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Forget going out: Make Chicago-style pizza at home

Tami Weiser

Chicago deep-dish pizza is a uniquely American dish that is challenging to replicate at home. This is not an imitator recipe; it is a modern interpretation with a serious homage to the past and a crust that is worth every minute of your time.

This crust is inspired by the buttery, light crusts of Chicago deep-dish pies, with enough real butter to make Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria proud. I used semolina, not cornmeal — its use is likely a Chicago pizza myth in terms of baking technique and history. Semolina flour gives this dough a fat pinch of heft, while the brioche technique keeps it light and buttery.

The filling? Oh-so-Napoli with sweet, fennel-infused sausage and onions. The cheese? A trifecta of melty, crumbly, smoky and salty cheeses will satisfy the most cheese-savvy of cheese lovers. (Bonus: All are from the Naples region.)

The sauce? A little sweet, a little hot, a little chunky, and light — done up in Chicago Italian-American style, but with a distinctly modern twist: fire-roasted tomatoes and a healthy serving of fresh herbs that add depth and liveliness.

If you have very ripe tomatoes, peel, seed, chop and definitely use those. You can let the dough rise for two hours, but the flavor and texture will be even better if you let it rise overnight in the fridge.

Chicago-Style Deep-Dish Sausage and Mushroom Skillet Pizza

For the crust

1 3/4 cups warm water (between 85 and 100 degrees), divided

2 teaspoons granulated sugar, divided

1 tablespoon instant yeast or active dry yeast

3 1/2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour

3/4 cup semolina flour

2 1/2 teaspoons salt

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 stick (1/2 cup) cultured (European) unsalted butter, at room temperature

2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil

For the sausage

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 medium sweet onion, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces

1 pound sweet Italian fennel sausage, removed from the casing

1 pound cremini mushrooms, cleaned and sliced into 1/8-inch pieces (about 5 cups)

For the sweet and spicy tomato sauce

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium sweet onion, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces

3 cloves fresh garlic, peeled and grated, any green centers discarded

Leaves of 1 small bunch fresh basil, finely minced

4 sprigs fresh oregano, stems and leaves

4 sprigs fresh thyme, stems and leaves

Leaves of 1 stem fresh rosemary, minced

2 teaspoons granulated sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 (28-ounce) can chopped, fire-roasted tomatoes

2 pounds fresh smoked or traditional fresh mozzarella (or a mixture)

1/2 cup grated or shredded ricotta salata

1/2 cup grated or shredded Romano cheese

Make the dough: In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine 1/2 cup of the warm water, 1/2 teaspoon of the sugar, and the yeast and stir to just combine. Let stand for 3 to 5 minutes, until it bubbles and foams.

Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl, combine the flour, semolina, salt and remaining sugar and whisk to combine.

Pour the remaining water into the mixer and mix at low speed to combine.Add the flour mixture and olive oil and mix for 2 minutes, or just until the dough comes together as a uniform mixture.

Add the butter to the dough, about 1 tablespoon at a time, mixing for about 20 to 30 seconds after each addition for a total of 2 to 3 minutes, or until the butter is incorporated; scrape down the sides and bottom of the mixer bowl and the dough hook before the last addition. You will have a soft, tacky, not-sticky, loose dough.

Transfer to a large mixing bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel and refrigerate overnight.

When you are ready to assemble the pizza, preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Flatten the dough with water-moistened fingertips, and gently stretch to about 16 inches. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and allow it to rest for 10 minutes. Using a pastry brush, liberally spread the canola or vegetable oil around the bottom and sides of a 12- to 14-inch cast-iron skillet. Fit the dough into the skillet, tucking it in and pressing it up the edges of the pan to the very top. It should be about 1/2- to 3/4-inch thick.

Make the sausage and mushroom topping: Heat the oil and butter in a saucepan set over medium-high until the butter foams and is fully melted.

Add the onions and stir well. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 4 to 5 minutes, until the onions are translucent with browned edges.

Add the sausage and cook, stirring with a sturdy, heat-resistant spatula to break it up. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, add the mushrooms, and stir well. Reduce the heat to medium and cook for 10 to 12 minutes, until the mushrooms have softened and released their liquid. Remove from the heat and set aside while you make the sauce.

Make the sauce: Heat the oil in a large saucepan set over medium-high until it shimmers. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, for 7 to 8 minutes, or until lightly browned.

Add the garlic, stir, and cook for 30 seconds. Turn off the heat. Add the basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary, sugar, salt, white pepper, hot pepper flakes and tomatoes. Stir and let stand while you put the pizza together.

Assemble the pizza: Slice the mozzarella into 1/8-inch slices, patting each slice well with a paper towel. Completely cover the bottom of the crust with the mozzarella, making more than one layer if necessary to use all the cheese.

Spoon the sausage and mushroom mixture evenly over the mozzarella and then scatter the ricotta salata and Romano cheeses evenly over the surface. Spoon the sauce over the cheese topping, spreading it evenly.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until heated through and the cheese is completely melted. (The dough should register at least 200 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, but be careful to insert it into the dough, not the filling, to get an accurate reading.)

Let the pizza cool for 10 minutes, cut it into wedges. Serves 12.

Per serving: 648 calories; 39 g fat (19 g saturated fat; 54 percent calories from fat); 46 g carbohydrates; 5 g sugar; 103 mg cholesterol; 1,403 mg sodium; 35 g protein; 3 g fiber.