Fifty States of New Recipe Tuesday – Week Twenty One – Illinois – Chicago Deep Dish Pizza

Welcome to week 21 of Fifty States of New Recipe Tuesday. This week we welcome the state of Illinois, who joined the union on December 3, 1818. I was going to write about Abraham Lincoln, but found out that although he called Illinois his home, he wasn’t actually from there. Seriously. He was born in Kentucky, and lived there and in Indiana until the age of 21. Considered by historians and scholars as one of our three greatest presidents, I encourage you to do your own research on him to truly understand what he was about. Many in today’s presidential race use his name as the most famous Republican, but to truly understand him, you have to realize that he was a moderate, not a conservative, and he got things done by working with people who were both in his party and across the aisle. Our politicians of today should stop spouting his name and understand that how he accomplished things was not by the methods being deployed today.

Alright then, enough about that.

Unlike last week’s Mississippi, who lacked its own unique food identity, I quickly focused in on the one thing about Illinois that I already knew and just had to try, Chicago Deep Dish Pizza. Honestly, I didn’t even go searching beyond this dish, because it really is what this state is all about. And a side note (complete coincidence)…a few weeks ago was Josh’s 17th birthday and I realized that I didn’t have round cake pans. It’s really hard to make a layer cake when you don’t have the pans to bake them in. Ugh. About a week ago I was at my favorite cooking store and grabbed some nice 9 inch round pans. I wasn’t even thinking about Deep Dish Pizza at the time. Perhaps my subconscious was speaking to me.

A little history about this dish. The origins of what we call pizza today traces back to flatbreads from ancient Greece and Rome. This evolved over time to a poor man’s meal in the Italian city of Naples. Pizza (from the Italian word pinsere, which means to pound or stamp – a reference to the flat dough) began to take shape with the working class, who needed an inexpensive and easy meal. It eventually grew out of the poorest areas and spread across Italy and Europe, and eventually carried over to the New World. In Chicago, Neapolitan immigrants arrived, and hungry for a taste of home, began making their thin crust version across the area.

Eventually two entrepreneurs, Ike Sewell and Ric Riccardo, decided to create something different. They wanted to make a new Italian-American version of pizza. In 1943, the pair opened Pizzeria Uno in Chicago’s Near North Side neighborhood, serving their new style pizza made in a deeper dish, with a crunchier crust and inverted layers – a far cry from the classic Neapolitan version. It caught on and soon this Chicago created pizza was no longer a Naples dish, it was their own.

There are others who offer up their claim to this unique dish, including Malnati’s Pizza, Pizano’s and Gino’s East. In my research, it sort of sounds a little like the Philly Cheesesteak wars here in Philadelphia. All I know is that this is a real great pizza and I was excited to give it a try.

I actually settled on a recipe that seems to take its roots from Malnati’s, which uses both corn meal and butter in its crust. From everything I read it is all about the crust, which needs to be flaky in order to really take on the deep dish with all that cheese and sauce. Although there are a number of steps, it isn’t complicated and the dough can hold in the refrigerator for a day if you want to make it ahead of time.

The end result? Delish. The crust was crispy with a very distinct buttery flavor. I think the addition of the corn meal is also important, as it added texture and firmness to the crust. The sauce was simple but tasty. I added more onion and garlic than the recipe called for, and also hit it with my emulsion blender to break up the tomato. Josh thought it needed more cheese, and he is not a big fan of homemade pizza sauce, so it was just ok for him. I’m thinking that Matt will think this is really delicious (although he will complain about the high carbs!). Overall, I give this a solid A.

Chicago Deep Dish Pizza

Recipe (tweaked very slightly from


3 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 1/2 teaspoons sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons rapid-rise yeast
1 1/4 cups room temperature water
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon olive oil


2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 small onion, finely diced
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 garlic cloves, minced
1- 28 ounce can fire roasted crushed tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon oil


4 cups fresh grated mozzarella cheese
1 pound sweet Italian sausage, cooked and crumbled
1/4 cup fresh grated parmesan cheese


In your food processor with the dough blade attached, or in a stand mixer with the dough hook attached, combine flour, cornmeal, salt, sugar, and yeast.

Add in melted butter and water and mix for several minutes until the dough is smooth. Knead dough by hand if you are not able to obtain a smooth consistency after 4-5 minutes.

When the dough is smooth, line a bowl with olive oil. Place the dough in the bowl. Loosely cover the bowl and allow the dough to rise for about an hour.

Lightly flour your work surface or use a non-stick mat and turn the dough onto it. Use a rolling pin to roll the dough into a 15 by 12 inch rectangle.

Spread 4 tablespoons of butter over the rectangle of dough.

Starting at the short end, roll the dough into a log.

Flatten the log of dough into an 18 by 4 inch rectangle using the rolling pin and your hands.

Cut the 18 x 4 inch rectangle of dough into 2- 9 inch pieces.

Fold each piece of dough into thirds, then pinch the seems together to form a ball of dough. Place both balls of dough in the refrigerator for about 40 minutes so that the butter can firm up.

While the dough is in the fridge, make the sauce (directions below), and grate the cheese.

After the dough has rested in the fridge for 40 minutes, roll each piece into a 13 inch circle.

Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees.


In a large saucepan melt butter. Then add in onion and cook the onion until it is translucent.

Stir in garlic, and cook for a minute or two.

Add in salt, oregano, sugar, and crushed tomatoes.

Bring the sauce to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes. When the sauce has reduced and there is only about 2 1/2 cups remaining, stir in parsley, basil and olive oil. Remove from heat.

Pizza Sauce


Lightly grease two 9-inch cake pans with a bit of olive oil. You are making two 9-inch pizzas.

Arrange each 13-inch circle of dough in a cake pan, using your fingers to push the dough up along the sides.

Top the dough with 2 cups of mozzarella cheese, the sausage, then add 1 1/4 cups sauce, per pie.


Top with 1/4 cup fresh grated parmesan cheese.

Bake the pizzas on the middle-rack for 20-30 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown. Allow the pizzas to cool for about 5-10 minutes, then slice and enjoy! This recipe makes 2 9-inch pizzas that will serve 4-6 people.


Thanks everyone and enjoy! See you next week in Alabama (Yikes).



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