Sunday, February 21, 2010

Skillet Cincinnati Chili with Spaghetti

I thought that I'd made my mind up about Cincinnati Chili a long time ago. When I was dating my husband, he used to talk about how much he loved Skyline Chili. I'd never heard of the stuff, let alone visited a Skyline Restaurant (sometimes called a chili parlor), though they can be found in Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, and now Florida. I personally took my first and only taste of Skyline Chili at King's Island, an amusement park North of Cincinnati. I remember thinking, "Huh. Okay. Now I tried it." Clearly I was unimpressed. I remember my husband, back then still my boyfriend, searching my face for a reaction. "It's awesome, right?" he asked. I tried to sound a little enthusiastic...for his sake, "Yeah, it's pretty good." After that I never looked back at Cincinnati Style Chili.

Then while reading through Cook's IllustratedCover & Bake (Best Recipe)Cookbook, I came across their Skillet Cincinnati Chili with Spaghetti Recipe. Here's how Cook's Illustrated described Cincinnati Chili, "Redolent of cinnamon and other warm spices, this chili is very different from it's more familiar Texas brethren. One taste reveals layers of spices you expect from Middle Eastern or North African cuisine, not food from the American heartland."(pg 223 Cover and Bake) Okay, they had my attention.

I must have been missing something that day at King's Island. Then again, it was years ago, maybe my taste buds have changed. Plus, according to Cook's Illustrated and a Google search or recipes, every Cincinnati Chili recipe is different. According to Cook's Illustrated, "some use spices sparingly, while others empty out the entire spice rack."

I decided that I needed to give Cincinnati Chili another chance. Still, I surprised myself by trying this recipe as I have a very strict "No pasta in my chili" rule. I wrote the following in my very first post about chili back in October of 2008: There are many schools of thought when it comes to chili. For some, the spicier the better. Some like it thick. Some love the beans. And there is a whole group of people that love their Chili Mac. I am not from this planet. To me, macaroni is the quickest way to ruin a bowl of chili. If I wanted goulash, I'd have made goulash. I want chili, darn it!

Well, never say never. I devoured the spaghetti cooked into this chili and I savored every last bite. Hey, I can admit when I'm wrong.

I did a little more research on Cincinnati Chili after I made a batch in my kitchen. I wanted to know about it's origin. Who made the first batch of this chili that Cincinnati is famous for? From all accounts that I read, Cincinnati chili seems to have originated with one or more immigrant restaurateurs from Greece who were trying to broaden their customer base by moving beyond ethnic cuisine. Boy am I glad that they did!

One final fact about Cincinnati Chili: It's as much about the garnishes or what the chili is served with as the chili itself. Think Steak and Shake Chili...Chili 3-way, Chili 5-way, Chili Mac, Chili Mac Supreme....

Here's a guide to "The Ways" of Cincinnati Chili:

two-way: spaghetti and chili
three-way: spaghetti, chili, and shredded cheese
four-way: spaghetti, chili, shredded cheese, and either diced onions or beans
five-way: spaghetti, chili, shredded cheese, diced onions, and beans
cheese coney: hot dog topped with chili, shredded cheese, diced onions, and mustard

My chili ended up as 4-way, spaghetti, chili, shredded cheese, and onions. It may not look like much from the picture at the top, but let me tell ya...It was out of this world! I can't wait to make it again. I only had one bowl and my husband took the rest to work to share. Now I'm craving it and it's all gone. I can't get this chili outta my head!

This chili is not difficult to make. It's a whole meal in one skillet. Just brown some lean ground beef in a skillet. Break it up really fine as it cooks. I added a little salt and pepper to mine too. Seems like the basis for most chili, right? Well here's where things start to change. Take that beef out of the skillet. I put mine on a paper towel-lined plate to soak up any extra grease. Set it aside for later.

Now, add a little oil to the skillet and brown some minced onion until the edges start turning nice and brown.

While the meat browns, round up your spices. You'll need garlic, chili powder, cocoa powder, cinnamon, cayenne pepper, and allspice.

Stir them into the onion and cook for a minute or two until fragrant. Boy is this ever fragrant. This blend of spices emits the most amazing smell, all warm and comforting!

Now stir in chicken broth.

Return the beef to the skillet and dump in water, tomato sauce, cider vinegar, and brown sugar. Cover and simmer for at least an hour. The chili will take on a deep red color and the beef will get really tender.

Uncover and stir in half a pound of dry spaghetti. You need to stir this really well (and carefully as the skillet is getting pretty full). The strands of spaghetti tend to stick together and not cook through if you don't separate them. Cover and cook for another 20 minutes or so until the pasta is tender.

