Who doesn’t love pie? From the crunchy yet buttery, golden-brown crust, to the gooey cheese and aromatic, vibrant tomatoes—yes, cheese and tomatoes!—pie is the ultimate comfort food. I’m not talking about your grandma’s favorite dessert, but rather a Chicago classic: deep-dish pizza. We Chicagoans nickname this dish “pizza pie” for its signature thick, pie-like crust, straight out of the pie pan! This pizza is an absolute staple for any trip to the Windy City, and if you ask me, it’s the best—although perhaps I am a bit biased! I know New York is the city of dreams (and pizza), but as a proud Chicagoan and Italian-American, I must say that Chicago might have them beat with this popular city staple! Some may say that’s controversial, but I don’t think anyone can deny that deep-dish pizza is a unique, unforgettable dish. When I’m homesick, I crave this traditional slice of local comfort; when I am home, I still crave deep-dish pizza at least once a week! What’s not to love—it’s the same cheesy tomato and crust combo you know and love, but much larger and richer, in the perfect fusion of Italian and American cuisine! Plus, this pizza is special because it always means sharing time and food with friends and family; it’s a big meal requiring an hour or so to prepare, which allows everyone to gather around the table together and make memories.
In the era of COVID-19 and travel bans, it’s difficult to be adventurous, visit different places, and try new foods. However, thanks to this recipe, you can have an authentic taste of Chicago in your own home! You can enjoy the comforting warmth of a thick slice at your own kitchen table with your loved ones. Over winter break, my dad taught me how to make his beloved secret recipe, and it was the perfect cure for the quarantine blues. Topped with fresh, high-quality ingredients and a hearty heap of cheese, everyone loves this spin on pizza, and making it at home is always a fun activity. Take a bite, and welcome to my hometown, where “home, sweet home” is always a slice of pizza pie!
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 package quick-rise yeast
- 1 cup water, room temperature
- 3 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons salt
- ½ cup cornmeal
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
- ½ cup olive oil, plus additional oil for the bowl
- 1 (28-ounce) can whole San Marzano tomatoes, well-drained and crushed by hand
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- ½ teaspoon oregano
- 1-2 garlic cloves, minced
- ¼ cup white onion, diced finely
- 1 cup fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced into rounds
- 3 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded
- ½ pound sliced fresh mushrooms
- 2 green and/or yellow bell peppers, sliced
- 3/4 medium red onion, chopped
- 1 shallot, chopped
- 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 pound bulk Italian sausage, cooked and crumbled
- ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese, for topping and garnish
- 2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped, plus more for garnish
To make the pizza dough, mix the sugar, yeast, and water together. Add the flour, salt, cornmeal, butter, and olive oil to this mixture, and combine for about two minutes. Next, let the mixture rest for about 15 minutes, allowing the yeast to bloom. Knead the dough gently for about seven minutes, until moistened, smooth, and elastic. If necessary, add extra flour to stiffen the dough. If the dough is too stiff, fix the ratio so that there is more water to hydrate the dough. Thoroughly oil a separate bowl, placing the dough inside, making sure it is evenly greased. Cover the bowl and let the dough rise in a warm place overnight, if possible. However, a minimum of 30-40 minutes can work as well. By this point, the dough should have doubled in size. Punch the dough down and let it sit for another 15 minutes.
While the dough rises, make the pizza sauce. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the canned tomatoes, olive oil, seasonings, 1 tablespoon of basil, and the garlic cloves. Add about ¼ of the chopped onion to the mixture as well. Cook the sauce for about six minutes, stirring often. At this point, the sauce should be smooth and fragrant, and the onions should feel soft. Bring the sauce to a simmer. Add more basil and olive oil to taste.
Preheat the oven to 450 °F. Using your hands and a rolling pin, roll out the dough into a large, thin circle. The dough should be stretched evenly. Add flour as needed throughout the process to prevent the dough from sticking to the surface. Be careful not to dry the dough out, or it will break. Grease a large 12-inch cast-iron skillet, stretching the rolled-out dough over the pan, almost like a pie crust. Press the dough into the bottom of the pan and up the sides to form a thick crust. Place the slices of fresh mozzarella on top of the dough to help bind everything together. Place this in the oven for a few minutes, or until the cheese has melted and formed a complete layer. Then, sprinkle the grated mozzarella, mushrooms, bell peppers, onions, shallots, garlic, and Italian sausage on top of the pizza. Ladle the sauce on top and sprinkle some Parmesan cheese. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until the crust is golden brown. You can place foil on top of the pizza to prevent browning. Let the pizza rest for 10 minutes before cutting into pie-like slices. Enjoy! You’ll need a fork and knife for this one!
Cover photo courtesy of Saving Room for Dessert