Chicago Style Stuffed Pizza – “Popeye Special”

As many of you may be aware, yesterday kicked off the season of Lent. For Christians, this is a season of preparation and sacrifice before Easter.  And for Catholics, it means fasting and abstaining from meat on Fridays.  Now many people find this as a lovely excuse to get a Mc-nasty-square-fish-on-a-bun.  However, I am not in that number.  I despise seafood in any form (you can tell me how wonderful you think fish is until you’re blue in the face, but you won’t change my mind – much to my mother’s chagrin!)

Before I started my cooking adventure a typical 6 weeks of Lent would look like this on Fridays:

Week 1 – Cheese pizza
Week 2 – Mac & cheese
Week 3 – Cheese pizza
Week 4 – Mac & cheese
Week 5 – (stroke of brilliance) French toast
Week 6 – Peanut butter sandwiches

Sad, sad, boring meals.  Eventually I became aware that there were a whole slew of edible and delicious meatless options out there that didn’t involve fish.  So during this season of Lent, I am going to share a meatless recipe with you on Thursdays, just in case you need an idea for Friday.  You know, if you’re Catholic, or just cutting back on meat, or that vegetarian relative is coming to visit and you’re panicking, or something.  Be sure to check out the meatless tag off to the side!

Today’s recipe is delicious and can be easily adapted to include meat should you choose, but is not really in the spirit of fasting and sacrifice.  Baby steps, baby steps.

Whenever I go to Detroit, I always eat at a little Pizzeria called Pizza Papalis, and they make a mean Stuffed Chicago Style Pizza: rich, biscuity crust, an abundance of cheesy filling, and a chunky sauce to top it all off.  Sadly, I don’t make it to Detroit often enough to satisfy my pizza cravings, so I have researched, and researched, and researched some more (for months, people), and have come up with a combination of crust, fillings and sauce that come about as close to Pizza Papalis as I think I can without infiltrating the company and stealing their recipe.

Chicago Style Stuffed Pizza – “Popeye Special”

1 recipe of Chicago Style Pizza Dough (recipe follows)
1 recipe Italian Style Pizza Sauce (recipe follows)
3-4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
10 oz frozen spinach
8 oz mushrooms, sliced

Adapted from Annie’s Eats

3 ¼ cups all purpose flour
½ cup yellow corn meal
1 ½ tsp salt
2 tsp sugar
2 ¼ tsp instant yeast (1 packet), also called rapid rise or bread machine yeast
1 ¼ cups water, room temperature
3 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
2 tsp olive oil
4 tbsp unsalted butter, softened

Combine the flour, cornmeal, salt, sugar, and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook.  Mix on low speed until blended, about 1 minute.

Add the water and melted butter and continue missing on low speed until fully incorporated, 1-2 minutes.  Scrape sides as necessary.  Increase speed to medium low and knead until the dough is glossy and smooth and polls away from the sides of the bowl; 4-5 minutes.

Spray a separate bowl with cooking spray.  Transfer the dough to the bowl, turn to coat with oil.  Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until doubled, about 60 minutes.

After an hour, turn the dough out onto a dry work surface and roll into a 12x12 square (approximate).  Using an offset spatula, spread the softened butter over the dough, leaving a ½ inch border on each side.

Starting at a short end, begin rolling the dough into a tight cylinder.  Place the dough seam side down and roll the cylinder flat, into a long rectangle.  Fold the rectangle in thirds like a letter, pinching the ends to form a ball.  Return the dough to the greased bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap.  Place the bowl in the refrigerator for about 45 minutes, until the dough has doubled in size.

Makes: 2 lbs of dough or enough to make 1 stuffed or 2 9-inch deep dish pizzas

Cooked Italian Style Pizza Sauce

Note: I recommend starting the sauce while your dough in raising in the refrigerator.

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 (14.5 oz) cans diced tomatoes (undrained)
½ tsp salt
½ tsp sugar
Black pepper to taste

In a medium sauce pan, heat oil over medium-high heat and sauté garlic for about 1 minute.  Add the tomatoes (with their juice), salt, sugar, and black pepper (I used ½ - 1 tsp)

Bring the sauce to a simmer and cook uncovered on medium-low heat.  Simmer until all the juices have evaporated and sauce thickens, stirring occasionally.  After about 45 minutes, use a wooden spoon to break up the large tomato chunks.  Continue cooking for another 15 minutes if necessary.

