November 2nd is National Ohio Day. As America began its western expansion, Ohio was the 17th state to join the Union and the first state to enter the country from the Northwest Territory. It’s also home to what the Smithsonian called one of the top 20 Iconic foods of America – the Cincinnati Chili. Texas chili fans find Cincinnati’s chili weak – far too thin, without enough spicy sizzle. But then most true chili fans are under the impression that Cincinnati Chili is some weird form of Chili Con Carne served over spaghetti. Cincinnati Chili is anything but.
As a matter of point, this chili isn’t a chili at all. It’s a Mediterranean-spiced meat sauce created just for spaghetti. The consistency, flavor profile and serving method have more in common with Greek Pasta sauces than with a spicy thick meat sauced served up in a bowl or over a hot dog. For one thing, this dish is never; ever served in a bowl although it has been known to smother a hot dog or two.
Cincinnati Chili is an unusual blend of spices that includes cinnamon, with a kiss of chocolate much like the Mexicans add chocolate to their mole. The good people of Cincinnati have been clamoring for their Chili Topped Pasta since 1921.
Another thing that sets Cincinnati’s Chili apart from its Texas Cousin is the cult-like popularity. There are more than 180 Chili Parlors in Cincinnati. When it comes to ordering Chili, you gotta know your way around the menu.
- Two Way: Spaghetti topped with Chili
- Three Way: Spaghetti, Chili and Cheese
- Four Way: Now that’s up for debate. There are those that insist a Four-Way is strictly Spaghetti, Chili, Cheese and Onions. Others say a Four-Way allows you to choose between Onions and Kidney Beans as the forth ingredient
- Five Way: That’s the works – spaghetti, chili, cheese, onions and beans.
Slow-Cooker Cincinnati Chili
Two Way – The Basic
4 large Onions
3 lb Ground Chuck
1 teaspoon Salt
2 teaspoons Ground Cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons unsweetened Baking Cocoa
1 teaspoon ground Cumin
1/2 cup Beef Stock or Broth
2 cans (28 oz each) Tomato Puree
1/4 cup packed Brown Sugar
16 oz uncooked Spaghetti
Peel and chop four large onions, reserving 1 cup for garnish.
Spray 5- to 6-quart slow cooker with cooking spray and set aside.
In Dutch oven, cook beef and remaining 3 cups of the onions over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until beef is thoroughly cooked; drain. Stir in salt, cinnamon, cocoa, cumin and beef stock. Simmer 5 minutes. Transfer beef mixture to the bowl of the slow cooker. Add tomato puree and brown sugar, stir until blended.
Cover; cook on Low heat setting 8 hours.
About 20 minutes before serving, bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Cook spaghetti al dente according to package directions.
Drain pasta. Pile on a large, rimmed serving platter or individual plates. Top with Chili Sauce.
8 oz block Sharp Cheddar Cheese
From a block of cheese, shred 2 cups. Freshly shredded cheese will blend more easily than packaged shredded cheese. Pile the cheese on top of the chili sauce.
1 Yellow Onion, diced
Peel and dice the onion. Once the sauce has been added to the Cincinnati Chili, top with diced Onions and a big helping of cheese
Five Way – The Works
15 oz can Red Kidney Beans
Drain and rinse the kidney beans. Warm beans in a sauce pan over low heat with just enough liquid to keep the beans from scorching as they heat.
Top Spaghetti-Chili and onions with warm beans. Pile on the cheese as its crowning glory.
Oh, and no self respecting Cincinnati Chili would ever be served without a handful of Oyster crackers and a dash of Tabasco Sauce.