Italian-American Chili




A local pizza joint near me was pushing their Italian Chili item recently which made me think, “What would my version of such an idea be?”  They had an unappetizing photo and description, “Meat, beans, and hot cherry peppers.”  Well, it didn’t take me long to get into the kitchen to concoct how I would make this dish.

First, I’ve already informed you about the noticeable differences between Italian food and Italian-American food.  Since this is chili, Italian-American is the better option.  Many of you are familiar with white bean and escarole soup as a delicacy in Italian-American cuisine and this builds on that adding meat and hot peppers.  I like my chili a bit thicker, so I’ve added a bit of a ragu to this dish as well.  The result is very satisfying especially for a cold, rainy day on the weekend.






16 oz. bag of dried Cannellini Beans

1 TBSP Olive Oil

1 TBSP Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Salt, to taste

Ground Black Pepper, to taste

1 Tsp Canola Oil

2 to 3 beef, veal, or pork bones

¼ cup Olive or Canola Oil

3 lbs. Ground Beef, Veal, and/or Pork

1 large Yellow Onion, peeled and chopped

1 large or 2 medium Carrot(s), peeled and chopped

2 Celery Ribs, chopped

3 Garlic Cloves, peeled and finely chopped

4 oz. Hot Cherry Peppers, chopped

1 cup Dry White Wine

28 oz. can Diced or Chopped Italian Tomatoes

2 TBSP dried Italian Seasoning

6 to 8 cups of Water

1 small head of Escarole, washed, leaves torn or chopped, ribs discarded

Ricotta Cheese (optional)

Shredded or Grated Italian Cheese (Pecorino, Romano, Parmesan, Asiago)

Red Onion, chopped (optional)

Cooked White Rice (optional)



  1. Soak the Beans overnight in enough cold water to cover
  2. Drain the beans and rinse with cold water. In a 4 qt. pot, add the beans and enough water to cover by at least 3 inches.  Add a pinch of Salt and 1 TBSP Olive Oil to the pot.  Heat to boil, then simmer gently for 20 minutes.  Drain the beans and rinse with cold water for 30 seconds to 1 minute to stop the cooking process.
  3. Add half the Beans, a pinch of Salt and Black Pepper, and 1 TBSP Extra Virgin Olive Oil back into the empty pot and with a potato masher or a wooden spoon mash the Beans and set aside. Leave the other half of the Beans whole and to the side.
  4. In a medium frying pan (preferably cast iron), heat 1 Tsp Canola Oil over high heat. Season the Bones with Salt and Pepper and fry on each side 2 minutes each.  Set aside Bones.
  5. In a large stockpot, heat the ¼ cup Oil over medium high heat
  6. Add the Ground Meat to the pot and fry, breaking it apart as it cooks, until browned. Season with Salt and Pepper.
  7. Add the Onion, Carrot, and Celery to the pot. Cook until soft, about 10 minutes.
  8. Add the garlic and Hot Peppers and cook another 2 minutes
  9. Add the Wine and cook about 5 minutes until most of the Wine is absorbed
  10. Add the entire contents of the Tomato Can to the pot and stir. Add the mashed Beans to the pot and stir again.
  11. Add Salt and Pepper to taste. Add the Italian Seasoning and stir several times.
  12. Add the Bones to the pot and add the Water and turn up the heat to high until the liquid boils. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for about 2 ½ hours.  Add additional water if too thick.  Cook longer if too thin.
  13. After 2 ½ hrs., add the whole Beans to the pot and simmer for another 15 minutes
  14. After 15 minutes add the Escarole to the pot and simmer for another 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and adjust seasonings.  Remove the Bones from the pot and discard.
  15. Serve over White rice if desired and garnish with any or all the following: Ricotta, Italian Cheese, and/or Red Onion


WINE PAIRING:  This is a type of chili that can be paired with wine and I also believe this can be enjoyed equally with a white, rosé, or red wine.  There are a few varietals from the Piedmont region that I think pair well.  A young, medium bodied Barbera d’Asti would work nicely and I think a better option that a Montepulciano or Chianti.  For white, a quaffable Gavi is not hard to find that would also be a different approach to pairing with this great dish.  A beer is always a good option, too.


Author: Steve Melchior

I am a lover of many eclectic things; food, wine, art, music, travel, sports, movies, literature and of course The Grateful Dead. I combine all these interests into great ideas for food preparation and entertaining with friends and family.

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