer here to tell you the result. A complete success. I’m so happy I found how to make the perfect (in my own opinion) deep dish pizza.
So, what’s a Chicago-style deep dish pizza, and what makes it different from the classic Italian pizza? That’s a good question actually, as they have absolutely nothing to do with each other. The look is different, the texture is different, the taste is different. To begin with, a Chicago-style deep dish pizza is baked in a deep dish cake pan (!). It consists of a crunchy flaky crust with edges going up in the pan, and garnished with generous layers of cheese and tomato sauce. Not your regular flat and thin pizza.
The crust is very different in taste and texture from the one you are used to with a regular pizza. Even between the different deep dish pizzas you can try in Chicago, the crust is different from one place to another, some of them can be soft, other crunchy. I definitely go for the very thin crunchy buttery one, that is by far my favorite. Thing is, there are plenty of different recipes trying to recreate the Lou Malnati’s pizza (my favorite). I looked at different forums and found many passionate people competing about it. Some of the recipes seemed a little bit advanced to make, and I wanted an easier version, something everyone could do at home, no matters the cooking skills, advanced or beginner.
The important thing to have in mind is that there is an ingredient that makes all the difference: the use of yellow cornmeal, that bring this crunchy texture to the crust. Another difference with a classic pizza crust is the use of butter. Some recipes use butter only, other prefer to use a mix of butter and oil to get a perfect crunchy texture. This is the one I opted for, also because it makes the dough easier to work with, while the use of butter only implies that you laminate the dough (a specific technique that takes a little bit longer and can discourage some of you – which I didn’t want). My crust recipe is a fool-proof version everyone can make in less than 10 minutes!
For the dough, stretch it out just enough to fit the pan. Then, in order to give the crust its perfect texture on the edges, we usually recommend to use your fingers to press the dough into cake pan. You want to make sure this is nice and tight fitting inside the pan. Talking about the pan, you’ll notice here that I used a cast-iron skillet, but traditionally you would bake your pizza inside a 9-inch deep dish pan with at least 2-inch height. Or just use your regular cake spring form.
Deep dish is not only about the crust, it’s all about the generous and thick layers of cheese and tomato sauce. Because of it, you need fork and knife to eat your deep dish pizza. Again, this is not a regular pizza from which you grab a slice with your hands. With a deep dish, you’re pretty sure to make a big mess around if you want to try. Regarding the tomatoes, make sure you use a can of crushed tomatoes and not diced tomatoes, as it makes a big difference in texture. Also, you’ll want to do a quick drain of the crushed tomatoes beforehand (about 10 minutes in a colander).
In my version here, I used Italian sausage, as it is my very favorite version of the deep dish pizza (surprisingly enough, as I am usually not a huge fan of meat). But if you happen to be vegetarian, you can totally skip the sausage here, and even add some spinach, mushrooms or artichoke if you want. For this version, I would sauté the veggies beforehand to remove any liquid. Now that I told you everything, it’s your turn to bake your own Chicago-style deep dish pizza. Hope you’ll like it!
- 2 cups (240g) all-purpose flour
- 1½ tbsp yellow corn meal
- 1¼ tsp instant dry yeast
- 1 tsp sugar
- ¾ tsp salt
- 2 tbsp butter, melted and slightly cold
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp canola oil
- ½ cup (120 ml) lukewarm water
- 1 can (28 oz/193g) crushed tomatoes with basil
- 2 tsp tomato paste
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 small onion, grated or minced
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- ½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
- 6 oz (170g) mozzarella cheese, sliced
- 2-3 tbsp parmesan cheese
- 2 Italian sausages, sliced (optional)
- For the crust: in a small bowl, combine the active dry yeast, sugar, and lukewarm water together and let sit for one minute. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, cornmeal, and salt. Add the yeast mixture, melted butter and oil into the dry ingredients and stir until dough forms.
- Bring the dough to a floured surface and knead until it forms a smooth ball.
- Move the dough to large bowl drizzled with olive oil. Coat the dough in oil and cover and let rest for 1 hour.
- In the meantime, prepare the tomato sauce: heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan and add the grated onion, salt, oregano, and red pepper flakes. Once the onion has slightly browned, add the garlic, tomato sauce*, and tomato paste. Turn the heat down to low-medium and allow to simmer until it's hearty, fragrant, and thick- about 30 minutes, or until the amount has reduced. It has to be thick Remove from heat and set aside until ready to be used.
- Preheat your oven to 425°F/215°C.
- Remove the dough and bring it onto a floured surface. Roll it out into a 12-inch (30 cm) circle. You want to stretch it out as much as you can to make a large circle. The dough needs to be stretched out enough to cover the bottom and sides of the baking pan.
- Using a rolling pin as a guide, place over a 9x2-inch (23x5 cm) deep dish cake pan or cast-iron skillet. Using your fingers, press the dough into the cake pan. Make sure it is nice and tight fitting inside the pan. Trim any excess of dough off the edges with a small knife. Brush the top edges of the dough with a little olive oil, which gives the crust a beautiful sheen.
- Fill the pizza with a first layer of mozzarella cheese, a second layer with the slices of Italian sausage if using, and a third layer of tomato sauce on top. Sprinkle with grated parmesan cheese on top.
- Bake for 20-30 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown and the filling is set. To prevent the edges from burning, cover with foil after 15 minutes baking.