Makes about 1 ½ cups of sauce

Assembly and Baking

Preheat oven to 500 degrees F.  Spray the sides and bottom of a 9-inch spring form pan with cooking spray.

Cook the spinach according to microwave instructions.  Place the cooked spinach into a colander lined with a paper towel to drain liquid.  When it is cool enough to handle, squeeze any additional liquid out of the spinach (otherwise you may get a soggy bottom crust).

Meanwhile, heat 2 tsp of olive oil in a small skillet.  Add mushrooms and sauté until mushrooms have released most of their liquid, around 7 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine mozzarella cheese and mushrooms.  Crumble the spinach into the bowl and stir with your fingers to blend.

Take 2/3 of the pizza dough (1 1/3 lb) and roll into a 15-inch circle.  Place the dough circle into the spring form pan and press up against the sides of the pan.  Pour the cheese mixture on top of the dough.

Take the remaining 1/3 of the dough (2/3 lb) and roll into a 10 inch circle.  Place on top of the filling and pinch the ends together.  Using a fork, poke several air holes on the top piece of dough.

Place the pizza in the preheated oven for 15 minutes.  Turn the oven to 400 degrees F and cook for 5 minutes.

Remove pizza from the oven and top with the pizza sauce.  Return to the oven and bake for another 10 minutes (the edges of the crust will be very brown).

Remove pizza from the oven and let rest for 10 minutes.  Remove the pizza from the spring form pan, and cut in 8 slices.  Serve hot.

Makes: 1 9-inch stuffed pizza, cut into 8 slices.



  1. Sounds great, Catholic here too so any new recipes are welcome. Keep up the good work

  2. Being born and raised in Chicago I can tell you...this pizza looks incredible!! Now that I live in Florida...we do have one authentic Chicago pizza place, but this seems a must to make!! Thanks for sharing!

  3. OH MY GOSH! YUM!! Now I just have to convince Greg how wonderful mushrooms are.

  4. Wow Amy you have really come a long way from the Mac and cheese and pbjs to this! It looks absolutely wonderful!

  5. This looks super tasty, I'm totally going to make it for my vegetarian friend!

  6. Oh, I am so excited about this series, and this pizza! I seem to have bad luck with pizza dough, though, so that is the only part I am worried about. Spinach, mushrooms, and cheese - delicious.

    Very much looking forward to your Meatless Thursdays. I never think I eat that much meat until Lent rolls around, and then I struggle to find interesting meatless dishes to make. This will definitely help!

  7. WOW, I just discovered this from the Secret Recipe Club and I am bookmarking it like nobody's business.

  8. This is wonderful- salivating just looking at it! I LOVE chicago style pizza but never heard of it stuffed. Will be trying this!

  9. I made this last night! That crust was amazing. I used Gia Russa sauce cause its delicious and easier. I didn't have spring form so i used cast iron skillets. Thank you for your recipe!

  10. Making this again, it is the closest to pizza papalis. Yum

  11. SO looking forward to trying this. I lived in Detroit for many years and have returned to KCMO where yes, I can get FAB U LOUS BBQ, but pizza, uh, so so, mostly chains. I was dying to have Pizza Papalis and am really lookng forward to trying this out, it LOOKS PERFECT! I personally am going to change the stuffing usually but if the crust is right, I am good with my pepperoni, jalepinos, and veggies on the inside with of course TONS of cheese and sauce! THANK YOU!

  12. Thank you, so much. My dad used to work in Detroit and bring us home PizzaPapalis as a treat dinner every so often. We now live over an hour away and it just isn't as doable to get down there {especially with a toddler in tow}. This is getting made on Saturday night for date night {sans toddler!}. What makes it even funnier is that this is the pizza I was looking at when I was just drooling, erm... browsing their menu.

  13. I was married to a Detroiter once, and through her I experienced Pizza Papalis. Having lived in New York City all my adult life, and having heard all the insults lobbed at deep-dish pizza, my love for this strain of comestible is hard-won. I've followed this excellent recipe, and while it can't make that well-intentioned marriage work, it's one hell of a pizza. Thanks for this, Amy!!


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