Chicago-style deep dish pizza is not your everyday pizza fare. This thick pie with buttery, crisp crust is filled to the max with oozy cheese and crumbled sausage and then topped with a slightly sweet and spicy tomato sauce and even more cheese. By most accounts invented in Chicago (thus the name) this deep-dish version fulfills hungry pizza cravings in a most satisfying way!
Tips for Making Chicago-Style Deep Dish Pizza Dough
The dough is layered with butter, rolled and fitted into a cake pan. The high-sided crust makes room for a substantial amount of filling. To create its buttery flavor and light crust you laminate the dough and give it an extra rise.
Laminate means to create alternate thin layers of butter and dough (think croissants or puff pastry.) While those pastries require folding, rolling, and folding again a few times over, in this simplified version, all you do is spread a layer of softened, room temperature butter over the dough and roll it into a cylinder, creating layers. Easy enough, right? The dough gets another rest in the refrigerator to maintain the layers, to rise slightly, and to allow the butter to become firm. Then it is rolled out into a circle and pressed into the pan.
It’s All in the Layers!
The assembly of a Chicago-style deep-dish pizza is a bit different, too. You start with a layer of mozzarella cheese slices on the bottom not the top! This keeps the crust crisp and allows the cheese to melt and ooze to the max. Top it with crumbled, cooked sausage (or other fillings of your choice) and spread the sauce on top not the bottom! Sauce on top keeps the crust from becoming soggy. Sprinkle with Parmesan and your pie is ready to go into the oven. That thick sauce holds the pie together when you slice it, and the cheese on the bottom oozes just a little on the plate.
The Secret to Chicago-Style Pizza Sauce
A slightly chunky, slightly sweet sauce is the hallmark of deep-dish pizza. I used crushed tomatoes, but you could also use diced or whole canned tomatoes crushed in a bowl. Just be sure to let the sauce simmer long enough for it to thicken; it should be thicker and chunkier than tomato puree but not as thick as tomato paste. Garlic, onions, and Italian seasonings like oregano, rosemary or basil are the usual suspects, and they add an essential panache to the sauce.
What’s the Best Pan for Homemade Deep-Dish Pizza?
There are specific deep-dish pizza pans, but you won’t need one. This recipe is geared to work in a 9-inch cake pan with 2-inch sides. You could also use a 9-inch spring form pan, or a 9- or 10-inch cast-iron pan. You can serve the pizza right from the pan or lift the whole pie out for a dramatic presentation. Let it cool for about 10 minutes so the sauce settles and then run a knife around the circumference of the pan. Carefully slide a wide, thin spatula under the dough to lift it out of the pan in one piece.
Swaps and Substitutions
While Chicago’s pizza favors sausage, you could improvise with your own favorites:
- sautéed onions
- green peppers
- cooked chicken
- ham and pineapple (If that floats your boat.)
- shredded mozzarella instead of slices (you will need about 2 cups.)
Make Ahead Tips and Tricks
To refrigerate the dough: After laminating (step 3), the dough can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours. Let it come to room temperature (about 1 hour) before rolling.
To freeze the dough: Before rolling wrap the dough in a double layer of plastic for up to 2 months or you could roll it and freeze it flat on a sheet pan, and when completely frozen, wrap it well in double layers of plastic. Defrost overnight in the refrigerator and then let rise at room temperature for about 1 hour before rolling.
To refrigerate or freeze the sauce: Store the sauce in the fridge for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 2 months.
More Amazing Pizza Recipes
- Meat Lovers’ Sheet Pan Pizza
- Easy Summer Vegetable Pizzas
- BBQ Chicken Sheet Pan Pizza
- Mozzarella and Tomato Skillet Pita Pizzas
- Hawaiian Pizza with Cauliflower Crust
- Tortilla Pizza with Onions, Mushrooms, and Ricotta
Chicago-Style Deep Dish Pizza with Italian Sausage
- For the dough
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons yellow cornmeal
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- Flour (for rolling the dough)
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
- Vegetable oil spray (for the cake pan)
- For the filling
- 1 pound sweet or hot Italian sausage, casings removed, or bulk Italian sausage
- 8 ounces sliced mozzarella cheese
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan (for the top of the pie)
- For the sauce
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1/2 small onion, finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
- Pinch or two of red pepper flakes
- 1 can (28 ounces) crushed tomatoes, or whole tomatoes crushed in a bowl
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon sugar
Mix the dough:
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on low speed, mix the flour, corn meal, salt, yeast and sugar until blended. Add 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons room temperature water and mix until combined. If the dough seems dry, add an additional tablespoon or two of water. The dough should feel soft and very slightly sticky, not stiff or dry.
Knead the dough:
Switch to the dough hook and knead the dough on low speed for 5 to 7 minutes, or until it is smooth and elastic. Drizzle 1 teaspoon olive oil in a clean bowl. Form the dough into a ball and place it in the bowl, turning to coat all over with oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 1 hour, or until puffy.
Laminate the dough:
On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into a 9x12-inch rectangle. Spread 2 tablespoons of butter over the surface of the dough. Starting at the long side, roll the dough into a cylinder.
Place the cylinder with the seam side up, press it flat, and fold the dough into thirds like a business letter. Shape into a ball and return it to the bowl. Cover with plastic and refrigerate for 45 minutes.
Cook the sausage:
In a large skillet set over medium heat, cook the sausage until no longer pink, breaking it up with a fork or rubber spatula to crumble it. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels.
Make the sauce:
In the same skillet you used to cook the sausage, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic, rosemary, and red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring, for 4 to 5 minutes or until the onions soften. Add the tomatoes, salt, and sugar to the pan, and continue to cook and stir for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the flavors blend together and the sauce thickens. Set aside to cool.
Preheat the oven:
Set the oven at 425°F. Generously spray a 9x2-inch cake pan with vegetable oil.
Assemble the pizza:
On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into a 12-inch circle. Fit it into the cake pan, pressing it into the corners and up the sides of the pan. Let rest for 10 minutes.
Once the dough has relaxed, press it again into the sides of the pan to keep it from shrinking when it is baked. Layer the cheese slices on the bottom, top with the cooked and crumbled sausage, and spread the sauce over the top of the pie. Sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese.
Bake the pizza:
Bake for about 25 minutes, or until the crust browns and the filling is bubbly. Remove from the oven and let rest for 10 minutes to allow the sauce to settle before gently removing it from the pan in one piece, or slice and serve it from the pan. To remove in one piece, run a knife around the circumference of the pan. Carefully slide a wide, thin spatula under the dough and lift it out of the pan. Transfer it to a large plate.