Chicago is a famous American city well-known for baseball, basketball, Lake Michigan, and the SearsTower. Chicago’s history boasts stories of the mobster Al Capone and his dangerous cronies. However, the most controversial thing Chicago is known for is its unique take on pizza.
Chicago deep dish pizza is a pizza like you have never seen before. Those native to Chicago love it and just call it pizza. But for the rest of us, Chicago deep dish pizza brings to mind a tall, thick gooey pizza perfectly baked in a pie dish.
Although it shares many of the same toppings and uses the same mozzarella cheese as a typical New York pizza, it is different in almost every other way. Some New Yorkers claim it’s so different it’s not even pizza. Listen to lifelong New Yorker Jon Stewart’s Daily Show rant against Chicago deep dish.
But don’t let territorial New Yorkers sway you. You should try it for yourself and let your tastebuds decide if it is still pizza. Our vote is that it’s definitely pizza, and it’s definitely delicious.
What is Chicago Deep Dish Pizza?
Chicago deep dish pizza is made in a deep round pan similar to a pie pan. The crust is a buttery crust made from wheat flour and semolina flour, giving it a yellowish color. The dough is pressed firmly into the pan, creating tall sides on the crust.
Due to the thickness of the crust and three inches of savory fillings, the pie needs to cook longer than a traditional pizza. Deep dish pizzas usually bake for around 30 to 45 minutes. Since the cheese will burn to a crisp if it’s cooked that long, Chicago deep dish pizza layers its ingredients in reverse order.
Once the crust is pressed into the pan, Chicago deep dish pizzaiolos add layers of sliced mozzarella, then other ingredients. The most popular toppings for Chicago deep dish pizzas are Italian sausage and peppers.
After layering the sliced cheese, veggies, and meat, the pie is topped with a marinara sauce. The marinara sauce is a simple sauce of uncooked crushed tomatoes. The deep dish slice is served with a knife and fork to scoop up every gooey bite.
Who Invented Chicago Deep Dish Pizza?
While there is some controversy about who exactly invented the deep dish, the general consensus is that Pizzeria Uno started serving up the deep dish pie to their customers in 1943. The chefs at Uno were looking for a new take on Italian American pizza and created the first Chicago deep dish pizza.
Deep Dish and Stuffed Pizza
Contrary to popular belief, Chicago deep dish and stuffed pizza are different forms of pizza. They have some similarities and are often lumped together under the umbrella term “Chicago pizza,” but they are different. Stuffed pizza was introduced to the public in 1974.
The two famous pizzerias Nancy’s and Giordano’s, made stuffed pizzas popular. Stuffed pizza is not modeled after deep dish pizza; instead, stuffed pizza was inspired by Italian Easter pie known as scarciedda.
These savory pies were filled with meats, vegetables, and of course, lots of melted cheese to hold all of the goodies together. Then, another crust is added to the top of the pie to create a stuffed pizza.
How to Make Chicago Deep Dish Pizza at Home
If you want to try your hand at making a Chicago deep dish pizza at home, here is a tried and true recipe to make a homemade deep dish pie. The recipe makes two deep dish pies.
3 ½ c. Flour
1 pckt Active yeast
½ c. Cornmeal
1 1/4c. Warm water (not too hot)
4 Tbsps. Unsalted Butter room temp
4 Tbsps. Melted butter
Combine the flour, cornmeal, yeast, sugar, and salt in a bowl. Mix with warm water and melted butter. Make sure the water and butter aren’t too hot as that will kill the yeast. Mix until the dough is soft. Form a ball and place the dough in a greased bowl. Drizzle olive oil on it and cover. Let rise for about one to two hours.
Take the dough, which should have doubled in size, and roll out on a floured counter to a rectangle. Spread the soft butter on the dough, then roll it up like a log. Form two balls and cover and let rise again for another hour in the fridge.
1 Tbsp. dried oregano
2 Garlic cloves minced
10 Fresh Basil leaves chopped
½ Tsp. red pepper flakes
Add everything to a large pot and simmer for thirty minutes. Then, remove from stove and add garlic, basil, and red pepper flakes. Use immediately or store in the fridge for up to three days or freeze for up to two months.
Here is the fun part, add whatever you like. Italian sausage, pepperoni, ham, peppers, onions, and mushrooms are excellent choices. Then, add cheese. Parmesan and mozzarella are the classic choices, but you can also mix it up and try other combinations.
½ c. Parmesan cheese
4 c. Mozzarella slices or shredded
Roll out dough and press into a deep buttered pie pan to make the pizza. Start with the cheese, then add veggies, then meat. If making a stuffed pizza, add a round piece of dough to the top and cut five or six slits in the top. Pour red sauce on top—Bake at 475 Fahrenheit for around 30 minutes. Let cool before slicing.
Pro tip: Use a sharp knife rather than a pizza cutter to help the pieces keep their shape.
Now you have yourself a Chicago deep dish pizza without going to the windy city.
If you want to learn more about Chicago pizza in all its forms, check out The Ultimate Chicago Pizza Guide: A History of Squares & Slices in the Windy City by Steve Dolinksy. Steve knows his Chicago pizzas.
Have you tried Chicago deep dish pizza? What are your thoughts?