Thursday, April 26, 2007

Chili Spaghetti (aka Cincinnati Chili)

I think it was about 1973. At the time I was living in Oklahoma City with my then husband, and our daughter, Dana, who was about 5 years old. A neighbor invited my daughter and me for dinner. She said "oh, it's just chili spaghetti, the kids will love it." Now I must tell you, this IS a casserole (uh oh, is that an ugly word in blogdom?). But, when you consider the ingredients - chili with beans - buttered spaghetti - and a very unhealthy mound of shredded jack and cheddar cheese - it becomes comfort food to the sublime. How can this stuff be so darned good, I ask you? It was only years later - years and years and years - that I found a mention of Cincinnati Chili and reckoned this was a similar piece of work. The Cincinnati version is not baked, but it's a do-it-yourself plate with many similar ingredients (and a couple of toppings like crumbled crackers and green onions).

Chili Spaghetti is simple. It's tasty. It can be frozen. It's kid friendly. It reheats well in the microwave. It can be made in lickety-split time if you need to, as long as you've got all the ingredients at the ready.

I made this recently and wondered why I hadn't prepared it in so long. It's not gourmet in the least. But it sure tastes good on a cold winter's night. Below is the original recipe. You could substitute ground turkey with very little taste alteration, and you can definitely reduce the amount of cheese. I've even made it with less pasta, to try to bring down the carb count. Serve with a green salad, using a simple oil and vinegar dressing. You can serve garlic bread with it, but you hardly need it.

Chili Spaghetti (Cincinnati Chili)

Servings: 10 Preparation Time :1:30
Chili: 1 pound lean ground beef
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 whole yellow onion -- chopped
2 cloves garlic -- peeled, minced (2 to 3)
1 whole shallot -- peeled, minced (optional)
16 ounces chopped tomatoes -- with juice
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
Salt and pepper to taste

16 ounces black beans -- with juice
8 ounces tomato sauce -- preferably low sodium
water - as needed
1 pound linguine -- cooked al dente
2 tablespoons butter -- optional
6 ounces Monterey jack cheese -- shredded
6 ounces cheddar cheese -- shredded

1. Heat a large skillet with olive oil, then crumble in the ground beef. While it is cooking, mince up the onion, shallot and garlic separately. Once the beef has lost all its pink color, add the onion and shallot, stir in and continue cooking for about 5 minutes, until the onions are limp. Add the garlic and cook for another 1 minute or so. Add the chili powder and cumin, the tomatoes and tomato sauce. Stir gently with a spoon, then bring to a boil, cover and simmer for about 30 minutes. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper as needed. If the chili is too thick, add water to make it a soupy consistency (the pasta absorbs much of the liquid when it's baked).

2. Preheat the oven to 350°. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add about a teaspoon of salt, then boil the pasta of your choice (I just happen to like the thin linguine, but any pasta will do) until it's just undercooked, al dente. Drain (but do not rinse). Return pasta to the pot and add the butter (if you want to add it), stir until melted. Have the piles of cheese nearby. Prepare a 9 x 13 pan with cooking spray. To the pan add half of the buttered pasta first, then scoop half the hot chili over it, spread to cover the pasta more evenly, then sprinkle liberally with the cheeses, then more pasta, more chili, and top with the remainder of the cheese. Bake for about 25-30 minutes until the cheese is bubbling hot.


Freya and Paul said...

I really enjoy bloggers making simple practical food and writing about it. This is the kind of thing we all like to eat while pretending we're above it. I know I'm excited to try it. There's nothing at all wrong with the humble casserole, especially when you put some zing in it.
Keep up the good work!

Dana said...

I remember eating this as a child and loving it. I told my daughter, my toughest critic, I was making a cassarole for dinner and she panicked, "What kind of cassarole?" she asked. I told her it was one of grandma's recipies. Her response was "Oh good! I love grandma's recipies!" My daughter is a pasta freak and my son loves chili. So I thought it might work out. We had it for dinner last night and my daughter loved it. She even took some to school for lunch today. Unfortunately my son was not home for dinner last night. My husband loved it to. It was just as good as I remembered it. Thanks mom!!