My entry for this month’s Monthly Challenge is a crustless deep-dish pizza. The idea for this type of pizza came to me when I was researching deep-dish pizzas sold by Malnati’s, the famous purveyor of deep-dish pizzas in the Chicago area. Their crustless deep-dish pizza is based on using sausage to prepare a shell, or “patty”, that is fit into a deep-dish pan, followed by slices of low-moisture, part-skim mozzarella cheese, a fresh-pack tomato based pizza sauce, toppings, and a grated cheese/oregano blend. I decided to make a basic cheese pizza although, as noted below, I found that I was able to add multiple toppings on top of slices that were reheated in my toaster oven. To the best of my knowledge, the mail order crustless pizza is a plain 9” cheese pizza.
From what I have read, the Malnati’s crustless deep-dish pizza has been certified (if that is the correct term) as being gluten-free. In my research, I also found a few bloggers who said that the Malnati’s crustless pizza was, in fact, gluten-free (some said carb-free also). I believe that Malnati’s menu in their stores also make reference to that pizza as being gluten-free. When I looked for a photo of the pizza at the Malnati’s website, I could not find one. However, I was able to find several photos posted on the Internet, of which the photos at http://www.yelp.com/biz_photos/8vFJH_paXsMocmEO_KAa3w?select=0EUEoOGbGy6B6FXmc9JFSQ
are representative. As can be seen, the toppings for the crustless pizza are placed on top of the sauce rather than under as Malnati’s does with its other deep-dish pizzas. I would imagine that pepperoni slices might be placed under the sauce, but I was not able to confirm this.
To make my crustless pizza, I pressed bulk Italian sausage into a 9” x 2” straight-sided aluminum cake pan that I had lightly oiled on the bottom with a bit of olive oil. I pressed the sausage up the sides of the pan by about 1 ½”. In purchasing the bulk sausage, I asked the butcher what was in it. He brought me the box in which the supermarket receives the sausage, and I saw that it did not contain any flour or any other filler or ingredient that might be out of bounds for those who want a gluten-free product. The supplier of the sausage is Syracuse Sausage Company, a Texas-based meat products company. After I fitted the sausage “patty” into the pan, I added slices of low-moisture, part-skim mozzarella cheese (a store brand) on top of the sausage patty. I did not have any fresh-pack tomatoes from which to make a pizza sauce like that used by Malnati’s, so I used Redpack whole peeled tomatoes in thick puree. To form the sauce, I crushed the tomatoes by hand and drained the contents of the can in a sieve until I got a texture and consistency such as I observed in a Mark Malnati YouTube video at
. To simulate the sweetness of the fresh-pack tomatoes (from San Benito’s) that Malnati’s uses, I added a couple of teaspoons of honey to the drained tomatoes. I thought the sauce was very nice tasting.
In terms of quantities, I used 10.3 ounces of sausage, 7.15 ounces of mozzarella cheese slices, and 10.25 ounces of sauce. Before baking the pizza, I sprinkled grated Parmesan and Romano cheeses over the pizza, along with some dried oregano. The unbaked pizza weighed 27.55 ounces.
I baked the pizza in a way as to simulate how I imagined Malnati’s bakes its crustless pizzas, specifically, in a deck oven (quite likely dedicated to crustless pizzas). In my case, I baked my version of the crustless pizza on a pizza stone that I had placed at the middle oven rack position of my electric oven and preheated for about an hour at 475 degrees F. The pizza baked for about 25 minutes. When I removed the pizza from the oven, I saw that the pizza had shrunk away from the sides of the pan as the sausage baked. When I attempted to remove the pizza from the pan, I experienced a slight problem with the bottom of the pizza sticking to the pan. I attributed this to the fact that I was using a pan that I have been gradually seasoning but apparently was not yet fully seasoned. Fortunately, I was able to use a small spatula to dislodge and remove the pizza, although it would have been possible to cut the pizza into slices right in the pan. However, next time, I would use a dark, anodized deep-dish pan with smooth surfaces.
The finished pizza weighed 22.6 ounces. That represented a loss of weight during baking of 4.95 ounces, or about 17.3%. That was more than what I would have expected. For comparison purposes, the Malnati’s Nutrition Facts for its 9” mail-order crustless pizza indicates that the pizza weighs around 19 ounces. I have never seen a real-life Malnati’s mail-order crustless pizza, so I have no way of knowing whether my version was, in fact, too heavy.
The photos below show the finished pizza. I thought it turned out quite well. However, it was different than a typical crusted deep-dish pizza for which I have developed a fond attachment. Yet the flavors were very good. I later decided that I would use various toppings on leftover slices to be reheated in my toaster oven. The last photo shows a slice that I reheated with sautéed diced green pepper, sliced mushrooms, onions (caramelized) and pepperoni slices.