Several weeks ago I posted a recipe for Simple, Savory and Summery - Free-form Tarts with Fresh Corn and Tomatoes. I called them tarts, but they were very similar to little free-form pizzas. Ever since I have been thinking about trying puff pastry for a deep dish pizza crust. When I saw my favorite Italian sausage (Johnsonville) at the market today for a less than half price, it sealed the deal!
There are so many fun and interesting types of homemade pizza that it almost seems wrong to label them each as pizza. We love them all unashamedly; shatteringly thin-crusted, grilled pizzas, wood-fired gourmet style, classic Neapolitan, New York, California........ etc, etc.
It seems that every area of the country has it's own style but one of our all time favorites is the legendary deep dish Chicago style pizza. This midwest-originated pizza is called deep dish, not because of a really thick crust, but it is named for the abundance of toppings; you actually need a deep pan to hold them all! One of our favorite Chicago-style pizzas has an unusual crust (for pizza) that is flaky and pastry-like rather than doughy. Although I have made many different types of pizza over the years, this particular pastry-type crust has eluded me a bit. Every time I have tried to imitate this crust I have been disappointed; too thick, too doughy, too soggy....... and on and on. While I am aware that deep dish Chicago pizza is not made from puff pastry I decided to give it a whirl anyway and I am excited about the results, not the same as our favorite, but a really easy, great new on twist deep dish pizza. Give it a try, I think you will love it!
Super Simple Deep Dish Pizza
1 17 ½ ounce package puff pastry (2 sheets), thawed until workable but not warm, puff pastry looses it's "puff" if it gets too warm before going into the oven!
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
2 cloves garlic, minced
14 ounce can diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
½ teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
8 ounces bulk, mild Italian sausage, coarsely broken up and cooked, just until no longer pink, the cooled
8-10 ounces Mozzarella cheese, shredded
2 ounces Parmesan cheese, finely shredded
1. Pour 1 tablespoon of olive oil into a 10 inch cast iron skillet and spread to coat with a pastry brush. (You can use any type of heavy duty oven-safe pan but cast iron works the best.) Press one sheet of the puff pastry into one side of the cast iron pan, covering sides and bottom of pan, as much as possible. Cut the second piece into 2 inch strips and use these strips to cover the rest of the pan. Press any remaining pieces into pan to even out thickness of crust, as much as possible. Make sure to seal any seams by pressing down firmly with fingers. Cover pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to assemble.
2. Place a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add olive oil and heat for 30 seconds. Add garlic and removed from heat. Wait 30 seconds to let garlic soften a bit, then add diced tomatoes, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper. Return to heat and bring to a full simmer. Reduce heat and simmer for about 45-55 minutes or until almost all of the liquid is reduced. You want a thick, chunky sauce. Let sauce cool before adding to pizza, this is important - again, puff pastry will not do well if it gets warm before baking.
3. If you have a pizza stone place it on the lowest rack, otherwise place a sheet pan on the lowest rack, then preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
4. Combine Mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses. Remove ½ cup and set aside for topping pizza.
5.. Remove puff pastry lined pan from refigerator. Sprinkle bottom of crust with the cheese mixture, then the cooled sauce and lastly the sausage. Sprinkle with the reserved cheese.
6.. If you are using a pizza stone, place pizza on middle rack of oven for first 5 minutes, then place on top of stone (this is to ensure that you don't crack your stone by placing the cold pan on top of the extremely hot stone). If you are not using a pizza stone, go ahead and place your pizza on the sheet pan. Bake for approximately 15-20 minutes (checking frequently last couple minutes), or until crust is deep golden brown, puffed and cheese is melted. Let sit 10 minutes before serving. Sprinkle with a shower of finely sliced fresh basil, if desired.