I was not a huge fan of chili as a kid because tomato sauce is my least favorite way to consume tomatoes. I much preferred my mom's black bean stew which incorporated the same general tastes and textures, just without the tomato sauce. However, about five years ago my parents' neighbor, Therese, stopped by with a pot of chili for us and it converted me into a chili lover.
Therese's version tweaks the chili recipe from Comet Cafe in Milwaukee which can be found here. There are slight changes to the spice quantities but the big change is adding in any other vegetables that you have on hand. The extra veggies and spices added to the mix help dilute the tomato sauce base to a reasonable percentage of the overall dish. One of the other things you will notice is that this chili is not accompanied by cornbread because it is served over pasta. Maybe I just led a sheltered life, but chili over pasta was a novel idea for me.
This recipe is great for a large group because it is pretty much the lowest common denominator for every diet and individual people can choose their own garnishes depending on their food requirements. You can skip the pasta if you're gluten-free, leave off the sausage and cheese if you're vegan, or make any other variation with the garnishes that you want.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 jalapeno pepper, diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 red onion, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 cans (15 oz each) tomato sauce
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons paprika
1/3 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 cans (15 oz each) beans, drained and rinsed (kidney or black beans or a mixture of the two)
Salt and pepper to taste
Any other vegetables that you have on hand, such as broccoli, zucchini, carrots or shredded spinach
3 tablespoons freshly chopped cilantro
Cooked elbow macaroni or bowtie pasta
Grated cheddar cheese
Chopped white onions
Sliced andouille sausage
In large stockpot, heat oil. When hot, add jalapenos, garlic, onion, bell peppers, oregano, and any other vegetables you want and saute until soft. Add tomato sauce, cumin, paprika and cayenne pepper and stir together. Add beans, bring to a simmer and cook over medium to low heat for about 20 minutes. Just before serving, add fresh cilantro and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve over pasta and garnish as desired.
Note: For a chili that is more veggie and less sauce, add in several extra cups of chopped veggies and/or an extra can of beans.