Serve with cheese and onions.

We ended up eating this for a late supper. I started dinner later then I had hoped and didn't realized that it needed to simmer for over an hour. Ooops. We fed the kiddos grilled cheese and put them to bed then sat down to steaming bowls of chili in a quiet kitchen. Ahhh. Here's the funniest part: I took a bite before my husband. Then I waited for his reaction. (Reminiscent of what he'd done to me, over a decade ago across the picnic table at King's Island with the Skyline Chili) "So, what do you think?" I asked. "It's awesome, right?" He answered, "Oh yeah, babe. Tastes just like Skyline." What?! Well, I don't know about that. I'm tempted to go out and buy a can of Skyline and give it a taste test. Heck, if it's that easy to achieve this wonderful flavor, then I'll be stocking up on cans at the grocery. Still, I took it as a great compliment. He LOVES that stuff, after all.

Here's the recipe:

Skillet Cincinnati Chili with Spaghetti by Cook's Illustrated from Cover and Bake Cookbook adapted slightly by me

1 lb. 90 percent lean ground beef
1 large onion, minced
2 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 1/2 teaspoons cocoa powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
3 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1 (15 oz) can tomato sauce
1 cup water
1/2 lb. spaghetti, broken
salt and pepper to taste


1 minced onion
shredded sharp cheddar
Tabasco Sauce

1. Brown beef in a 12 in. skillet, breaking up with the edge of a spoon until finely broken. Drain. Remove from skillet.

2. Add a tablespoon of oil to skillet. Heat over medium to medium-high. Cook onions until browning around the edges. Stir in garlic and spices. Heat 1-2 more minutes until fragrant.

3. Stir in chicken broth, then cider vinegar, brown sugar, tomato sauce, and water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat. Cover and simmer for 1 hour or more.

4. Stir in broken spaghetti. Return to low boil. Re-cover and simmer for 20 minutes or until pasta is tender. Add additional salt and pepper to taste.

5.Serve with accompaniments.

To download or print this recipe click here!


Julie said...

Oh wow, I just made Cincinnati chili for the first time tonight! I loved it, really enjoyed all the different spices going on! Yours looks just super :)

Mary | Deep South Dish said...

Definitely need to try this recipe because I was like you about the whole Skyline Chili thing - though I don't mind the pasta/chili connection with chili mac myself, I had never heard of the spaghetti/chili/cheese connection until I befriended somebody from Ohio who talked about how amazing it was. I figured you had to go to Cincinnati to try the original that everybody raves about & knew the chances of me doing that were pretty low. I'm keeping this one!

Heidi said...

Looks great! I've make Neely's bbq spaghetti and it was great so who wouldn't this be? I'm not sure about the cinnamon and allspice though. Can you taste them?

Krista said...


This chili does taste distinctly different (in a good way!) but I didn't notice the specific flavors of cinnamon and allspice. They were subtle enough to enhance and not offend. Let me know whatcha think if you try it. : )

Kim said...

I bet your husband was really happy with this one:D
I've had that chili at Skyline (at King's Island too) and I wasn't impressed either. Your skillet cincinnati chili with spaghetti looks delicious. I could really devour some right now, but I'm trying to be good!

Katy ~ said...

Hmmm..I'm still on the fence about pasta and chili together but I do love the sounds of the rest of it! Love all the heady spices. Yummy!

Ty'sMommy said...

Not like Skyline Chili??? Surely you jest... No, I get it though, really. Skyline is one of those things you either love or hate, and if you didn't grow up with it, it does seem a bit odd. I, personally, LOVE it, but then again, I am an Ohioan by birth. I have a great home recipe for it, too! I do have to argue the Steak and Shake chile reference though. Ew. I can't even put those two in the same ball park. I'm glad you tried cincinnati chili again and had such a good experience!

Noelle said...

Made this yesterday for the first time (I had never even heard of Cincinnati chili). I thought about halving the recipe, but I went ahead and made the whole batch. My husband and I both LOVED it! I am so glad I made the whole thing because we both had an easy leftover lunch today ;)

Unknown said...

I love spaghetti since I was a child. My mom always cooks me, my brothers and my sister whenever it's our birthday or other special occasions that needs celebrating. Thanks for sharing this recipe. Now I can cook for my mom. I'll definitely make this before I get my TABC Certification Online.

Culchie said...

Try another recipe. This calls for way too much liquid ingredients. More like soup than sauce.

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