Zachary's Style Stuffed Chicago Pizza

Zachary’s Pizza out of Oakland, CA is one of my favorites. Zachary's Stuffed Chicago Style pizza is thick and tall with sauce on top. It’s unlike anything out there! I thought that it was a tricky pie to bake and that you would need a special pan. Not at all. It’s totally doable at home with a good old-fashioned iron skillet. So, I set to work making a Zachary’s style pie, based on this recipe from an archived epicurious blog post. (Be warned that this link is super spam-y, but I wanted to give a nod to the origin of this leaked recipe.) 

Jump to Ingredients List

Time Break Down:
Dough – 15 minutes  (+ 1 hour rise; refrigerate overnight; one hour or more to come to room temp)
Sauce - 10 minutes (no cooking)
Dough prep and toppings – 45 minutes
Baking time – 25-30 minutes at 475°F

Note about pans: While you can make the pizza in a cast iron skillet, I might recommend either a round cake pan or a pan made specifically for deep dish pizzas. My cast iron skillet measures 11" across the bottom with 2 1/2" sides. That means that for the dough to drape slightly over the edges, I would have needed to roll it out to at least 16". I was hard-pressed to get it rolled out to 14" (perfect for a 10" pan with 1 1/2 - 2" sides or a 9" pan with 2 - 2 1/2" sides). The dough situation was manageable, but it would have been a lot easier to add toppings if the dough draped over the sides of the pan. If you're set on using a cast iron skillet and like the idea of even more crust, you can try adding more flour and water (1/2 c or 4 oz. flour and 1/4 c or 2 oz. water + another 1/2 tsp. salt, sugar and olive oil--and wait a bit longer on that first rise) to make a tad more dough.

Mixing the Dough
Start by getting out the mixer. (I weighed my ingredients, but I'm including measurements in this portion for anyone who might like them.) Add in 1 cup water, along with 2 tsp. salt and 2 tsp. sugar. Then stir with a spoon to dissolve. Next add in 2 tsp. olive oil and 2 cup flour. Now get the mixer going on its lowest speed and tap in the instant dry yeast from the packet as it mixes. Let the mixer do its thing for the next 5 minutes. You’ll want to stop the mixer every couple of minutes and pull the ball off the mixing hook so it will pick up more of the flour collecting around the edges.

Pro Tip: If the dough gets too dry and won’t pick up more flour, add a little more water.

You should end up with a nice, fist sized ball of dough. Be warned that this dough is really sticky! I used a lot of flour on my hands just to get the ball out of the mixer bowl. Go ahead and put the ball into a bowl and cover with a towel (not pictured), then let it rise. After about an hour or so, it should have doubled in size. (I let mine go a bit long and it tripled...or quadrupled...)

Once the dough has doubled, punch the dough down. The dough will shrink down considerably when you touch it. Cut it into two parts – two thirds to one third – and go generous on the big half. (I probably wasn't quite generous enough.) The big half will go to form the crust and little half will go to form a very thin layer under the sauce.

Place each piece of dough in a closed container overnight (tupperware or ziplock bag) making sure to leave enough space for the dough to rise. The rest of the pizza can be done about an hour before you want to cook it.

Making the Sauce

When you're ready to prep your toppings, first take out the dough so it can warm to room temperature. Then prepare the sauce so the flavors can meld a bit. To make the sauce, empty out the crushed tomatoes and tomato paste into a bowl. Next mince your basil leaves, oregano (if using fresh) and garlic.  The Pizza Blade makes quick, easy work of the mincing (and works great for dividing the dough as well). Add the herbs to the tomato sauce and stir to thoroughly mix them in. A great thing about the Chicago Pizza is you don’t have to wait for the sauce to cook down! Put it aside when you're done.

Pro Tip: Don't hold back on the basil! And if you want a chunkier sauce, a bit closer in texture to Zachary's, I might suggest adding some canned chopped tomatoes to the mix, or chopping whole canned tomatoes yourself to use in place of the crushed.

To cook, set your oven to preheat at 475° F. Set a pizza stone on the middle rack to better simulate a pizza oven. (I overlooked this direction and it still turned out okay cooked on top of a pizza stone on the bottom.)

Rolling out the Dough and Topping It

Grab the large ball of dough and clear some space. You'll need to roll the dough out to at least 14” inches for a 10" pan. I used a lot of flour on the surface and my hands to make it manageable. Use a rolling pin and roll from the middle out, turning the dough or the surface as needed. The dough should be about an 1/8” thick all around. It takes work to keep the dough stretched out as you work it. I finally added some cornmeal underneath, which helped with sticking.

Once you get the dough somewhere in the neighborhood of 14” round, go ahead and oil the skillet, then dust it with corn meal. This will keep it from sticking.

Ideally there should be enough dough to drape over the edge, kind of like making a pie, but if not, just make due the best you can by pressing the dough up against the edge as you add the toppings. If you're adding meat, this should go down first. Then lay down thin sliced provolone. If you're not using meat, lay down the provolone first. Next are the vegetables. Over the vegetables goes the grated mozzarella. You'll want to leave at least ½” inch for the sauce, so don’t go too crazy on the cheese.

Over the cheese goes the second dough layer. Take your smaller ball of dough and roll it out as thin as possible. It should cover the entire pie (up to the edges). Go ahead and lay it over the cheese, then poke finger sized holes every couple inches on the surface.

The second thin-crust will then be pinched onto the main crust to seal the whole thing together like a pie. Press the sealed edge of the dough up against the pan to make a lip. Now cover the pizza pie in a thick layer of sauce. Finish off the pie with a dusting of grated parmesan. 

Bake the pie for 25-30 minutes until golden brown. Remove it from the oven, then from the pan or skillet by working a metal spatula around the edges. The pizza should slide out easily with a tilt of the pan onto a cutting surface. It may not quite be Zachary's, but it'll be the closest thing to their pizza you're likely to make at home! Enjoy!

Dough Ingredients
-16 oz. flour
-8 oz. warm water
-1.5 tsps instant dry yeast
-2 tsps sugar
-2 tsps salt
-2 tsps olive oil

butter (or oil) to grease and 1/4 teaspoon yellow cornmeal to dust the pan

Pizza Sauce
-1 16-oz. can crushed tomatoes (or chopped, or whole canned tomatoes chopped by you)

-1 can tomato paste (or chopped tomatoes)

-8 large basil leaves, finely chopped (or more!)
-1 clove minced fresh garlic
-1 teaspoon dried or fresh oregano

-1 small sweet onion, sliced into thin strips
-sliced mushrooms and olives (enough to form a layer with the onion)
-sliced provolone cheese (enough to cover surface of pie)
-6-8 oz. shredded whole-milk mozzarella cheese
-2 Tbsp, or so grated fresh parmesan

Other Toppings to Try:

-ground sweet Italian sausage

-1 fresh bell pepper, sliced into thin strips




Special Equipment

-Deep dish or cake pan (or cast iron skillet)

-The Robin & Field Pizza Blade

-Pizza Stone (You can probably cook it okay without one)