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This homemade Chicago Deep Dish Pizza has a buttery, flaky crust, plenty of melted mozzarella cheese, and a satisfyingly rich and thick tomato basil sauce. You’re gonna’ need a fork for this Windy City favorite!
Chicago Deep Dish Pizza
Do you have a Friday night pizza tradition at your house? We love making homemade pizza on Friday nights!
I’ve shared our favorite Four Cheese Pizza with Tomato Basil Arugula Salad and the more exotic Chicken Tikka Masala Pizza, but today I thought I would post a classic pizza recipe that is totally different from the others.
We’re talking legit Chicago Deep Dish Pizza and it is totally unique and out-of-this-world amazing!
I do a series where I’m exploring some of America’s favorite foods, one state at a time, and right now I’m visiting Illinois! Be sure not to miss any of my American Eats recipes to see what recipes I cover from YOUR state!
Now, I’ve never been to Chicago. I’ve never eaten at Gino’s East. So I can’t say from experience that this is Chicago deep dish pizza recipe is authentic or just like the ones you might get at a Chicago pizzeria that specializes in the deep dish pizza.
But I CAN truthfully tell you that once you taste this, it won’t matter anymore.
Somebody who has been to Gino’s East in Chicago, make this and you tell me, m’kay? Or fly me out there and I’ll report back. It’s on my bucketlist of places to visit!
What is Deep Dish Pizza Anyway?
There are notable differences between deep dish pizza from other types of pizza. Here are some of the things that make a true Chicago deep dish pizza unique:
1. A laminated, cornmeal crust.
Deep dish pizza dough is different from regular pizza dough. Which creates a crust on a deep dish pizza is totally unique from the ones we are most familiar with.
Deep dish pizza dough has cornmeal added to it which gives it extra texture and flavor. It’s not a lot of cornmeal, but it definitely makes a difference that you will notice!
Also, once the deep dish dough has risen, it gets “laminated”. That’s just a fancy word for the process of creating flaky layers in a dough or pastry by adding butter to the dough and then folding it so that thin layers of butter are locked between the dough.
It might sound intimidating, but really it’s much easier than it sounds, especially for this crust and the cheater method of laminating I recommend using.
2. Baked inside a cake pan for a high edge.
Instead of letting the deep dish pizza dough lay flat on a pizza stone, it gets tucked it into a round cake pan that has been generously greased with olive oil.
It creates a tall edge crust that has awesome flavor and texture of the crust. Then the crust is filled with cheese, sauce, and another other pizza toppings you want to add like sausage or pepperoni.
When the pizza is done, the crust will stand high and hold in all that cheesy, saucy goodness!
3. The sauce goes on TOP of the cheese.
Sounds backwards, I know, but it’s how it’s done. The cheese creates a barrier between the sauce and the crust so that the crust doesn’t get soggy while the pizza bakes and the cheese doesn’t burn on top of the pizza during the longer cook time.
The best pizza sauce for Chicago deep dish pizza is just a nice, thick tomato basil marinara without too many additional spices. It’s perfection with simmered crushed tomatoes, just a hint of oregano, and fresh basil and olive oil added in at the end.
How to Laminate Deep Dish Pizza Dough
This is my favorite technique for laminating deep dish pizza dough. It’s easy and forgiving, and if you’ve ever made cinnamon rolls before, you will have no problem laminating this dough.
To begin, you make the dough just like any other homemade bread recipe. Combine flour, water, yeast, cornmeal, sugar, and salt in a bowl and add some warm water. Mix until it is combined, then knead for 5 minutes until the dough is smooth.
If using active dry yeast instead of instant, you will need to proof the yeast in warm water with a little sugar for five minutes to get it started, but otherwise everything else is the same.
Then transfer the pizza dough to a clean bowl and turn it in a little olive oil to coat, cover with plastic wrap, and let it rise for about an hour until doubled in size.
After mixing the pizza dough and letting it rise once, you are going to dump it out onto a clean surface.
Then instead of rolling it out into a circle, you are going to roll it into a large 15×12-inch rectangle and spread a layer of softened butter all over the top of it. You don’t want melted butter for this step or it won’t create the tender layers inside the crust that you are looking for.
Other lamination techniques for things like croissants or puff pastry call for cold bricks of butter that get wrapped in dough, then rolled, folded, and chilled over and over to create the layers of cold butter and dough.
This is a middle ground approach where you just want your butter soft enough to spread over the dough but not so that it will run off the edges or anything. Then you roll this baby up just like you are making cinnamon rolls. It doesn’t really matter whether you roll it from the long side or the short side.
This creates all those layers of butter between the dough without repeated folding, rolling, and chilling. Hooray for shortcuts, right?
I made this batch while Clara was at Kindergarten, but Rose was my little helper rolling out the dough. Kids love helping make pizza and there are lots of great jobs for them here, like rolling dough, spreading butter, and rolling it up into a log.
After you get the dough rolled into a log, pinch the edges together and then flatten it out a bit with a rolling pin.
Use a pastry cutter or sharp knife to divide the dough in half, then fold each half over itself into thirds and pinch the edges together as best you can to form a ball of laminated dough.
This conveniently triples the number of layers of butter & dough so you end up with somewhere between 20-25 layers of buttery, flaky crust which is so unique and and makes Chicago deep dish pizza so wonderful!
The balls of dough go back into the bowl and covered tightly with plastic wrap before going into the fridge for a final rise which gives you just enough time to shred your cheese and make the marinara sauce.
How to Make Chicago Deep Dish Pizza
Once you’ve made the dough, the rest of the process is easy and mostly just about assembly.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Coat two 8- or 9-inch cake pans with a little olive oil, then roll each ball of dough into a circle and use them to line each pan, pressing the dough up around the edges to create a nice tall crust.
