Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Spaghetti with Chocolate Sauce

When the fridge is bare and the pantry raid results in an odd assortment of ingredients, this is what's for dinner! Sometimes, one starts making a meal by saying, "there's no food in the home" and ends up with a dinner that is something special. I love when this happens.

I usually plan my weeknight dinners a day ahead of time or at least the morning of. That way, any soaking, thawing and assorted prep can be set into motion ahead of time and I can usually beat one Ms. Ray at her own game by putting dinner on the table in 20 minutes flat.

This morning, I thought about dinner as the morning chai was brewing, and had to think extra hard. The crisper was bare but the pantry was stocked with the usual staples- dried beans, pasta, cans of tomato, soy chunks. A trip to Food Blog Land (typing kidney beans, tomato, spaghetti in the search box) provided me with a dose of inspiration in the form of this recipe for something called Cincinnati Chili- a sauce of meat and tomatoes with warm spices, drenched with the rich flavor of cocoa. I made a vegan version of this sauce.

Chili with Chocolate


Adapted from Cincinnati chili from The Kitchn, makes about 6 servings.

1. Soak 1 cup kidney beans for 12-24 hours, then pressure-cook them. I did a quicker soak by putting the beans in boiling water, turning off the heat and covering them for 6-8 hours.

2. Re-hydrate 1 cup soy/TVP/Nutrela chunks and chop them up (or simply use soy granules or veggie ground).

3. In a large pot, heat 1-2 tablespoons olive oil. Add the following and saute until browned:
1 large onion, minced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 bay leaves

4. To the browned onion mixture, add the following and stir until fragrant, about 20-30 seconds:
1-2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp. cumin powder
1 tsp. cayenne pepper (or to taste)
½ tsp. chipotle flakes (or to taste)
1 tsp. cinnamon powder
½ tsp. allspice powder
salt to taste

5. Add the following:
½ large can tomato puree (14 oz.) (*see note)
cooked kidney beans
soy chunks/granules
mushroom stock (quantity depending on how thick you want the chili to be)
hot sauce (to taste)

6. Simmer for 20 minutes, then let it rest for an hour or two before eating to let the flavors develop. Taste for a balance of flavors and adjust them if necessary.

*Note: On a previous post, someone commented that I use tomato puree in a lot of recipes here, and asked what brand I use. I buy whole canned tomatoes (canned in tomato juice) from Trader Joe's and I puree the tomatoes myself using an immersion blender before using them in the recipe. I do find that different brands vary widely, so I would suggest trying different brands that are available to you to see which one you like the best.

I served the chili over whole wheat spaghetti, with some shredded cheese and sour cream on the side. If you want to keep this completely vegan, use vegan versions of cheese and sour cream or skip them altogether. This quick and easy recipe was such a success! We enjoyed the rich, deep flavors of this wholesome meal and I enjoyed seeing V stumped at what the "secret ingredient" was. I have a feeling I'll be using this recipe often in the coming months as chilly/chili weather gets here.

*** *** ***

Want to see some pics from my Boston trip this weekend?

Blue, blue skies....

Blue, blue water near Boston Harbor...

Following this guy all along the Freedom Trail...

Lunch at My Thai Vegan restaurant in Chinatown (foreground is mango curry with vegetables, background is taro root bird's nest)...

Torrone (Italian nougat) at Modern Pastry Shop in the North End...

Dessert sampler at Finale in Harvard Square...

We stayed in the historic Beacon Hill neighborhood (which felt to me like stepping back in time), met friends whom we have not seen for years, attended a birthday-party-picnic in Cochituate State Park, gorged on pizza, giggled at the Bostonian accent (on a walking tour, the guide wanted to segue into the Boston Tea Party bit and asked a little girl who was with our group, "So you want to go to a paahty?" and she innocently replied- no, thanks, she did not need to go potty just then), and in general need another vacation now to recover from this one.

My sincere thanks to everyone who offered great suggestions for my Boston trip- I'll have to go there again soon to cross off more things from the list.


