What makes stuffed pizza so delicious and special to the hearts of us midwesterners is the unique buttery, flaky crust, gobs of mozzarella cheese and a thick, zesty sauce. I grew up on it, and in my opinion it is the best stuff on the planet…besides ice cream (Ben & Jerry’s “Peanut Butter World,” to be exact).
Before you go and try to make this pizza with a regular pizza dough, do yourself a favor …don’t do it. Stuffed pizza has a lighter, flakier crust due in part to the cornmeal and also in part by “laminating” the pizza dough with butter (I’ll explain later).
I have to be honest and admit that when I first tried making stuffed pizza, I bought pre-made regular pizza dough from Caputos. Regular pizza dough bakes tougher and when it’s used for stuffed pizza, it makes for a hard time cutting each bite of your slice. You end up scraping all the gooey cheese out of it to eat by itself. And then you either eat the crust separate, or you end up tossing the entire crust. While it tasted pretty good with the regular dough, nothing tops actual stuffed pizza crust!! So, I highly, HIGHLY, recommend using this recipe.
All of the “oohs” and “aahs” that I’ve gotten from this pizza is enough to make it a staple comfort food in our house. My sister even said it was probably the best stuffed pizza she’s ever had. Did you hear that, Giordano’s?? In yo’ face! (Just kidding – I love you.)
TIP: You will first want to read these instructions all the way through, at least a day ahead, so you can make time for preparation and purchase the correct ingredients.
YOU WILL NEED: either 2 cast iron skillets (10″ or 12″), or 2 springform pans. I prefer cast iron all the way! I must warn you though, it is hard to cut the cooked pizza in a cast iron skillet since you can’t take it out of the pan. A springform pan easily comes off and you can cut it easily. You don’t want to use a rolling pizza cutter because it will crush the crust and not look pretty.
NOTE: This is a very LONG recipe, but simple enough. Hang in there with me. You will be glad you did because this is what you will get (yours won’t be as yellow as the one in my photo – I tried using a filter and failed miserably):
CHICAGO STUFFED PIZZA
Crust (makes 2)
- 3 & 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- ½ cup yellow cornmeal
- 1 & 1/4 tsps salt
- 1 Tbs granulated sugar
- 1 standard packet of yeast (not instant)
- 1 & 1/4 cups warm water
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, divided (1/4 cup melted, 1/4 cup softened or room temp)
- olive oil for coating
- 2 Tbs unsalted butter
- 1 small onion, grated (about 1/3 cup)
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 1 tsp dried oregano (or 1-2 drops oregano essential oil)
- 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes (San Marzano (THE BEST), if possible)
- 6 oz. can tomato paste
- 1/4 tsp granulated sugar
- Optional: 1-2 drops basil essential oil
- 4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese (buy a block and shred it yourself, rather than buying pre-shredded – you will thank me!)
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
- Topping Options: approx. 20 pepperoni slices, 4 slices cooked/crumbled bacon (2 per pizza), cooked and crumbled mild Italian sausage, thinly sliced green peppers and/or onions, sliced mushrooms.
Combine the flour, cornmeal, salt, sugar, and yeast in the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment, or food processor with dough attachment.
If you do not have any mixer, you will have to do it by hand. Use a large bowl. Give the ingredients a quick toss with your mixer on low or with a large wooden spoon.
Add the warm water and 1/4 cup of melted butter. The water should be warm – not hot, or it will kill the yeast. Also, make sure the butter isn’t super hot.
On low speed, mix the ingredients until everything is moistened. Continuing on low speed (or remove from the bowl and knead by hand on a dough mat), mix the dough until it is soft and pulls away from the sides of the bowl and falls off of the dough hook (about 4-5 mins). If the dough is too hard, mix in a teaspoon of warm water. On the other hand, it feels too soft, mix in a Tablespoon of flour.
Remove the dough from the bowl and form into a ball. Lightly grease a large mixing bowl with olive oil and place the dough inside, turning it around so that all sides of the dough are coated in oil. Cover the bowl tightly with aluminum foil and allow to rise in a warm environment for 1-2 hours or until double in size.
TIP: If your house isn’t warm, preheat your oven to 250F degrees. Once it’s 250F degrees, turn it off. Place the bowl of dough inside and close the door. The heat will help your dough rise quickly like magic!
When the dough is ready, lightly flour a large work surface. Remove dough from the bowl, set the bowl and aluminum foil aside to use later. “Punch down” the dough to remove any air bubbles and roll the dough into a large 15×12″ rectangle.
Slather 1/4 cup of softened butter on top of the dough, covering every inch. This is the “laminating” part.
Roll the dough up lengthwise like a roll-cake or Litttle Debbie “ho-ho”. Cut the dough log in half. Form the two pieces of dough into balls and put them back into your greased bowl. Cover again with aluminum foil and allow it to rise in the fridge this time for 1 hour until the dough balls are fluffy. Make the sauce during this time.
Place butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat to melt. Add grated onion, salt, oregano and red pepper flakes.
Once the onion has browned a bit, after about 5 minutes, add garlic, tomatoes, and sugar. Turn the heat down to medium-low and allow to simmer until it’s hearty, fragrant, and thick – about 30 mins. If it isn’t think, keep cooking until the moisture reduces a bit. Remove from heat and set aside until ready to be used. (You can store the sauce in a covered container in the fridge for up to 2 days, or freeze up to 2 months.)
Preheat oven to 425F degrees.
Assembling the pizzas:
After the dough balls have risen and are fluffy, take out only one ball to start. Roll it out on a lightly floured work surface, working it into a 13-inch circle (if your pan is 12″) to about 1/4″ thickness.
Pick up the circle of dough and place over your skillet or springform pan so that the dough is hanging slightly off the sides.
Using your fingers, gently press the dough down a little, leaving some dough hanging off the sides – try not to tear it. Then add your cheese – 2 cups of cheese per pizza. Next add your meat/veggie toppings – except your pepperoni – you will use that towards the last step.
Then, use a knife to cut off the extra dough hanging off the sides of the pan and save. We will use it to make the top layer – just like the famous Giordano’s stuffed pizza. It’s their secret step, and what I believe makes their pizzas so awesome. (Giordano’s seals up the pie with a super thin layer of dough before topping it off with the sauce and parmesan.)
Roll a bit of that extra dough into a circle as thin as possible. Place it over your filled-up pizza, and pinch it together with the dough on the sides to seal the pie.
Place pepperoni on top of this dough layer, then top your pie with half of the sauce. Finish by topping it off with half of the grated parmesan cheese. Add more, if desired.
Here is a photo before it went into the oven:
Repeat steps with the 2nd dough ball in a 2nd pan.
If using springform pans, place them on top of a large baking sheet, which will catch anything that might spill over. Bake for 20-28 minutes or until the crust is golden brown.
Remove the pizzas from the oven and cool for 10 minutes before cutting.
Place any leftover pizza in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 5 days (yeah right, as if there will be any leftovers!!!)
Reheat leftovers in a 300F oven for 15-20 minutes or until hot. Enjoy!!!
Pleeeeeease tell me if you made this pizza, and if you have any suggestions or comments!