Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A Suburghian Girl Recipe: Italian Chili

Fall is just around the corner.  College football season is already upon on us.  And here is a fresh new twist on a cooler weather, game day favorite- an Italian Chili.  The addition of basil, oregano, orzo, and red wine gives this chili it's Italian flare.

This is actually a crock pot recipe (perfect for your game day get-together!), but can easily be adapted to the stove if you don't have the time for the slow cooking or if you don't have a crock pot in your kitchen. But I think every well-equipped kitchen should have a crock pot. ;)

First start by browning 1 lb of ground beef in a large frying pan with 1 tbs of olive oil.  Once browned, drain the beef of any fat and place into the crock pot.  In the same frying pan, heat 1 tbs of olive oil.  Add 1 medium onion, chopped and 1 medium green pepper, chopped to the pan.  Saute for 2-3 minutes until slightly soft.  Add 4 cloves of garlic, minced to the pan.  Saute for another 1-2 minutes.  Place the sauteed veggies in the crock pot with the ground beef.  Pour one 29 oz can of tomato sauce and one 29 oz can of crushed tomatoes (diced tomatoes will also work) into the crock pot.  Using one of the empty cans, pour 1 can full of beef broth and 1 can full of water into the crock pot.  You could use 2 can fulls of water, but your chili will be much richer with the addition of beef broth.  Drain and rinse a 15 oz can of cannellini beans in a small colander.  Add the beans to the crock pot.  Sprinkle in 2 tsp of dried oregano.  Add salt and cracked pepper.  Add in 3/4 cups of red wine.  You could also use 1/2 cup of balsamic vinegar in place of the wine.  I actually used a little of both in mine. ;)  At this point, you could sneak in some extra veggies by adding some fresh or frozen spinach leaves to the chili.  Mix all the ingredients together in the crock pot and turn it to the low setting.  Let it cook in the crock pot on low for at least 6 hours. 

When you are about 30 minutes from serving your chili, turn the heat setting up to high.  Add 1 1/2 cups water to the simmering chili.  Now pour in about 8 oz of orzo or any other small pasta.  Chop up about 8 fresh basil leaves and add to the crock pot during the last 5 minutes of cooking.  Before serving, taste your chili!  Add more salt or pepper to taste.  If the chili seems to be missing a little something, add a few tbsp of sugar.  Just a touch of sweetness can bring out the robust flavors. 

Serve with grated Parmesan cheese and a crusty Italian bread.  Touchdown!

P.S. If you happen to have a lot of leftovers with this chili (like I did), this dish freezes well.  Just pour into freezer safe containers and freeze up to 2 months.

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