The Holy Grail - Gluten Free Chicago Stuffed Pizza

That's what the hubby calls gluten free Chicago Stuffed Pizza. Since going gluten free I have tried time and time again to produce something close to our favorite glutened versions:

  1. Patxi's (Palo Alto, California) - who would have thunk? Great sauce, crust (whole wheat to boot - who knew it was poison?) and toppings - not as heavy as its Chicago counterparts. Oh how we miss Patxi's - we used to go there all the time but alas, when you walk in the first thing you see is a huge mound of flour so it's off limits to us now that we know better.
  2. Giordanos - best overall combination of crust, sauce and toppings. pure heaven.
  3. Edwardos - similar to Giordanos - a near 2nd
  4. Lou Malnati's - not stuffed but has the best sauce overall
  5. Zachary's (East Bay/SF Bay Area) - great unusually chunky sauce
  6. Piero's - also very good stuffed pizza
  7. Gino's East - tasty but not as much of a fan of their corn meal crust
What is Chicago Stuffed Pizza? Well, it's in a deep dish pan but is more like a pie - you start with a base crust, then add the cheese & "toppings", followed by a thin crust on top, then cover with rich tomato sauce. My mouth waters as I type these words...

In Search of the Holy Grail
When we first found out we could no longer eat gluten,  I googled and googled for gluten free pizza, then gluten free Chicago pizza. The only thing I could find was Lou Malnati's Crustless pizza so I promptly ordered a 3 pack which was delivered, packed in dry ice, several days later. The verdict? Too meaty. Instead of a crust they put the pizza on a huge slab of sausage. Creative, but really not a pizza, And our favorite part of Lou Malnatis- the sauce? Well, there was hardly any on it. But during that same purchase I also decided to buy one of their pizza pans - so I could try to create what did not seem to exist - the holy grail, gluten free Chicago Stuffed Pizza.

Finding the right crust recipe
I've made a lot of pizza dough the past 3 years - from recipes I've found online, recipes in cookbooks, dough mixes, and I've yet to find the perfect dough - something with a little breadiness but still crisps up nicely and has some flavor. I have yet to settle on a winner yet but here are the ones I've tried so far in order of preference:
1. Bob's Red Mill Pizza Crust mix: this one surprised me as most Bob's mixes are disgusting - the only reason this one works for me is because it is void of that nasty bean flour that you find in their cookie and bread mixes. The hubby and I are huge chocolate chip cookie fans and I had to throw out the whole batch of the Bob's chocolate chip cookies because they were simply inedible. But I digress...

2. Chewy Gluten Free Pizza Dough - this was the first recipe I tried and it took me months to try it because I was searching all over the SF Bay Area for Guar Gum. I finally ordered some directly from Bob's Red Mill. I now know I can substitute Xanthan Gum too although the GF Girl & the Chef's new cookbook uses both in many recipes so I'm kind of puzzled again. This one makes a good thin crust too if you're able to roll it out thin enough. 

3. Pizza crust recipe from The Gluten Free Gourmet bakes bread - very tasty but just too bready - I may try this one again now that I know how to roll out the dough (see below). BTW, the French bread recipe in that cookbook rocks - my all time favorite with a few minor changes. I'll write about that one someday.

4. The recipe I can no longer find - I will need to do some more Googling - I actually found one a few months ago on a blog that was actually quite tasty- it included gluten free beer, but that tang was a bit too strange for the hubby - but I'd make it again. I'll update this post once I find it.

5. The mysterious pizza crust recipe you can't find in the new Gluten Free Girl & the Chef Cookbook. I had read about this recipe on their blog and was so excited when I saw the image of a perfect thin crust pizza on the cover- but look in the index or recipe list for the word "pizza" and you're out of luck. Talk about frustrating. Here I am with an infant, working, cooking all our meals from scratch and I am wasting my time flipping page by page through this cookbook. But I did find it - it's the cracker recipe. If you look on the left margin there is a brief mention that it makes a good pizza crust. But it called for corn flour which I did not have, and Guar Gum which I had run out of. So I ordered cases of them from Amazon- I sure wasn't going to waste another 2 months searching for Guar Gum (Ok, I did check out a few local groceries before I gave up and went to Amazon). The verdict? It was OK. I don't think I rolled it out quite thin enough so I want to try the recipe again now that I've figured out the rolling part of the puzzle (read below). BTW this cookbook has the best pancake recipe ever- "Seasonal Berry Pancakes". I had to buy a case of Teff flour from Amazon for that one but oh was it worth it. I make these all the time and it's one of the Giggler's favorite snacks. I use frozen cherries we harvested last spring and tangerine juice from our Christmas harvest. In fact I'm making them tomorrow. Yum!!

