Joe's Chicago-Style Deep Dish Pizza

The recipe described below has been handed down through generations of Picone cooks. I remember my grandmother teaching it to my mother, my mother taught me, I taught my wife, and my wife is now keeper of the family tradition.

The interesting thing about pizza is that people try to make it complicated. This is usually their downfall. All you really need is some basic ingredients, experience mixing something like plaster or concrete, and a nice gas oven with an old-fashioned pilot light. Unfortunately, the latter item is hard to find, especially here in the south, so the simplest step has become the most challenging.

Ingredients: Instructions:

Sift about 2 lbs. of flour into a large bowl. Add the salt and sugar. In a small saucepan (about one cup), pour lukewarm water, and dissolve the yeast (breaking it into pieces by hand and slowly stirring it does the trick - if the water is too warm you'll end up with a brick). Mix one tablespoon of oil.

Here is the toughest part: turning flour into a ball of dough. This step must be done by hand! Slowly add the yeast/water mixture to the flour. Make a large crater in the center of the dough, pour a little liquid, fold the outer edges into the center, pour a little liquid around the edges, fold more dough into the center, etc. Repeat the process adding all the yeast/water mixture and about one more cup of water (depending on the dryness of the yeast and the humidity). As a ball of dough starts to form, continue working it around the bowl so that you pick up all the loose flour. The basic motion is to fold the outer edges into the center repeatedly so that the ingredients mix together.

My grandmother used to say that when you are done, there should be no flour or dough left in the bowl. This is literally true. The bowl will be quite clean when the dough is ready. The dough should be moist and slightly sticky. Next, pour a little olive oil in the bowl, roll the dough in it, and roll the dough around the edges of the bowl so that both the dough and the bowl are coated in a thin film of oil.

Place a soft cloth (a kitchen towel does nicely) over the bowl, and place the bowl in a warm dry place for about four hours. Make sure the bowl is large enough to allow the dough to expand to about three times its volume. The inside of an oven is normally the best place to leave the dough (a gas oven with a permanent pilot light works best, but even an electric oven is ok).

The rest is up to you. After four hours, take the dough out, roll a piece of it onto a pizza sheet, and build your own pizza. I prefer a layer of tomato paste (mixed 1:1 with water), sprinkled with romano cheese and a little oregano, followed by green onions, green peppers, mushrooms, olives, and topped off with about one pound of shredded mozzarrella cheese. Sprinkle a little more romano cheese on top, spread about two tablespoons of olive oil on the top, and cook.

Sausage requires some special attention. Remove the sausage from the casing and fry in a pan for about 10 to 15 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove it from the pan, draining the grease, and spread it evenly on the pizza shell typically at the bottom of the heap of toppings (I usually put in on after the tomato paste and before all other ingredients.)

Cook in a conventional oven (no microwaves!) set to 400 degrees for about 15 minutes until the top is brown. The choice of pan is important. We prefer either a pizza tray with holes so that the bottom of the crust cooks, or a cast iron pan. With either of these, the bottom will cook to a nice firm crust as the top browns.

For novices, this will take a little practice. But, contrary to popular opinion, pizza is one of the easiest and most enjoyable things to make.

Student Reviews

(2016/03/16) Making pizza for my niece and nephew.

(2002/02/01) Delicious!! I'm an intermediate cook, and this wasn't too hard to make. I couldn't find fresh yeast, but regular active dry yeast seemed to work fine. I also stuffed the ends of the crust with mozzerella... to make it more even more healthy. The Picone family has perfected the definition of Pizza. Domino's? Pizza Hut? Perhaps... if my dog is hungry. -Daniel May