No discussion of iconic Chicago foods would be complete without talking about deep dish pizza and quibbling over who makes it best. Is it Pizzeria Uno, the originator of deep dish pizza? Or maybe it's Geno's East, with their signature cornmeal crust? Or perhaps it's Giordano's, and their double-decker stuffed deep dish? Each pizza is unique in its own way and all of them have a devoted fanbase, but with extra cheese, an additional layer of dough—and some aggressive franchising—many are now calling Giordano's Famous Stuffed Deep Dish Pizza the best Chicago deep dish in America.
Deep dish pizza is traditional flat pizza’s heftier cousin. The crucial elements are still there—crust, sauce, cheese, toppings—but there’s more of it, and the ingredients are stacked in a different order in a deep pan, and baked for a long time, like a pie.
Chicago-style deep dish pizza had already been popular for 31 years when Giordano’s arrived in town in 1974. Italian immigrants Efren and Joseph Boglio adapted their mother’s Italian Easter Pie and created a deep dish pizza with lots of melted mozzarella baked between two layers of flakey dough. Through decades of hard work, the brothers made Mama Giordano’s secret recipe a Chicago favorite, and Giordano’s restaurants multiplied to over 70 stores in Illinois and around the U.S.
With so many fans of the pizza, I knew it was crucial to get two specific things very right in this famous pizza knock-off: the dough and the sauce. Proper construction of the deep dish is also an important step, but without top-notch good dough and sauce, the rest of it wouldn’t matter.
To make a home version you’ll need to plan ahead a little bit because this dough needs to hang out in your fridge for a while to get right.
Let’s start there. With the dough.
The dough is tricky because it’s not traditional pizza dough. It’s flakier, like pie crust, which means we’ll need a good amount of fat in the mix.
I played with the proportions for 28 batches before finally landing on the best ratio of flour-to-water-to-yeast-to-fat.
You make it by dissolving the sugar and yeast in the water, and that goes into the flour with margarine and oil and salt. Easy so far, right?
Form the dough into a ball, then cover it with plastic wrap and get it into your refrigerator for 1 to 2 days. Wait, what?
Why can’t we just cover the dough and place it in a warm spot in the kitchen for about an hour like most of the other pizza dough recipes?
Sure, we could do that, but we’d get a different type of pizza crust—one that’s chewier and yeastier. And we don’t want that here.
By allowing the dough to rise slowly in the refrigerator we’ll slow down fermentation to get a mellower, more tender deep dish pizza crust. Just like the crust of the real thing.
Ideally, you want the dough to proof (rise) covered in your refrigerator for at least 24 hours and no more than 48 hours.
I promise it’ll be worth the wait.
You’ll have plenty of time to make the sauce. Make it at some point while you’re waiting for your dough to rise, and then you can chill it until you need it.
Keep in mind that the sauce will only be as good as the canned tomatoes you choose, so be sure to get a quality product. San Marzano-style tomatoes work great here.
Add the whole can, heat up the tomatoes until they’re soft, then crush the attitude out of ’em with a potato masher. (San Marzano tomatoes are notoriously cocky.)
That feels good. Better than a stress ball.
When your tomatoes are nicely crushed, add the diced tomato, oil, garlic powder, dry basil, salt, and black pepper. Cook that for 10 minutes, then add the fresh basil.
You may have noticed that the only herb in this sauce is basil which comes in two forms: dry and fresh. The combination adds more complexity since dry and fresh basil taste slightly different, and have different functions. The fresh basil adds color to the sauce along with a light basil flavor, while the dried herb contributes a more intense basil taste.
When the sauce is cool, chill it alongside the dough in your fridge until pizza time.
A couple of hours before it’s time to make pizza, take the dough out of the refrigerator so that it can warm up closer to room temperature.
Before you begin to build the pizza, place a pizza stone in your oven and preheat it to 425 degrees F.
Why a pizza stone? The direct heat from the hot stone will help brown the crust on the bottom of the pizza, giving it a crispier texture. If you’ve got a pizza stone, definitely use it here.
If you don’t have one, don’t worry about it. You’ll still get great deep dish pizza.
And you won’t have to think about where to store a big, heavy pizza stone. So there’s that.
Our dough is no longer cold. So let’s roll it out.
First, use a knife or a scraper to slice off one-third of the dough and set that chunk aside.
We’ll start with the big portion of dough.
Roll the dough out on a floured surface, making a circle that is 16 inches across.
That looks good.
Now you need to get the dough into a 10-inch deep dish pan.
Before you add the dough, rub the pan with a coating of soft margarine. This will keep the pizza from sticking while adding flavor and a tender crunch to the outside of the crust.
Next, fold your dough circle in half, lift it into the pan, then unfold it.
Once your dough is in place you can add toppings, which in this pizza, don’t go on top.
Unlike traditional pizza, the toppings in a deep dish are baked into the middle of the pizza, underneath the cheese and sauce.
To keep it simple, I’ll just use pepperoni in this pizza.
But you can add whatever you like.
Here are some of the most popular toppings.
Add a single layer of whatever you fancy, then it’s cheese time.
Giordano’s pizza is packed with a lot of cheese. It’s 100% mozzarella that’s made in Wisconsin, and it’s really good cheese.
