Sunday Recipe–The Art of Chicago Style Pizza #VDM30in30

The Windy City is well known for some of it’s culinary delights – Chicago-Style hot dogs, Maxwell Street polish sausage, Italian Beef sandwiches, and deep dish pizza.  It seems like you can get one these staples on practically any intersection, and there are very successful local chains that specialize in these foods.

When it comes to Chicago-Style Deep Dish pizza, there are fewer options.  The main purveyors of these foods are a few restaurants – Giordano’s, Gino’s, Pizzeria Uno, and Lou Malnati’s.  Lou’s is very well known, and they have restaurants all across the Chicago area.

I grew up in Schaumburg, IL, a Chicago suburb most commonly known for Woodfield Mall and having one of the first Ikea stores in the United States.  After high school, I moved to Wisconsin for college. 

Its not impossible to find a good pizza in Wisconsin, but it can be tough.  There are very few good local pizza places, and they rarely do any Chicago Style pizza.  Lou Malnati’s and Gino’s both ship frozen pre-cooked Deep Dish pizzas, but it’s just not that same as getting one fresh from the oven.

There are some Uno’s around…but let’s not get into that.

The only way to get a good taste of home fresh from the oven is to make it yourself.

What is Chicago Style Pizza?

Before we can talk about how to make Chicago Style pizza, we have to define exactly what it is.

If you think about pizza is usually layered, it goes crust – sauce – cheese+toppings. Chicago style pizza is fundamentally different – and it’s layered crust – cheese – toppings – sauce. 

Note: There are three kinds of Chicago Style Pizza.  Deep dish style, which is the kind mentioned above, a thin crust variety which has more of a cracker-like crust, and the Giordano’s stuffed pizza.  Stuffed pizza is similar to deep dish pizza, but it has an extra layer of crust between the cheese/toppings and the sauce.

Making Chicago Style Pizza

The pizza making community isn’t that different from the virtualization community.  The people who are active in it are very passionate about their craft and open to sharing dough formulas, sauce recipes, and other tips.  There is an entire community on the forums at dedicated to Chicago Style pizza with members who have spent considerable time attempting to replicate the formulas for the larger chain restaurants.

In order to make the dough, you will need a heavy stand mixer such as a KitchenAid and a scale.  All of the recipes are expressed in baker’s percentages, so the ingredients will need to be weighed. does include a page with dough calculators to convert the baker’s percentages to weights.

There are two dough recipes that I have had very good results with.  These recipes are:

Some people are very particular about the brand of flour, yeast, and oil that they use, but you don’t need to use the exact same brands as the recipe calls for.  You should, however, follow the directions closely as under or over-mixing can ruin the batch.

Once the dough has risen, I like to put it into a Ziplock bag and let it rest in the fridge for a couple of days.  This makes the dough easier to work with when I bake the pizza.  You don’t have to do this, though – you can use the dough right after it has been through the first rise.

When it comes time to bake the pizza, you will need to use a 2” deep round metal pizza pan such as this 14” non-stick pan.  A pizza stone is not required, but it can help during baking.  I usually put my pizza stone in before I preheat the oven, and I will place the pizza pan on it during baking.

If you prepared your dough in advance and refrigerated it, you will want to take it out of the fridge and place it in the pizza pan to warm up.  I usually let it do this for about an hour as it makes the dough easier to work with.  You will want to start preheating your oven at the same time.  I set the temperature to 450 and let it preheat for an hour, and I will turn the temperature down to 425 before I put the pizza in to bake.

Once the dough has warmed up, you will want to oil the bottom of the pan with a little corn or vegetable oil and then spread the dough out.  Don’t pinch the dough up the sides of the pan – just leave it a little thicker at the edges. 

Once the dough has been spread out, take a regular fork and dock the dough by pressing the fork all the way through.  This helps the dough bake up a little crispier.

Once you have the dough in the pan, it’s time to top the pizza.  The ingredients you will need for topping your pizza are:

  • 8 ounces of shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 pound of bulk Italian Sausage
  • 1 28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes

The first layer is mozzarella cheese.  You will need to spread the cheese around on the crust, leaving about 1/2 to 1 inch on the edges.  Most recipes call for using mozzarella sliced from block of cheese, but I use pre-shredded cheese from the store.  I usually use about 8 ounces of shredded cheese.

The next layer is the toppings.  A traditional Chicago Style pizza is topped with Italian Sausage, but you can use any combination of meats and vegetables that you prefer.  If you’re using bulk Italian Sausage from a butcher, you’ll want to roughly shape them into little balls about .75 to 1.25 inches in diameter and place them on top of the cheese.

The last layer that goes on the pizza before being placed into the oven is the sauce.  The sauce consists of one 28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes.  Any brand of crushed tomatoes will work.  If you have a fine-meshed strainer, you will want to drain out as much water as you can.  The texture of the tomatoes should look like a thick, chunky tomato paste after you drain the water off.

