Chili in Italy

Figuring out what to make for a party can be difficult. For almost every gathering I have in my home, there is a theme. The theme my husband and I decide upon dictates the type of food I make. It helps me focus in the kitchen and keeps me from wanting to make every single dish that comes to mind.

After returning from our favorite winery a few years back, I treated our friends to great food and one of the six cases of wine we purchased earlier that day, which quickly became a tradition. Before taking that trip, I thought about what it was I would serve to everyone. I knew I would not want to be stuck in the kitchen putting a complicated meal together while my husband and friends were all in the other room. And so, I decided on a dish that is always best when made a day in advance. Chili.

There were three kinds of chili I served that night. The recipe I share with you today is one I put together just recently after I took a look in my fridge and saw items I wanted to cook with before they became unusable.

Calling on flavors from two completely different regions, Chili in Italy is a product of my love for Italian and Mexican cuisine. Combining peppers and herbs commonly used in both foods gives birth to a dish that I imagine would be served to someone in the mood for something warm and spicy on the streets of Florence.

Despite the complexity of the flavors, this dish is extremely easy to make and can be multiplied for larger groups. It is a total make-ahead meal that will give you all the time you want to spend with those that you’ve gathered in your home.

Chili in Italy

(recipe serving size – 5 cups)

For the chili:

1/2 lb ground chuck beef (80/20)

1/2 lb ground pork

1 28 oz can whole peeled tomatoes

8 oz baby bella mushrooms, sliced

2 cloves garlic, finely minced

3/4 cup red bell pepper, diced

1/2 cup green bell pepper, diced

1/4 cup pickled jalapeño, diced

1 1/2 tb pepperonicini, chopped

1 tsp onion powder

1 tsp chili powder

1 tsp smoked paprika

1 tsp dried oregano

1 1/2 tsp kosher salt

1/2 tsp cracked black pepper

3 tb olive oil

2 tb butter

Over medium heat, sauté peppers in 1 tb of olive oil and 1 tb of butter for 5 minutes in a large pot. Remove the peppers from the pot. Add 1 tb of butter and 1 tb of olive oil. Add the mushrooms and cracked black pepper and sauté for 8 minutes, allowing the mushrooms to sit undisturbed for 3-4 minutes before turning them so the vegetable can gain some color.

Remove the mushrooms and raise the heat to medium-high. Return the peppers to the pan. Add the beef and pork. Season with the onion powder, chili powder, smoked paprika, oregano and 1 tsp of kosher salt. Brown for 3-4 minutes, just shy of the meat being cooked all the way through. Be sure to break up the meat while it browns with a wooden spoon.

Add the whole peeled tomatoes and break them up with a wooden spoon, leaving large chunks in the sauce. Add the garlic, 1/2 tsp of kosher salt and 1 tb of olive oil. Return the mushrooms to pot and simmer with the lid on for 20 minutes.

Bringing it all together:

1/3 cup mascarpone cheese

1/4 cup cilantro, chopped

2 tb pecorino romano cheese, grated

Ladle the chili into a small bowl. Dollop with mascarpone cheese. Sprinkle the romano cheese across the top and garnish with the chopped cilantro. Serve while hot.

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