When it’s chilly, nothing warms you up like chili. Except maybe spicy food. Why not both? Hot Italian chili features hot Italian sausage to spice things up, a mix of beans to deliver some daily fiber and extra protein, tomatoes to deliver vitamin C along with a few other nutritional goodies and spices to dial up deliciousness.
Don’t like it so hot? Totally cool to use mild sausage. If I can’t find hot I buy mild and add red pepper flakes. And if I’m serving guests who don’t like hot food, I put the pepper flakes on the side for my heat-loving guests and a container with some kind of ghost pepper in it for my can’t-get-enough-heat husband.Jump to Recipe
Some Like it Hot
This past weekend we had guests who invited me to “bring the heat” in every meal. It was a glorious weekend of spicy dishes like chocolate enchiladas, Thai curry, even a new lentil recipe trial. This chili kicked off the weekend, and it was so easy to keep warm as travelers wove their way here, served with only a side of Italian bread and dipping oil and a few brews for the willing. That’s the thing about chilis …. their flexibilty, flavor and transportability make them practical magic: meals hold until guests arrive, keep through a day of game-watching, and haul easily to a potluck.
While dating, my dear heat-loving Paul and I often made meals together. Less frequently, one of us would prepare and serve a meal. One dreary winter day he served some chili that left me breathless and choking on the first bite. For a few scary moments, I was not sure I was going to get my breath back! That chili became infamous as “death grip” chili and set a heat boundary for our food. Comfort, of a sort, became king.
Comfort & Convenience
And if comfort was king, convenience was his queen. If you follow my blog, you know I like to buy things in bulk. It makes money go further, which is great, but also … I’m more likely to have something on hand when the spirit moves me to cook something. Sooo convenient! And that’s really just a nice way to say I buy in bulk because I’m a lazy shopper.
I commonly buy Italian sausage in bulk and freeze a portion. I once found myself with an expiring package I had meant to use in a huge batch of Italian red sauce I had not only neglected to make when planned but also had no time to make before the meat went bad. Black beans were also on hand (because, bulk shopping). It was chili season, fall temperatures were dipping and I hadn’t made a new kind of chili in a while…. Hot Italian Chili was born.
About Hot Italian Chili
Variations on this recipe are possible. Use different colors of corn or peppers. Try different mixes of beans. If you don’t eat pork, try substituting chicken sausage, turkey sausage, or even some game meat, like venison. Vegetarian? Use a plant-based Italian sausage (which I’ve tried and it’s passable). If you go with a plant-based protein, I’d recommend adding a little olive oil for fat content. Whatever protein substitute you choose, a little ground fennel or even a few whole or crushed seeds will add a little more Italian sausage flavor to the mix. To lower sodium content, eliminate salt and use low sodium versions of the ingredients.
“Most people don’t realize this, but every taste is related to a memory or an emotion. Flavors are part of a person’s past, and are the translation of emotion into another language.”― Saygın Ersin
Hot Italian Chili
- Slow Cooker
- 1 to 1 ½ lb Hot Italian sausage or use a meat substitute, may substitute mild sausage as well
- 1 C (8 oz.) cooked black beans drained
- 1 C (8 oz.) cooked pinto beans drained
- 1 C (8 oz.) cooked cannelloni beans drained
- 1 C white corn kernels drained (yellow also ok, or a mix of the two)
- 3 medium garlic cloves minced
- 1 small white or yellow onion chopped (about 1/2 C)
- ¼ C red bell pepper chopped
- ¼ C orange bell pepper chopped
- 1 tsp Italian seasoning
- 1 tsp coarse ground salt
- 1 tsp ground pepper
- 2 TBSP chili powder
- 1 TBSP paprika
- 1 TBSP sweet basil dried or chopped
- 1 TBSP red pepper flakes adjust to taste
- 1 TBSP brown sugar dark or light
- 16 oz tomato sauce
- 16 oz diced tomato fresh or canned
- 8 oz tomato paste
- 8 oz water
- Shredded mozzarella or Parmesan cheese
- Cook sausage in pan on medium heat, drain, and place in large crockpot.
- Add all other ingredients except cheese to slow cooker and stir.
- Best cooked on low setting but will tolerate faster cooking on high. Can also be cooked on stovetop: heat on medium then reduce to a low simmer, stirring occasionally.