Because the cheese is such a big star in this pizza, don’t skimp. Get the best mozzarella you can find and don’t get it pre-shredded.
Pre-shredded cheese is dusted with cornstarch so that the shreds don’t stick together in the bag. That might make the cheese look better and sell better, but it also keeps pre-shredded cheese from melting as smoothly as freshly shredded block cheese.
Get a block of the best mozzarella you can find and shred it yourself. Then make sure the cheese comes to room temperature before you load it into the pizza, or it may not get as warm and gooey as you want it.
Roll the leftover dough into a 12-inch circle and place it over the cheese.
Pinch the dough together all the way around, then trim the top, flush with the top of the pan.
Without any way for the air to escape, the dough will bubble and the sauce will slide around on top.
We can fix that by cutting a few ventilation holes into the dough with a sharp knife.
Now you can spoon some sauce over the dough. Just add enough so that you can’t see the dough.
It will take about half of the sauce to cover the pizza.
Which means you’ll have enough left over to make another one.
And you’ll probably be much better at it the second time around.
You have just one pie in the oven, so it’s not likely you’ll forget what’s inside of it.
But at Giordano’s all the pizzas look the same, and with a lot of them in the oven at once, it gets very confusing.
And that’s why they add one piece of each of the fillings to the top of the pizza. Everybody always knows which pizza is which.
Finally, it’s time to bake the pizza.
Place the pan on the pizza stone in the hot oven for 40 minutes or until the top of the sauce begins to brown in spots.
Finish off your pizza with a sprinkling of a grated Parmesan and Romano blend.
Let the pizza cool for 5 minutes, then slip a large spatula under the pizza as you tip the pan to remove the pizza.
Once the pizza is out of the pan, use a large sharp knife to slice across it three times, making six slices.
You are now a Chicago deep dish pizza master. Humbly accept your praise, and dig in.
— Todd Wilbur, The Food Hacker
Giordano’s Famous Stuffed Deep Dish Pizza
- ¾ cup water (room temperature)
- 1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 16 ounces (3 cups) all-purpose flour
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- 1/3 cup vegetable oil
- 6 tablespoons margarine, softened
- 28- ounce can whole peeled tomatoes
- ½ cup canned petite diced tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon dry basil
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon fresh basil
- 24 ounces (about 6 cups) freshly shredded mozzarella cheese (room temperature)
- 1 tablespoon margarine, softened (for greasing the pan)
- 1 tablespoon grated Romano cheese
- 1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
- Italian sausage, cooked
- Green peppers
You will also need
- A pizza stone
- A 10-inch deep dish pizza pan
- Make the dough for the pizza one to two days before you plan to build the pizza. You can make the dough in a standing mixer or stir it by hand. Start by dissolving the yeast and sugar in the water in a small bowl.
- Combine the flour and salt in a large bowl. Add the oil, margarine and yeast solution, then mix well until the dough forms a ball. Don’t knead the dough too much. Place the dough into a covered container and store it in your refrigerator for 1 to 2 days.
- Make the sauce by dumping the canned tomatoes into a medium saucepan and cook over medium heat until simmering for 5 minutes, then use a potato masher to smash the tomatoes into smaller bits. The sauce should still be a little chunky. Add the remaining sauce ingredients, except the basil, and cook for 10 more minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the fresh basil and cook for another 5 minutes. Cover and cool. You can make this sauce when you make the dough and keep it stored in your refrigerator until pizza time.
- A couple hours before you plan to make the pizza, take the dough out of the refrigerator and let it warm up to room temperature. When you are ready to make the pizza, place a pizza stone into your oven and preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
- Slice off one-third of the dough and set it aside, then roll the larger portion of dough into a circle that is 16 inches across. Place this dough into a 10-inch deep dish pizza pan or cake pan with a 2-inch high edge that has been rubbed with 1 tablespoon of softened margarine. Arrange a single layer of each of the fillings you choose onto the dough. Fill the dough with the cheese and use your hands to make it even all the way around.
- Roll the smaller portion of dough out to a 12-inch circle. The dough should be thinner than the bottom dough. Place this dough onto the pizza and press it down onto the cheese in the corner all the way around. Press the edges of the two doughs together then use a knife to trim the dough even with the top of the pan. Slice a few holes in the center of the dough so that it doesn’t puff up as it bakes.
- Use a spoon to spread about 1¼ cups of the sauce over the dough. Spread the sauce to the edge of the dough. At the restaurant, to indicate what’s inside the pizza, they’ll add one piece of each of the fillings onto the top of the pizza, in the middle. That’s handy when lots of pizzas are in the oven and they all look the same.
- Bake the pizza for 35 to 40 minutes until it begins to brown on top. Spin the pizza around about halfway through the baking so that it browns evenly.
- Combine the Romano and Parmesan cheeses in a small bowl. When you take the pizza out of the oven sprinkle it with the cheese blend.
- Run a flexible spatula around the edge of the pizza to make sure it’s loose, then get the spatula under the pizza while holding the pan (using a mitt) with the other hand and scoop the pizza out onto a pizza pan or cutting board for slicing. Slice the pizza 3 times through the middle with a large sharp knife, making 6 slices.