  1. Chocolate is such an interesting addition to a chili. Sounds delicious. Will give it a try.

  2. Lovely... I also like to plan ahead... and S finds that so irritating at times... he says that my last words each night are not the romantic sweet nothings that he might expect to hear once ina while... but, "what should we eat tomorrow?"

    This looks like something I must try next week. Your Boston trip looks like a lot of fun :)

  3. that definitely grabbed my attention! choc and chilli?

  4. Am glad you had such fun during your trip! I just love the city!

    Love the chili recipe too, cocoa does add a lot of depth to an ordinary chili!

  5. I wish I could create such a nice meal out of what I find in my pantry - unfortunately, I would probably wind up with spaghetti topped with ice cream!

  6. You wouldnt by any chance be going back to Boston in December? :) I'm visiting my brother & new SIL over Christmas!

  7. Pavani- It really has complex and deep flavors!

    Raaga- Ah, I am also too much of a practical person :D

    Nags- Yup- the combination works very well!

    Musical- Yes, I enjoyed the city, it is very walking-friendly, which I love :)

    T.W. Barritt- That sounds pretty good to me ;)

    Shyam- No, no chance of getting there so soon. In fact, my friend from Boston is planning to visit us here in Dec. Perhaps you will come to St. Louis??

  8. I just got myself some soy granules last week...and now I know what I can do with the 'mince'!

    I walked the Freedom Trail too though not behind that fellow...wish I had tried that dessert platter too! Boston is where I first tried eggplant on pizza! Yum, naturally.

  9. I had seen chili and choc muffin in burger king and i really wanted to try but m skeptical..sauce sounds quite different and unique!

  10. Wow. Cocoa and chili is such an unusual combination, but I'm sure it tasted good as it looks really hearty

    And yes, that platter of desserts is just so ooh la la, I want all of that RIGHT HERE RIGHT NOW (drool) :)

  11. This dish is a very unique combination. I liked the way you used Soya and Kidney Beans! Boston pics are very cool. I liked the idea of Freedom Trail and Duck Boat when I visited. Out of box thinking.


  12. That sauce looks great! I'm going to have to try it soon some chilly fall night :) And My Thai was one of my favorite restaurants in Boston--so tasty!

  13. It looks like you had a lot of good food on the boston trip:) The idea of a 20 minute dinner sounds inviting . could you please post some suggestions so that readers of the blog can deal with the eternal question as to what to make for dinner .

  14. That is one unique sounding sauce! When i saw the heading, I was thinking Nutella!

  15. Looks great although chocolate with chilli is a new addition for me. I too prefer to plan the dinner ( a family meal) atleast in the morning so that have done all that is needed for the cooking. However, I have this quick tip when I forget to soak kidney beans or chick peas, you can soak it in hot water and the results that you get soaking for 12 hours is right there in 2 hours.

  16. Choco and chili new combo. It looks very nice.

  17. I love chocolate in chili dishes! Gonna try your spice mix next time.
    Just a question: Which of the vegan ground meat replacements would you recommend? I've never found one that I liked so far and am really suspicious towards new ones now... so always looking for recommendations! (I've taken to grinding up nuts as a meat replacement instead - maybe not so great nutritionally but the taste works much better for me.)


  18. Anita- Funny thing is, I ate eggplant on pizza while I was in Boston too! Fried eggplant goes well with anything :)

    Parita- It tastes very good, not weird or anything, try it and see!

    Preeti- I know, the desserts were sooo tempting!

    Ashwini- Thanks.

    Jes- My Thai really was fresh and tasty, we loved their honeydew bubble tea too (with coconut milk).

    Roshni- Most of the recipes on this blog are actually quick dinner ideas. And I look to other blogs too, to answer that what-to-make-for-dinner question.

    Soma- I knew people would picture dessert when they looked at the title of this post :)

    Vandana Rajesh- I agree, a 2 hour soak works well too, as long as the water is very hot.