Fill each pizza with half of the freshly grated mozzarella cheese and top them with a nice thick tomato basil marinara sauce. I like to sprinkle some freshly grated Parmesan over the top as a finishing touch.
It might seem like too much cheese, but trust me, it’s the perfect amount. It will bake into the most perfect, cheesy, oozy layer ever, uniting the sauce and crust and creating a truly amazing deep dish pizza experience.
Bake for 20-30 minutes until the crust is golden brown around the edges. Then, and this is the hardest part: wait 10 minutes after pulling the pizzas out of the oven before slicing into them.
If you are impatient and try to cut right into the pizza as soon as it comes out of the oven, all that molten cheese is just going to pour out. Let the pizza rest so it can set up just enough so that it holds up when you slice it.
Adding toppings to Chicago Deep Dish Pizza
My personal preference is to just do a classic cheese pizza when I’m making deep dish, but you can top it with anything you like.
You can throw in pepperoni or veggies or cooked Italian sausage on top of the cheese before adding the sauce.
Just keep in mind that because the toppings are going in the middle of the pizza they will be the last thing to cook through, so adding raw veggies probably isn’t the best approach. I would recommend sauteing things like onions, peppers, or mushrooms first before adding them to the pizza.
How many people does this Chicago deep dish pizza recipe serve?
You will get two deep dish pizzas from this recipe, which might sound like a lot but they will both get eaten, I promise. It’s typically just right for 6-8 people.
Each pizza usually serves 3 people since I slice them into sixths. Maybe you can get away with 4 people per pizza if a couple of them are kids and you can restrain yourself to just one slice.
Which you can’t. It’s just not possible.
If there are leftovers they are sooooooo good the next day so don’t worry about having too much pizza left on your hands.
What to serve with Chicago Deep Dish Pizza
I know that making pizza at home takes extra time and effort, but while the pizza is baking I can usually throw together a side and clean up the mess so that we have a clean kitchen by the time dinner is served.
Do you have any weeknight dinner traditions like Friday pizza night? I’d love to hear about them in the comments section below!
More Italian-American Recipes You’re Sure to Love
- Cheesy Baked Spaghetti Casserole
- The Best Spaghetti and Meatballs Recipe
- Zuppa Toscana (Crock Pot or Stove Top)
- Grilled Garlic Bread
- Four Cheese Pizza with Tomato Basil Arugula Salad
- Grilled Caprese Panini
- Classic Homemade Marinara Sauce
- Best Bolognese Sauce Recipe
- Eggplant Parmesan
- 3 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
- 2 1/4 teaspoons instant or rapid-rise yeast
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1 1/4 cups water, room temperature
- 7 tablespoons butter, divided
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1/4 cup grated onion
- 2 cloves minced garlic
- 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
- 1/2 teaspoon oregano
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- 2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 16 ounces shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese (about 4 cups)
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, optional
To Make the Pizza Dough
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the flour, cornmeal, yeast, sugar and salt and give it a quick whisk. Melt 3 tablespoons of the butter and add it, along with the warm water, to the dry ingredients. Leave the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter on the counter to soften.
- Mix on low speed for 1 to 2 minutes, until the dough starts to come together, then knead for 4 to 5 minutes on medium speed, until the dough is smooth.
- Drizzle a little olive oil into a large, clean bowl, then transfer the dough to the bowl and give it a turn to coat it in the oil so it doesn't dry out. Cover tightly with plastic wrap, and let the dough rise in a warm place for about 1 hour, until nearly doubled in size.
- When the dough has risen, roll it into a 15x12-inch rectangle on a clean work surface using a rolling pin. Spread the remaining 4 tablespoons of softened butter evenly over the dough.
- Roll the dough into a tight cylinder and pinch the edges together. With the seam side down, flatten the dough into an 18x4-inch rectangle, then slice it in half crosswise with a sharp knife or pastry cutter. Fold each portion of the dough over itself into thirds, then pinch the seams together to shape into two balls.
- Return the balls of dough to the oiled bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap again, and allow to rise in the refrigerator for another 45 minutes, until almost doubled in size again.
To Make the Pizza Sauce
- In a heavy saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onion and saute for 5-7 minutes, until softened. Add the garlic and saute for another 30 seconds, until fragrant.
- Add the crushed tomatoes, oregano, bay leaf, salt, pepper and sugar and stir to combine. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 15-20 minutes until slightly thickened and reduced to about 2 1/2 cups.
- Remove from heat and stir in the chopped basil and olive oil. Season with additional salt & pepper, to taste.
Assemble and Bake
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Divide 4 tablespoons of olive oil between two 9-inch cake pans, coating the bottoms and sides well.
- Roll out each ball of dough on a lightly floured surface. They should make roughly 13-inch discs about 1/4 inch thick.
- Transfer the pizza dough to the prepared cake pans, lightly pressing it into the corners and up the sides.
- Fill each pizza crust with 2 cups of the shredded mozzarella, then add any additional toppings like sausage or vegetables, if you want. Finish each pizza with 1 1/4 cups of the pizza sauce spread over the cheese layer and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
- Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, until the crust is golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow the pizzas to rest for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.
- Additional Topping Ideas: 1 lb. cooked Italian sausage, canadian bacon & pineapple, sweet bell peppers, mushrooms, pepperoni, etc.
Recipe and method lightly adapted from The Complete America's Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 511Total Fat: 23gSaturated Fat: 10gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 12gCholesterol: 47mgSodium: 1143mgCarbohydrates: 51gFiber: 4gSugar: 3gProtein: 26g
Curious about foods from other states in my American Eats series? Check them out below!
This post was originally published November 18, 2016. I have updated the post with new photos and more detailed instructions.