Italian chili

Help my family with our dinner ideas. Every since Pregnancy III: The Waddling, I have been really grossed out by chipotle and large doses of cumin. Which is a damn shame, especially since my husband loves chili on rainy nights. And I love it because it’s cheap and easy to make on weeknights.

So I suggested, as a compromise, Italian chili. Here’s my idea:

No beans, Texas-style! Onions, garlic, tomatoes, meat, sausage, crushed red pepper, cooked with parmesan rind. At the end, drop some mozz balls and chopped basil. Maybe cream, if we’re feeling nutty.

My husband thinks this is weird and slightly repulsive, like eating a bowl of meat sauce. (He’s willing to try it, though.) But it’s really just chili, no?

Does this sound at all appealing to anyone? Or do I still have pregnant tastes here?

Rose Woodhouse

Elizabeth Picciuto was born and reared on Long Island, and, as was the custom for the time and place, got a PhD in philosophy. She freelances, mainly about disability, but once in a while about yeti. Mother to three children, one of whom is disabled, two of whom have brown eyes, three of whom are reasonable cute, you do not want to get her started talking about gardening.


  1. I grew up in New Mexico, so I have certain idea about cooking (and I find roughly 60% of anything listed as ‘Santa Fe style’ on restaurant menus to be a disgusting confabrication of incongruent ingredients– and this from a guy that sees nothing wrong with diced celery in scrambled eggs).
    At any rate…
    Tomatoes: I always go with the canned, because I like to eat more than I like to cook. Brown the stuff in a skillet with a teeny bit of oil first, until right as the very edges start to turn color. And I like the rotel with lime & cilantro.
    Crushed red pepper: I would go with chopped bell pepper. Gives you something to look at.
    And the secret ingredient to delicious chili: A decent shot or two of Yukon Jack (or other Canadian whiskey you might have on hand, but the Yukon Jack is smooth with good flavor). It shouldn’t be enough to taste it, and the alcohol will all boil away; but it has a blending effect, like the garlic, where it makes everything work better together.
    I learned to do Italian sausage the way my sister-in-law from NJ does it. Stab it several times with a fork, and boil it in water to get all the fat out of it. Then skin it, throw it in a skillet and cover it with chardonnay. Cook it down until the chardonnay is gone.

    And I agree with RussellS about chili without beans.
    My 2ยข.

    (if you want to talk enchiladas someday, get with me)

    • My husband is an Italian from NJ. Boiling it to get all the fat out is a conceptual impossibility.

      • Boiling it to get all the fat out is a conceptual impossibility.

        Are we talking about the husband or the sausage here?

          • I can tell you eat like a king.
            I’m thinking of trying that eggplant recipe myself.
            Love eggplant!

      • Here’s a simplified version, because it’s early and I have difficulty summoning enough discipline to observe an actual recipe format.
        Basically, with ‘Santa Fe style’ or Jalisco cooking (similar to Chinese cuisine), you have different colored vegetables, many of which are interchangeable. The biggest differences are that New Mexicans aren’t as observant about slicing the vegetables in all the same way, and the selection of vegetables is different.

        Filling: 2/3 ground turkey, 1/3 sausage (I usually use the pan sausage in the roll)
        Cook the water out of the turkey, and drain it. Then add the sausage, and let the spices from the sausage cook into the turkey.
        The traditional vegetables to add would be bell pepper and onion; but you can substitute chopped celery in just about any place you use bell pepper, and chopped yellow squash in just about any place you use onion.

        Sauce: This is the time saver. Get the chunkiest type of spaghetti sauce you can find (within reason). Add a few chopped fresh vegetables to it.
        Once you’ve got your pan of enchiladas wrapped up (and I use a toothpick to hold them together until I get the pan full), cover your enchiladas in layers, like you would lasagne– canned chili (about half a can, or your own), some spaghetti sauce, then shredded cheese. Then repeat this until you have two layers of cheese.
        I know it sounds odd, but the chili and the spaghetti sauce will cook together to make a thick, chunky sauce that doesn’t taste like either one.
        Pop it in the oven about 350, 375 or so, and cook it for a good 20 to 30 minutes. If you see any black forming on the edges of your cheese, it’s ready; a bit past done, actually.

        That’s the simplified form.

        I can’t stand enchilada sauce that looks like someone left some ketchup out in the sun too long.

    • No, I’m thinking chili consistency.

      Okay, I’m going to try it. And let all you who are dying to know how it turns out.

  2. Make some rice on the side, so that he can pour the chili over it/put the rice in the chili to give it some more heft? That might also solve the “soup” aspect. Or just make it worse. I’m not really sure.

    • I remember Alton Brown saying that’s the way they roll in Italy.

      • I dunno about that; I’ve always had pasta with my sauce in Italy. But Kazzy’s basic question is correct — if you want to eat a bowl of meat sauce, go ahead and eat it! The Italian Culinary Academy might object but they aren’t in your house so they can suck it.

        • You guys are right. I’m making red gravy for dinner, and that’s it!

    • At work, they make pretty bland pasta but very tasty sauce. I often just pour it over the mix roasted vegetables and it’s delicious. AND nutritious.

  3. Put it over pasta (I’m thinking mostaccioli, but feel free to improvise.)

    • To my intense and continual sadness — nay, grief — no pasta for me until baby weight is off.

      • I don’t know what I would do if I had to live without carbs. Good luck.

        • Miss Mary – it’s only half a life. All my favorite foods are carbs!

      • I think it just might be, particularly considering that this is a post of Rose’s, and it’s about chili, of all things.

        So I’m keeping it, though I did see fit to modify things just a wee bit.

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