Update: this post was originally stated that this is deep dish pizza. A native Chicagoan corrected me; it is properly called “stuffed” pizza, which it certainly is.
I lived in Chicago for exactly one year while my husband was finishing up graduate school, but that was more than enough time for me to fall in love with Chicago stuffed pizza. I miss it so much! For many years, there was one fairly decent Chicago-style pizza joint in Boston, but they closed about three years ago, leaving a pzza-sized hole in my heart.
But if you can make homemade pizza, you can make half-way decent stuffed pizza, too. All you need is some extra crust and a springform pan. You can stuff the pizza with a wide variety of ingredients. This evening, I used hot Italian sausage, spinach, fresh mozzerella, and homemade tomato sauce. But you can add in whatever you like: ground beef, ham, bacon, pepperoni for the meat lovers; broccoli, sauteed eggplant, zucchini, or peppers, asparagus, caramelized onions, fresh basil for the veggie lovers. You can use fresh or aged or smoked mozzerella, a vegan cheese substitute, or (heresy!) none at all. But it must be topped with tomato sauce, or it’s just not deep dish. You can use any jar of tomato sauce, but for authentic pizza flavor, look for a sauce with fennel seed in it. Or you can make your own, as I do below.
Putting the tomato sauce on top of the second crust ensures that the bottom crust doesn’t get too soggy. Similarly, I like to pre-cook my sausage or ground beef before I put it in the crust so I can drain off some of the grease. This also speeds up the cooking process, but if you don’t have time, that’s okay. You can put raw meat in there, and it will cook just fine. It’s also a great way to use up leftovers.
Chicago-Style Stuffed Spinach and Italian Sausage Pizza
- 8 oz. crushed tomatoes
- 1 Tablespoon garlic-infused olive oil
- dried oregano, basil, parsley and fennel seed to taste (about 1/2 to 1 teaspoon each)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper (fresh is best)
- 1 lb. sweet or hot Italian sausage
- 1 lb. fresh spinach leaves, chopped
- Enough dough for two pizza crusts (see here for a recipe)
- Flour for the board
- 1/2 lb. fresh mozzerella
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Assemble a 9-inch or 10-inch springform pan and either spray it or brush it with oil. If you don’t have a springform pan, you can use a cake pan, but getting the slices out will be tricky.
In a small saucepan on medium low heat, stir together the tomatoes, oil, and seasonings and simmer while you assemble the pie.
Slice the Italian sausage into small rounds and cook in a skillet over medium heat until cooked through. Add in the spinach and saute with the sausage until cooked.
Flour a board or surface. Take a small handful of dough from one crust and add it to the other. Roll it out fairly thin and place it in the springform pan with the edges overlapping the outside of the pan. With a slotted spoon, transfer the sausage and spinach mixture to the pan. Don’t let the dough fall in! Top with slices of mozzerella.
Roll out the remaining dough and place on top of the mozzerella. Crimp together the edges of the two crusts, taking care not to tear the crust along the way and forming a raised ridge of dough around the outer edge. Top with a thick layer of tomato sauce (you may have some left over), but do not allow the tomato sauce to dribble down the sides or the pizza will stick to the pan.
Bake in the oven for 25 minutes or until the crust turns a nice golden brown and the tomatoes have reduced to a thicker topping. Remove and let rest for at least 5 minutes before removing the springform collar. Slice and serve.