Real Deep Dish — Now THIS is Chicago-style Pizza

16 Jun

The influence that family has had on my cooking and eating preferences has been no big secret.  As I’ve already established here on the blog, family recipes make up a significant portion of my go-to cooking repertoire.

It should therefore come as no surprise to learn then that with parents who spent significant time in Chicago, either growing up or going to school, that I’ve been influenced by the cuisine of that fine city.  And while there could perhaps be some debate about what one specific food item is most closely identified with the city (Italian beef? Chicago-style hot dogs?), no one would disagree if your pick was Chicago-style deep dish pizza.


It certainly is mine.  I still remember my first encounter with pizza in Chicago.  While visiting my aunt in the suburbs, we had gone downtown for the day.  My folks led us to the original Gino’s East on Superior Street.  I can’t remember how old I was at the time, but what I do remember waiting in line for what seemed like forever.  And then we were led into a darkened space, with walls, tables, chairs—everything—covered in writing.  The idea that they encouraged you to write on anything your eye could see seemed so subversive to my young mind.

Perhaps it was that Gino’s East was my first, or perhaps it’s the sausage patty that covers the entire pizza, but whatever the cause, Gino’s East is still my pick in the eternal best of Chicago pizza debate. (That is: Uno’s vs. Due’s vs. Gino’s vs. Lou Malnati’sGiordano’s, with its stuffed pizza falls into a different category.)  Also, this debate is how to tell whether you’re talking to someone who actually knows their Chicago style pizza—if they don’t have an opinion about which is best, and if they’re not willing to passionately, yet blindly, defend that preference at all cost, then that’s a sign that they perhaps shouldn’t be trusted to guide you on your pizza quest.

While there is great (and heated) debate about which is the best deep dish pizza place within Chicago, one thing everyone from the city can agree on is that there is no good Chicago-style pizza to be bought outside of the Chicagoland area.  Yes, I know there’s a Uno’s chain.  But if that’s the only place you’ve had Chicago-style pizza, I’m sorry to disappoint you: you’ve not really had Chicago-style pizza.

Pizza dough -- with cornmeal.  I happen to think it's delicious, but in some camps, the presence of cornmeal is heresy.

Pizza dough — with cornmeal. I happen to think it’s delicious, but in some camps, the presence of cornmeal is heresy.

That brings me to the second point: what is “real” Chicago-style pizza?  1) It has LOTS (and lots and lots and lots) of cheese.  2) The tomato sauce is thick and chunky—and goes on top.  3) It may be called deep dish, but banish all thoughts of a Pizza Hut-style pan pizza.  Chicago-style pizza shouldn’t be very bready; the crust actually ends up being relatively thin.  Some people will insist that Chicago-style pizza must have a cornmeal crust.  This is not necessarily true.  In fact, whether to include cornmeal or not is a topic that is heavily debated (or criticized?).  (That’s why, in the crust recipe that follows, I’ve provided instructions for using, or not using, cornmeal at your own discretion.)

A properly assembled Chicago-style pizza.  Sauce on top!

A properly assembled Chicago-style pizza. Sauce on top!

So, if finding a restaurant serving true Chicago-style deep dish is well-nigh impossible once you get too far from the Loop, what is one supposed to do?  Make it yourself of course.  That’s what my folks have done, and that’s what I’ve continued to do whenever I need my Chicago-style pizza fix.

This is the recipe I currently use; it’s adapted from my traditional family recipe.  Well the crust is slightly adapted anyway.  The sauce is one and the same.  And certainly you can add or subtract toppings as you desire.  One of the beauties of pizza is that it is customizable after all.  But for the most representative set of toppings (fillings if they’re not on top?) follow the list below: sausage, mushroom, and green pepper.

Order of construction:


Pizza dough ready to be filled!

Mushrooms and green pepper on top of the cheese, sausage underneath.

Mushrooms and green pepper on top of the cheese, sausage underneath. (Many people will tell you that the cheese must go on the bottom. Gino’s makes the sausage patty their first layer however, and while I can’t mimic the patty, I can at least follow the same order of construction.)

Topped with sauce!

Topped with sauce!

Parmesan cheese--the finishing touch.

Parmesan cheese–the finishing touch.

An earlier stage: (most of) the pizza ingredients.

(Most of) the pizza ingredients.

Chicago style pizza


3 to 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (if using cornmeal make it 2 3/4 cups flour plus 1/2 cup cornmeal)

2 1/2 teaspoons sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 package active dry yeast

1 cup lukewarm water

6ish tablespoons corn oil

2 tablespoons olive oil

1. Thoroughly stir flour, sugar and salt in a bowl

2. Dissolve yeast in lukewarm water. Add to flour mixture.

3. Stir again, then add olive oil.

4. Stir until the dough mixture forms a ball in the bowl.

5. Knead the dough for 8 to 10 minutes add then place ball of dough in a covered bowl.

6. Allow to rise in a warm, draft free place for two hours or until dough has approximately doubled in size.


1 28 oz can, plus 1 14.5oz can crushed or diced tomatoes

1 (8 oz) can tomato sauce

1/2 teaspoon oregano

1/4 teaspoon garlic salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1 bay leaf

1 1/2 tablespoon olive oil

1 cup chopped onions

The beginnings of the sauce.

The beginnings of the sauce.

1. Saute onion in olive oil over medium heat until transparent.

2. Add remaning ingredients (except orgeano), stirring well.

3. Simmer uncovered for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.

4. Add oregano and continue cooking for 15 minutes.

5. Remove bay leaf, spread evenly over pizza.

The finished saucy product.

The finished saucy product.


Basic ingredients:

1 batch dough

2-ish pounds mozzarella cheese (When in doubt, remember: more is always better! Also, don’t get the pre-shredded cheese; it has an anti-caking agent.  Your best bet is to get it in blocks and shred yourself.)

1/2 lb Romano or Parmesan cheese

1 batch sauce

Sausage, cooked (My preference is for a roll of Bob Evans Italian sausage.  Gino’s East puts their sausage in raw and it cooks while it bakes.  The home oven won’t get the sausage fully cooked, so make sure to cook it beforehand.)

Mushrooms (sauté mushrooms to remove some liquid)

Green pepper (raw)

1. Roll out dough to form a circle slightly larger than the size of the pan.

2. Place dough in the pan, packing excess dough to sides of the pan. (You could also stretch the dough out part way and then place it in the pan, pushing it around to shape it.)

3. In the following order layer in: sausage, mozzarella cheese, mushrooms and then add tomato sauce. (Some people will say that the cheese should be the base layer.  But having the sausage on the bottom actually works out best.)

4. Sprinkle on the Parmesan cheese.

5. Bake in a preheated oven at 450 degrees for 25 minutes or until crust is golden brown.


One Response to “Real Deep Dish — Now THIS is Chicago-style Pizza”


  1. Purple Peruvian Goo — Mazamorra Morada | Pie are Round - June 22, 2013

    […] to the contrary, I have utterly failed to do so.  (I suppose it’s easy enough to make my Chicago-style pizza vegetarian; just leave off the sausage.)  That request has caused me to realize just how central […]

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