How to make perfect pizza the Chicago way

A fusion of the classic pizza from Napoli with American pizza, heavy on the cheese

Roast vegetable deep-dish pizza

Roast vegetable deep-dish pizza

 

I’ve been making my own pizza dough for years, and perfected the sourdough crust during months of breadmaking every day over the spring lockdown. It was something I had never been able to conquer so I was delighted once I’d cracked it.

Last year I got a special oven that cooks a pizza in 10 seconds and produces the most perfect, blistered leopard spots on the crust. Now I’ve done a full 360-degree turnaround and am buying dough to make my deep-dish pizzas. But I’m okay with that. My regular home-made dough just doesn’t work for this Chicago-style decadence, and the shop-bought dough is perfect for it. A 12in springform tin with a removable base is ideal for making this pizza. It unclips to reveal that golden, puffed-up crust that encases all of those delicious layers. 

The vegetables can be roasted and the tomato sauce made the day before. Or if you really want to speed things up, you can buy ready-made sauce and use jarred roasted peppers and a selection of different toppings. My all-time favourite pizza toppings are plump black olives, tuna and red onion. I just love this with plenty of freshly ground black pepper and a glass of rosé.

I’ve used some nice autumnal vegetables here, roasted and layered with the cheese and sauce. But this deep-dish-style pizza lends itself well to layers of pepperoni and spicy Italian sausage, too. It’s almost like a lasagne encased in a doughy crust.

The original deep-dish pizza pie came about in Chicago, a city now synonymous with the dish. It is a fusion of the classic pizza from Napoli with American pizza, heavy on the cheese.

I love making a home-made tomato sauce for this. You can fit even more vegetables into the smooth sauce if you want to. I usually roast twice as many vegetables as I need and add half to the sauce. The baby spinach is a nice layer of texture and flavour. Goat’s cheese tastes really great with sweet autumn squash, so do add a handful of that if you have it. This pizza is a real treat on a chilly autumn evening. 

ROAST VEGETABLE DEEP-DISH PIZZA

Serves six

½ butternut squash or 1 sweet potato, cubed
2 red onions, cut into quarters with base intact
1 roll ready-made pizza dough
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
½tsp sugar
Salt and black pepper
A handful of baby spinach leaves
1tsp oregano or basil
100g cheddar grated
1 ball mozzarella, torn
A handful of cherry tomatoes, halved
Olive oil

Method

1 Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Place the vegetables on a tray and drizzle with a little olive oil. Roast till they are just tender and beginning to caramelise at the edges. Set aside and increase oven temperature to 220 degrees. 

2 Saute the onion in a pan with a little olive oil. Once soft add the garlic and stir for a minute before adding the chopped tomato and sugar. Simmer for five minutes, then season with salt and pepper. Add the herbs and blitz using a stick blender until smooth. Set aside.

3 Brush a 12in springform tin with olive oil. Unroll the pizza and gently lay it into the dish, pressing it up against the sides as you do. Scatter the base of the dough with half the grated Cheddar, top with a little tomato sauce, the roasted veg and spinach and then more sauce. Finish with a layer of mozzarella, the rest of the Cheddar and the cherry tomatoes. Bake for 20-25 minutes until the crust is golden and the cheese bubbling on top. 

4 Leave to sit for a minute before unclipping the sides and serving. I like to cut this pie with a metal dough scraper, but a pizza wheel or knife will do too. 

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