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Chicago Deep Dish Pizza with Spinach and Ricotta

Photograph by Sara Remington

We adore pizza. When The Pizza Bible came across our desk, we were ecstatic to take 11-time world Champion Tony Gemignani's Master Class in all things pizza. Not only are we experts now, we're making it in nine different regional styles. From Chicago deep-dish to cracker-thin, the book's spectrum is wide and wonderful, with something to suit every mood and occasion. If you've ever wanted to make pizzeria-style pizza at home and succeed at it— you absolutely must check it out.

Along with sausage, spinach and ricotta is the other classic Chicago pizza combo. You’ll find some recipes—and some pizzerias—that use raw spinach. I start with raw spinach but I sauté it lightly in a little olive oil until it is just wilted and still green. Then I drain it in a colander or strainer, pressing it gently to help remove what liquid hasn’t already cooked off. This approach makes a huge difference because it intensifies the spinach flavor and reduces the moisture that would result in a wet filling and a soggy crust. I like to reserve some of the spinach and ricotta to add as a garnish.

RECIPE: Chicago Deep Dish with Spinach and Ricotta

Yields one 13-inch deep round pizza; 6 large slices

Ingredients

  • 1 (27-ounce/765-gram) ball Chicago Deep-Dish Dough (see recipe below)
  • Medium-grind cornmeal, for dusting
  • 2 teaspoons (9 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 9 ounces (255 grams) part-skim mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced (13 slices)
  • 1-1/2 cups (285 grams) well-drained Sautéed Spinach (see accompanying recipe), at room temperature
  • Grated Pecorino Romano cheese, for dusting
  • 1 teaspoon (3 grams) finely chopped garlic
  • 4.5 ounces (120 grams/1/2 cup) whole-milk ricotta cheese, preferably New York–style Polly-O or Ricotta Cream (see accompanying recipe) at room temperature
  • 9 ounces (255 grams) provolone cheese, thinly sliced (13 slices)
  • 5 ounces (140 grams) part-skim mozzarella cheese, shredded (1-1/4 cups)
  • 2 cups (455 grams) Deep-Dish Tomato Sauce (see accompanying recipe), warm
  • Dried oregano, for dusting
  • Garlic Oil (see recipe below), for drizzling

Directions

  1. Remove the dough ball from the refrigerator and leave wrapped at room temperature until the dough warms to 55°F to 60°F. Meanwhile, set up the oven with two pizza stones or baking steels and preheat to 500°F for 1 hour.
  2. Generously butter the bottom and sides of a 12 by 2-inch or 13 by 2-inch round deep-dish pizza pan.
  3. Dust the work surface with a generous amount of cornmeal, then transfer the dough to the surface. Coat both sides of the dough round with the cornmeal and roll out the dough into a 17-inch round.
  4. Working quickly but carefully, lift the dough and lower it into the center of the prepared pan. Lift the edges of the dough to ease the dough into the corners. The dough will overhang the rim of the pan. Press around the edge of the dough to secure it to the pan rim. Set aside to rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  5. Arrange the mozzarella slices in the bottom and slightly up the sides of the pan, overlapping the slices as necessary. Reserve 1/2 cup (95 grams) of the spinach and scatter the remaining spinach evenly over the mozzarella.
  6. Sprinkle with a light dusting of pecorino and the garlic. Arrange the provolone slices over the top. Run the rolling pin over the lip of the pan to cut away the excess dough. If the dough shrinks back, use your fingers to press the dough around the inside of the pan, extending it to the lip.
  7. Place the pan on the bottom stone. Bake for 15 minutes, rotate the pan 180 degrees, and continue to bake for another 12 minutes, until the cheese is melted and the crust is a rich golden brown. Meanwhile, put the ricotta in a pastry bag with a 1/4-inch opening or plain tip.
  8. If the reserved spinach is cold, warm it in a pan or in the microwave.
  9. Take the pan out of the oven and sprinkle the shredded mozzarella over the top of the pizza. Place on the top stone for 2 minutes to melt the shredded cheese.
  10. Remove from the oven and run a long metal spatula around the inside of the pan to loosen the pizza from the pan. Then, using the spatula, lift an edge and check the bottom of the crust. It should be browned and crisp.
  11. If it needs more time, return the pan to the bottom stone for 1 minute.
  12. Using the spatula, and being careful not to pierce the bottom of the crust, lift the pizza from the pan and transfer it to a cutting board. Using a rocking cutter or a serrated knife, cut the pizza into 6 large wedges, leaving them in place. Spoon the sauce over the top and spread it to the edges with a small offset spatula. Pipe quarter-size dollops of ricotta onto the pizza and garnish with the reserved spinach. Finish with a dusting of pecorino and of oregano and a drizzle of garlic oil.

Deep-Dish Tomato Sauce

Yields 2-1/4 cups (510 grams )

Ingredients

  • 6 ounces (170 grams or 2/3 cup) tomato paste, preferably Saporito Super Heavy Pizza Sauce
  • 3 ounces (85 grams or 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons) ground tomatoes, preferably 7/11 or DiNapoli
  • 3/4 teaspoon (.5 grams) dried oregano
  • Pinch of fine sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 grams) extra virgin olive oil
  • 9 ounces (255 grams or 1-1/3 cups) hand-crushed tomatoes

How to Make Hand-Crushed Tomatoes

Whether you start with canned or cooked fresh tomatoes, you’ll want to rinse your hands frequently as you work, so set up your station near the sink or have a bowl of cold water nearby. Put a strainer over a bowl. Working over a second bowl, lift a tomato, pinch off the head (stem end) and any unripe areas, and let those pieces drop into the bowl. Some tomatoes may not be deep red. I prefer not to use those, but it’s your call. Open up the tomato, remove any skins, seeds, or tough sections and add them to your discard bowl. Break the cleaned tomato into small pieces or strips and put them in the strainer. Keep in mind that these will not be blended, so if they look too coarse for your taste, run them through your fingers to make smaller pieces. Continue cleaning and crushing tomatoes until you have the amount called for in your recipe. Press gently on the tomatoes to strain as much liquid as possible. Discard the contents of the discard bowl and the bowl below the strainer. One 28-ounce can of tomatoes should yield 1 generous cup (250 grams) crushed tomatoes.