    Lakshmi Venkatesh- Thanks.

    jokergirl- Actually, I have been OK with all the ones that I have tried, perhaps because I use them in dishes that have lots of other flavors and spices so in the end the taste of the fake meat does not really come through.
    When I use vegan ground mince at all (which is pretty rare), I use Boca or something called Nutrela which is an Indian brand.

  19. Nupur, your honeydew bubble tea with coconut milk drink reminded me of the Indonesian Es Cendol I had recently. It is quite unique, not a tea but a sweet syrup with jackfruit pieces, coconut milk and green colored, jelly-like textured, droplet-shaped cendol.

  20. Nupur,

    Chili with chocolate is a very unusual combination, and only you can pull it off. It looks very delicious. Looks like you had a very nice vacation in Boston. A vacation after a vacation is a very nice thought, sometimes I need one too!

  21. That sauce looks so good Nupur. I am sure it tasted great. Love those Boston pictures.

  22. Very interesting. I like your style Nupur....kitchens should be for experimenting in my opinion. Looks like you also had a terrific trip!

  23. Have found that chocolate and chilli is a good combination, though never tried it this way.

    Looks like you had a thoroughly enjoyable trip.

  24. Mmmm, sounds so good Nupur! I have a favorite Cincinnati chili recipe that I've hung on to with the idea of replacing the meat with something, but hadn't gotten around to it... now I must! Another of my very favorite recipes which I've yet to attempt to remove the meat (this one goes back to my childhood) is Boston Baked Beans. I don't suppose you found a vegetarian version to sample on your trip?

  25. Great recipe for a four alarm chilli cinci style! The first vision that I had was cooked pasta drenched in a bottle of hersheys :), but the mystery unfolded as I read further!
    This is surely a must try!

    Try adding chopped onions on the top(raw) to get a 'five alarm' version.

  26. This looks yummy (I've given up trying to use more interesting food adjectives. Nothing says it better than 'yummy' no? Will try it soon! I am usually am more of an impromptu cook. I should plan ahead- so I use more of the dried beans in my pantry.

  27. Mekhala- Sounds very exotic and tasty!

    Namita- Oh, actually, it is a very classic combination, and one that I want to explore more. The Boston trip was short but really enjoyable :)

    Shilpa- Thanks :)

    Trish- And since I do only short-term planning, experimentation is inevitable! :)

    Aparna- How have you used the chilli-choc combo? I want to try it in a few different recipes :)

    Cathy- No :( we never did find typical New England eats like Boston baked beans but that's something I want to make at home sometime this winter.

    KamalKitchen- Next time I'm definitely trying the five alarm version; I love toppings of raw onions :)

    Lavanya- The reason I plan ahead a day or so is exactly that- to be able to use all the dried beans in my pantry!

  28. I have always wondered about the cocoa in chili combination - now that you have tried it, makes it that much easier to fling myself into that daunting pool! Thanks :)

    The pics are interesting - love looking at new places. I have just posted some pics too from our recent trip to Bhimtal lake.

  29. Ah! A very intiguing dish! I wouldhave never thought about chili and choclate in the same sentence. But I suppose the sweetness of the choclate will enhance the flavors of the dish.

  30. nupur......

    hope that you are well..... there are no posts from you for a long time hence was worried..

    Take care and looking forward to new post from u soon........

  31. Hi Nupur! - Just wanted to let you know that I passed on a 'Kreativ Blogger Award' to you.. (I enjoy your blog..:)). I know you've been tagged only recently- but I'd love to tag you too :)

  32. Chili looks wonderful Nupur -- love the choc twist :) Looks like you had a grand time in Boston and metro-west! I especially like the Freedom Trail guy. The accent can be a wee bit overwhelming, no? ;)

  33. Great combo- Choc and chili!I've heard that only on FoodTV a while back..Nice pics from Boston!Freedom trail is a great walk...and those are lovely pastries...:)

  34. Chocolate and Chilli. Great partners! This is super yummy.


The spammers are out in full force so I've had to turn word verification on! Thanks for leaving a comment- I read and respond to every single one.