I grew up in Minnesota so I have some strong feelings about Chicago... most of them negative. I was raised to have a strong distaste of the Blackhawks, Bears, Bulls, and White Sox. But eventually, something from Chicago found its way into my heart — Chicago-style stuffed pizza! When we lived in San Diego, there was an amazing place that made great stuffed pizza, but after going vegan I feared I'd never have it again... until today! (Actually, I also had it when I was in the Bay Area recently and now twice in the last week, four times if you count leftovers.)
I don't want to get controversial here, but I know there's a lot of debate online as to whether a Chicago-style stuffed pizza is actually a pizza rather than just some bread/lasagna hybrid, so let me just say this: of course it's pizza – I mean, it's right there in its name!
The best part of this dish is how surprisingly simple it is to make while still being a guaranteed crowd pleaser that looks like you slaved away in the kitchen all day. I initially added the vegan cream cheese as an afterthought, but it turned out to really take it to another level. Most grocery stores have pre-made pizza crusts that work perfectly for this. I like to let the crusts sit in the fridge for at least two days before using. You'll get a stronger, yeastier flavor in the crust that way, and it really punches the dish up.
Start by slicing up the onion and getting it caramelizing in a pan with a little bit of olive oil and salt. Once the onions start browning a bit, chop up the garlic, slice the mushrooms, and shred the sausages and add all them to the pan with the onions. After cooking for a bit, chop up the kale and olives and toss it in with the rest of the filling. Turn off the heat and just let the kale wilt from the residual heat in the pan.
With the stuffing complete, get started forming the crusts. Divide the crust in two parts, with 2/3 of it for the bottom and 1/3 for the top. Roll out the bottom crust so it's bigger than your spring form pan. Grease up your pan and toss the crust in, pinching it at the top to help it stay up. Dump the toppings into the crust and spread them evenly around the pan. Mix the cheeses together and spread that on top of the toppings. Roll out the top crust so it's the same size as your pan and place on top. Seal up the crust, dump on your tomato sauce, and toss it into the oven to bake.
As it bakes you'll be transported to an aromatic and beautiful new world... one where pizzas are inches thick and the sauce is on the outside. And, of course, one where they're made without animals. There are a lot of variations on this theme that you can go with. Use shaved seitan and peppers and onions with some Giardiniera to give it an Italian "beef" twist. Or maybe do whole cloves of garlic, artichoke hearts, and spinach with some chickn. The trick is to make sure the vegetables you're using don't release too much liquid (slice them thin and make sure to bake/sauté them to get rid of a lot of excess water).
For one 9-inch pizza (a spring form pan works best, but a cake pan will do the job too):
- 1 16-18oz prepared pizza crust
- 2 medium onions
- 3 cloves of garlic
- 8 ounces of mushrooms
- 2 Tofurky Italian sausages
- 4 or 5 kale leaves
- 15-20 kalamata olives
- 1 cup of Daiya shredded mozzarella cheese
- 3 tbsps vegan cream cheese
- 1/2-1 cup of spicy marinara sauce
Preheat oven to 425F. Peal and slice your onions and place in a sauté pan with 1 tbsp olive oil over medium heat. Add a touch of salt. Every 5 minutes, stir the onions. Cook until translucent and when they start to brown, add chopped garlic, sliced mushrooms, and sausage. Continue cooking another 5-10 minutes, letting the mushrooms release a bunch of liquid. When most of the liquid has evaporated, toss in the copped kale and olives and remove from heat.
With the kale wilting, split the pizza crust, using 2/3 of it for the bottom layer and 1/3 for the top. Roll out, stretch, and prepare the dough so it's a few inches bigger round than spring form pan. Place the stretched dough into the pan, pinching it around the rim so it forms a bowl. Dump in the stuffing and press it evenly in the pan. In a small bowl, mix together the mozzarella and cream cheese and then spread the mixture over the top of the stuffing.
Roll out the top crust so it's the same size as your pan. Put it on top of the cheese and fold over the excess from the bottom crust. Pinch together the top and bottom crusts and tuck into the rim of the pan. Poke a few holes in the top crust and then spread the marinara on top of the pizza.
Place the pizza into the oven and let it cook for 25-30 minutes. When it's done, take out of the oven and let it cool for at least 5 minutes before removing the rim. Cool for another 5 minutes and then slice and serve.
I guess Chicago isn't so bad after all. (Just don't tell my family back home I said that.) Enjoy!