You will want to spread this mixture over the pizza as best as you can.  Don’t worry if it doesn’t look like you have enough tomato to cover the pizza – it will loosen up and spread out as the pizza cooks.  If you add another can, you will end up with pizza soup.  Trust me on this – I’ve made this mistake too many times.

After the sauce has been placed on top of the pizza, you will need to turn your oven down to 425 and place the pizza in for baking.  It takes about 30-35 minutes to cook the pizza, and you will want to rotate the pan 180 degrees after 15 minutes.

When your pizza is done, it should rest for a few minutes to cool down before cutting it into wedges.  You will need a spatula or a pie server to remove the pizza from the pan.

A finished pizza should look something like this:


Sunday Recipe–BBQ Chicken With Bacon #VDM30in30

This week’s VDM30in30 recipe combines everyone’s favorites – chicken, bacon,  BBQ sauce, and cheese into a single delicious dish that can be prepared in the oven or on the grill. 

This recipe started off as an attempt to replicate a similar dish from a local restaurant.  That restaurant, which is no longer in business, had a similar dish as a nightly special.  My wife loved it, and she said that she thought it was something that we could make at home.


  • 4 chicken breasts
  • 8 strips of bacon, cooked
  • 1/2 cup of BBQ sauce
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Grill Directions:

1. Prepare your grill for direct cooking over medium heat.  Oil the grill grate to prevent chicken from sticking.

2. Cook chicken for 8-10 minutes until internal temperature reads 165 degrees with a thermometer, flipping once halfway through. 

3. Apply BBQ sauce to chicken,and then top with bacon and cheese.

4.  Cook for another 2-3 minutes until sauce has thickened and cheese has melted.

5. Remove from grill and allow to rest for a few minutes before serving.

Oven Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. Place chicken in a shallow baking dish.

3. Bake chicken for 25 minutes or until temperature reads about 165 degrees with a thermometer.

4. Apply BBQ sauce to chicken,and then top with bacon and cheese.

5. Bake for another 5-8 minutes or until the internal temperature of the chicken has reached 165 degrees.

6. Remove from the oven and allow to rest for a few minutes before serving.

American Casserole #VDM30in30

It’s Sunday…and that means another recipe.

This week’s recipe is one that my grandmother used to make all the time.  It’s a very simple and delicious casserole that she called American Casserole.  Like last week’s Baked Mostacciolli, this recipe scales very well (2 pounds of ground meat to each pound of noodles), and it freezes very well.

In some ways, this recipe is like the Cheeseburger Macaroni Hamburger Helper that is layered instead of mixed together.


  • 2 lbs. of ground meat (turkey, beef)
  • 1 lb. box of elbow macaroni
  • 1 Family Size can of tomato soup
  • 2 cups Milk
  • 3 Eggs, beaten
  • American cheese slices


  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Brown ground meat and drain fat.  Season to taste.
  3. Combine tomato soup and ground meat.  Set aside.
  4. Cook elbow macaroni to al dente per package directions.  Drain but do not rinse.
  5. Combine milk and eggs.  Add to macaroni and mix well.
  6. Place macaroni mixture in the bottom of a baking pan.
  7. Place meat and tomato soup mixture on top of the macaroni mixture. 
  8. Place American cheese slices on top of the meat layer.
  9. Bake in oven for 30 minutes.


  • Do not use whole-wheat pasta with this recipe.  I’ve tried it, but the macaroni layer doesn’t quite bind together.
  • If you’re not a fan of American Cheese slices, you can use other cheese.  Shredded mild cheddar works well too.

Simple Baked Mostaccioli–#vDM30in30

Sunday isn’t always the best day for writing a tech blog.  So instead of trying to shoehorn a technical topic in on the weekend, I thought I would do Recipe Sundays where I share a recipe from my family cookbook.

The first recipe I’m going to share is one that I’ve been making for over 10 years.  It is one of the first things that I learned to cook when I was in college – baked mostaccioli.

This recipe is very simple to put together, stores well, and can easily be scaled up to feed a small army. 


1 pound of lean ground beef or ground turkey
1 pound box of Mostaccioli or Penne
1 45 oz.  jar of Ragu Old World Style Traditional Spaghetti Sauce or generic equivalent
16oz shredded Mozzeralla Cheeze
1 9×13 baking pan
Onion Powder
Garlic Powder


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Cook pasta per package instructions for 8-9 minutes so that it is slightly undercooked.  Drain, but DO NOT rinse pasta.
3. Season ground meat with onion and garlic powder and brown over medium heat until cooked thoroughly, drain
4. Spread about 1/2 cup of sauce on the bottom of the pan
5. In a large mixing bowl or pot, combine the meat, pasta, remaining sauce and a half cup of shredded cheese.  Mix until pasta and meat are coated with sauce.
6. Pour the pasta and meat mixture into the baking pan and top with remaining cheese.
7. Bake for approximately 35 minutes until cheese is slightly browned and a thermometer reads 165 degrees when inserted into the center.
Note: Cooking times may vary depending on oven and if it was frozen before going into the oven.
8. Allow to stand and cool for 5-10 minutes.