Rach's Italian chili with red beans is delicious as is, but you can also use it as a hearty sauce, tossed with pasta. For vegetarians, swap out the ground beef for a plant-based meat substitute and the 'nduja for Calabrian chili paste.
She likes to use Borlotti beans (aka cranberry beans) in this recipe—a white- and red-colored bean related to kidney and pinto beans that's frequently used in soups and stews in Italian cooking. You can find dried Borlotti beans online (here's an option we found on Amazon) or at some big box stores (here's an option from Walmart)—or just substitute a can of red kidney beans from your pantry.
Try pairing this with John's Italian-inspired "Pari"rita (Campari Margarita) from this episode, and click here for more cozy chili recipes.
- ½ pound dried borlotti beans (aka cranberry beans), soaked overnight, OR for fast chili, just use a can of red kidney beans
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO)
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 1 fresh bay leaf
- Salt and pepper
- 1 jalapeño or red finger chili pepper, chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, chopped
- 3 ounces 'nduja
- 1½ pounds ground beef
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin (⅓ palmful)
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano (⅓ palmful)
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika (⅓ palmful)
- 1 teaspoon chili powder, ancho or Aleppo or a blend
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire
- 2 roasted red peppers, chopped
- One 28-ounce can crushed or diced fire-roasted tomatoes
- 1½ cups passata or one 14-ounce can tomato sauce
- 1 cup beef stock
- Shredded pecorino with red pepper flakes or shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano, to serve
- Chopped flat-leaf parsley, to serve
If using dry, soaked beans, cook the beans in a heavy-bottom pot or Dutch oven with onion and bay in salted water for about an hour to an hour and a half, depending on the size of your beans, until tender.
Heat a pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat with EVOO, 2 turns of the pan, add onions and season and soften a few minutes, then add chili pepper and garlic, stir and sweat another minute or 2. Make a well in the middle of the vegetables and melt in the 'nduja.
Add beef and spices and stir and smash to lightly brown and crumble the meat, add Worcestershire, roasted peppers, tomatoes, passata or tomato sauce, and stock. Let simmer for 10 minutes before adding beans and then simmer with beans until ready to serve. For thicker chili, puree half the beans before adding to pot. Serve and top with cheese of choice and parsley to serve.