6. At least 4 or 5 others which I have put out of my mind - they just didn't cut it. BTW, if I had a worst gluten free site I would put the Culinary Institute of America gluten free cookbook's pizza dough recipe. In addition to the crust being disgustingly rich and sweet, the author directed me to use a piping bag to pipe the crust into a big spiral. What a mess that was. No, I can't think about that anymore. Let's move on.

Rolling out the Dough
I am assuming most of you have dabbled with gluten free dough so I don't need to mention it but I will anyway - what a mess. Sticky, gummy - how many interseting evenings I've had with mishaps with trying to roll out the dough. Directly w/ a rolling pin? Good luck with that. How about parchment paper? Not really. Tortilla press? Maybe for a personal size. But I've finally got a method that works - lightly oil your hands with olive oil and pat around the ball of dough. Now put it on a silicon baking mat. Gently put a 2nd silicone baking mat on top of the first. Now roll out gently with a rolling pin. Why did it take me 3 years to figure that one out?

Finding the right sauce (August 2015 update)
When I first wrote this post in 2011, my favorite sauce was Muir Glen Organic Pizza Sauce which I used to buy regularly at Whole Foods for both thin crust and stuffed pizzas. Unfortunately, my local Whole Foods no longer carries it. However, Classico has started making an amazing pizza sauce which I can buy at my regular grocery stores! It's delicious.  I prefer the traditional sauce to the fire roasted but they are both good.
The Stuffing
For Chicago Stuffed Pizza purists, true stuffed pizza means Spinach and Mushrooms or Spinach and Sausage fillings. I usually do a pure spinach or spinach & (chicken) sausage. The secret to a good spinach filling is to cook down the spinach first - either in the microwave or on the stove. Then let it cool a little so you can grab it in your clean hands and squeeze out the water. Chop it up into fairly small chunks - maybe 1"x1". Then put in a bowl and add some garlic, parmesean and plenty of mozzarella. Then crumble in some sausage if you'd like. BTW for my latest attempt I decided to use 2 big bunches of kale I had from our organic farm CSA which held up very nicely although made the dish more of a kale pie than a stuffed pizza, but sure was yummy. Next time I'll stick to one bunch of kale or spinach, and double the mozzarella.

Assembling the Pizza
Here are the steps I've found work best...

  1. Preheat your oven to 500 degrees F. I tried using a pizza stone which is essential for thin crust pizzas but really N/A for stuffed. So feel free to leave out your pizza stone.
  2. Take a rolled out piece of dough and drape over your oiled deep dish pizza pan. With oiled fingers, carefully press the crust into the side of the pan.
  3. Pre-bake the crust in the oven for 10 minutes
  4. Add toppings - they should be just above the rim of the pan, with the mound slightly higher in the center
  5. Take a rolled out piece of dough and gently drape it over the top. Gently press down on top of the toppings. With your fingers or a knife remove the excess dough and press the edges into the outer crust. If you do too good a job at sealing the crust you may want to add a few air vents. You will want this layer of crust to be slightly concave to prevent the sauce you will add later from spilling over the edges.
  6. Reduce heat in the oven down to 400 degrees F. Bake the pizza for another 20 minutes
  7. Pour/spread sauce over the top layer of crust
  8. Bake for another 10-15 minutes
  9. Remove the pizza from the oven and let it cool say 5-10 minutes
  10. With a spatula, carefully slide the pizza out of the deep dish pan onto a big cutting board.
  11. Cut with a chef's knife and enjoy!
Photos of the Kale & Sausage stuffed pizza - used Muir Glen pizza sauce and the Bob's Red Mill pizza crust mix. The verdict from the hubby: good crust consistency, needs lots more cheese and still a long way from the holy grail... but still good!

We are off to Chicago soon and after much googling have found one restaurant who claims to have gluten free stuffed pizza -Chicago's Pizza - so watch this space for a review!


  1. Oh this looks so good! Maybe we need another gluten-free pizza potluck! I really want to try your stuffed pizza. I just tried a new pizza recipe from Karina the Gluten-free Goddess. Flavor was excellent but the texture was too bready for me, personally. Guess next time I'll go back to Carol Fenster's recipe. :)



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