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Make-Your-Own (Healthier) Deep-Dish Pizza

Enjoy a feel-good pizza night in less than 20 minutes with an at-home version of this featured favorite from the LifeCafe menu at Life Time River North at One Chicago.
Healthier Deep-Dish Pizza

Many people think of pizza as a “cheat day” meal — and it gets that reputation due to the processed ingredients used in many premade pizzas. You can avoid this, however, by crafting your own tasty version using quality ingredients that offer nutritional value. And it doesn’t have to be reserved for “off plan” days.

A healthier play on a deep-dish pizza is one of the menu items we specially crafted for our Life Time River North at One Chicago destination. Our goal was to honor some of Chicago’s signature foods, add our own flair and technique, and use premium ingredients from local vendors. For example, the pizza features focaccia bread from Chicago-based Michelin-starred pastry chef Aya Fukai as its crust.

While a traditional deep-dish pizza is layered in the order of cheese, ingredients, sauce, we use a homemade spicy marinara sauce as the base, top with cheese, and cook under the broiler, which gives the cheese a nice caramelization and crisps and toasts the edges of the crust.

We like to call this “speed-dish pizza” because it’s so quick and easy. It’s also versatile — enjoy the recipe as it’s presented here or customize by adding any of your favorite pizza toppings.

  • Makes 6 to 12 servings
  • Prep Time 10 minutes
  • Cook Time 3 to 5 minutes


  • 2 tbs. olive oil
  • 2 tbs. fresh garlic, chopped
  • 1 tsp. to 1 tbs. crushed red pepper flakes, depending on spice preference
  • 1 tsp. Italian seasoning (or 1/2 tsp. each oregano and basil) or fresh basil and oregano
  • 28 oz. canned tomatoes (choose a high-quality option, such as Bianco Dinapoli)
  • Mushrooms, onions, or peppers (optional)
  • 2 cups baby spinach, loosely packed
  • 1/2 sheet tray of focaccia bread, cut down the middle lengthwise
  • Fresh burrata or mozzarella, amount based on preference
  • Basil chiffonade (optional)
  • Fresh-cracked black pepper (optional)


Make your sauce: Add the olive oil, garlic, and crushed red pepper flakes to a sauté pan over medium-low heat. If you’re using dried herbs, add them at this time. Add the canned tomatoes. If you’re using the optional veggies, add them now. Simmer for five to 10 minutes; be careful not to cook for too long as you don’t want to evaporate too much of the liquid. Add the spinach to wilt near the very end of your cook time. If you’re using fresh herbs, add them near the end as well.
Turn on the broiler. Place the focaccia on a baking sheet. Evenly spread the sauce on top of each half of the focaccia. Add the burrata or mozzarella to cover the focaccia or to preference.
Place the pizza under the broiler, ideally on the middle rack. Cook for three to five minutes.
Finish with basil chiffonade or fresh-cracked black pepper, if desired.

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Chef Ryan Dodge

Ryan Dodge is a Twin Cities–based chef.

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