I had my first taste of stuffed pizza at Giordano's as a teenager. Years later while working in Chicago I frequented several of the great pizzerias, but the stuffed pizza at Giordano's always kept me coming back. I tend to prefer a more traditional single crust hand-tossed style of pizza, but Michael does such a good job on these that I feel like I'm back in Chicago.
This is Michael's specialty and favorite kind of pizza, and a meal that we enjoy making on the weekends. He worked in a pizza joint for a couple summers in high school and learned a few tricks along the way. When we were dating, I was impressed that he not only made pizza from scratch, dough and all, but that he also had the gear to work the magic—a professional deep dish pizza pan. Clearly this was someone that I should get to know better!
Michael follows Pasquale (Pat) Bruno's recipe for dough and sauce from his book The Great Chicago-Style Pizza Cookbook, although we go with our own fillings depending on what is in season. Pizza is a vegetarian meal for us, so we add spinach, mushrooms, olives, peppers, zucchini, basically whatever sounds good, to the cheese stuffing.
Michael used to cook the sauce, but we tried just letting it stand as recommended in the recipe and we found that the flavors were more crisp and fresh. We also use instant yeast instead of packaged active dry, which means that you don't proof the yeast in warm water. Add the yeast directly to the dry ingredients and then stir in the warm liquid.
This takes some time and you need to plan ahead, but it's well worth the effort. It makes a fun meal for a dinner party, just have the dough and sauce ready ahead of time and have your guests help chop veggies and assemble the pie.
Make sure the spinach has no liquid remaining before adding it to the pizza, otherwise you’ll end up with a soggy bottom crust. We put the thawed spinach in a colander and press on it with our hands, then press with paper towels to soak up every last bit of water.
Make sure you put the pizza on the lower rack first for at least 10 minutes so that the bottom crust cooks, otherwise you’ll end up with a soggy bottom crust.
Yeast: You can use 2 packages of active dry yeast instead of instant yeast. Proof the yeast by dissolving in the warm water with the sugar. If it blooms, you are ready to go.
Vegetables: Peppers, zucchini, and eggplant all make good fillings for this pizza. Chop them into bite-sized pieces and saute in 2 tablespoons of olive oil for a couple minutes, just until slightly softened. Combine with the cheese before adding to the pan.
Whole wheat dough: We sometimes substitute 1-1/2 cups of whole wheat flour for part of the bread flour.
[Updated November 27, 2007.]
Chicago-Style Stuffed Pizza
- 2-quart bowl
- 2 large mixing bowls
- 1 medium mixing bowl
- deep dish pizza pan, 12″ diameter x 2″ deep
- large cutting board
- rolling pin
- 3¼ cups bread flour
- 3 teaspoons sugar
- 4 teaspoons instant yeast
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1¼ cups warm water (not more than 115° F)
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 28 ounces crushed tomatoes
- 8 ounces tomato sauce
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 8 ounces grated mozzarella cheese
- 1/2 cup sliced mushrooms
- 1/4 cup sliced black olives
- 1 onion (chopped)
- 10 ounces frozen spinach (thawed and drained really well)
- Mix the flour, yeast, sugar, and salt in the large mixing bowl. Make a well in the flour and add the warm water and olive oil. Mix and knead thoroughly until the dough clings together and cleans the sides of the bowl. Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and knead for about 5 minutes, until the dough is smooth and soft. Dust with additional flour if the dough is sticking to your hands. Spread some olive oil around the other large mixing bowl and lay the dough in the bottom, turning it over so that the entire surface is coated with a light layer of olive oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel. Set the bowl in a warm place to rise for about 90 minutes, until doubled.
- While the dough is rising, combine all of the sauce ingredients in the 2-quart bowl and stir. Set aside.
- Preheat the oven to 450° F. Punch down the dough and turn it out onto a work surface. Knead for about 1 minute. Divide the dough into two pieces, about 1/3 and 2/3 of the dough. Roll out the larger piece in a large circle until it is about 3 inches larger than the pan and 1/8 inch thick. Oil the bottom and sides of the pan. Place the dough into the pan and push it into the bottom and sides. The dough should overlap the pan by about 1 inch. Trim the excess dough with a knife, and set the pan aside.
- Roll out the second piece until it is about the same size as the pan. Toss the cheese and spinach together in the medium mixing bowl, and then put it into the pizza pan. Sprinkle with mushrooms and olives. Lay the second piece of dough on top, then crimp the two edges of the dough together with your fingers to form a thick border. Press down on the filling with your hand, and cut a 1-inch slit in the center of the top crust to allow steam to escape. Spread the tomato sauce evenly over the top crust and sprinkle with more grated Parmesan cheese.
- Place the pizza pan on the lowest rack for 10 minutes, then move it to the middle rack for 25-30 minutes, until the crust is golden brown. Transfer from the pan to a large wooden cutting board and let it stand for a few minutes before cutting.