Ricotta Cream

Makes a generous 1/2 cup (130 grams )

  • 3 ounces (90 grams/1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons) whole-milk ricotta cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 ounce (30 grams/2 tablespoons) mascarpone cheese
  • 2 teaspoons (10 grams) heavy cream

Put all of the ingredients in a small bowl. Using a handheld mixer, mix the ingredients until smooth and creamy. Let the mixture rest for 1 hour before using. The ricotta cream can be refrigerated for a few hours before using, but bring it to room temperature before using.

Sautéed Spinach

  • Makes 1-1/2 cup (285 grams )
  • Olive oil, for sautéing
  • 1 pound (455 grams) baby spinach
  • Fine sea salt and freshly ground
  • black pepper

Heat a generous film of oil in your largest skillet over medium-high heat. Shake any excess water from the spinach and add several handfuls to the skillet, leaving enough room to turn the spinach. Sprinkle with a pinch each of salt and pepper. As the spinach wilts and room is made, turn the spinach and add more to the skillet. When you have cooked about half of the spinach, transfer it to a strainer or colander.

Discard the liquid in the skillet, wipe it dry, and heat another generous film of oil over medium-high heat. Sauté the remaining spinach the same way and add to the strainer. Drain the spinach well, squeezing it gently

between your hands.

The spinach can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 day.

Garlic Oil

Makes 1/4 cup (60 grams)

Garlic oil is one of my favorite “secret ingredients” for finishing pizzas. It’s quick and easy to make, but it’s best made at least an hour in advance. The longer you leave it, the more the garlic flavor infuses into the oil, so I recommend making it a day ahead, at the same time you make your sauce.

  • 1-1/2 teaspoons (5 grams) minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup (55 grams) extra virgin olive oil

Combine the garlic and oil in a small bowl. Cover and store in the refrigerator for a day or two.

RECIPE: Chicago Deep-Dish Dough

Yields 27 ounces (770 grams), enough for 1 deep-dish pizza

Ingredients

  • 4.5 grams (1-1/2 teaspoons) active dry yeast
  • 70 grams (1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon) warm water (80°F to 85°F)
  • 430 grams (3-1/2 cups) all-purpose flour with 12 percent protein, preferably Ceresota
  • 23 grams (2-1/2 tablespoons) medium-grind cornmeal
  • 9 grams (1 tablespoon) diastatic malt
  • 18 grams (1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon) lard, cut into small pieces, at room temperature
  • 18 grams (1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon) European-style unsalted butter, preferably 82 percent butterfat, cut into small pieces, at room temperature
  • 202 grams (3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoon) ice water, plus more as needed
  • 9 grams (2 teaspoons) fine sea salt

Directions

  1. Put the yeast in a small bowl, add the warm water, and whisk vigorously for 30 seconds. The yeast should dissolve in the water and the mixture should foam. If it doesn’t and the yeast granules float, the yeast is “dead” and the mixture should be discarded. Begin again with a fresh amount of yeast and water.
  2. Combine the flour, cornmeal, and malt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. With the mixer running on the lowest speed, add the lard and butter and mix for 1 minute.
  3. Pour in most of the ice water, reserving about 2 tablespoons, followed by the yeast-water mixture. Pour the reserved water into the yeast bowl, swirl it around to dislodge any bits of yeast stuck to the bowl, and add to the mixer.
  4. Continue to mix the dough at the lowest speed for about 1 minute, until most of the dough comes together around the hook. Stop the mixer. Use your fingers to pull away any dough that clings to the hook, and scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl with a bowl scraper or rubber spatula.
  5. Add the salt and mix on the lowest speed for 1 minute to combine.
  6. Check the bottom of the bowl for any unincorporated flour. Turn the dough over and press it into the bottom of the bowl to pick up any stray pieces.
  7. Stop the mixer, pull the dough off the hook, and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. If there is still unincorporated flour at the bottom of the bowl, sprinkle with a very small amount of water and mix for 1 minute.
  8. Use a bowl scraper to transfer the dough to an unfloured work surface, then knead it for 2 to 3 minutes, until smooth. Cover the dough with a damp dish towel and let it rest at room temperature for 1 hour.
  9. Use a dough cutter to loosen the dough and move it to the scale. You will need 27 ounces (770 grams) of dough. You may have a little extra dough.
  10. Form the dough into a ball and set it on a half sheet pan. Wrap the pan airtight with a double layer of plastic wrap, sealing the wrap well under the pan. Put the pan in a level spot in the refrigerator and refrigerate for 24 to 48 hours.

Note on Making Vegetarian Deep-Dish Dough: You can substitute 18 grams vegetable shortening for the lard.

Reprinted with permission from The Pizza Bible by Tony Gemignani, copyright (c) 2014. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Penguin Random House, Inc. Photography (c) 2014 by Sara Remington.

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