In winter, we tend to reach for food that is hot and soothing, like soups, stews, and chili. They’re the antithesis of the weather outdoors; they warm our chilled bodies and comfort our stinging souls. No wonder chili is so popular a dish to serve on Superbowl Sunday, which falls smack in the middle of the coldest time of the year in America.

I’ve eaten so many delicious chilis in recent years, I can’t possibly pick a favorite. I can’t even narrow it down to meat or vegetarian. And if I were to pick meat would it be chicken or beef, and if it were beef, would it be ground or cubes? My mood runs the show if I’m doing the cooking. If someone else cooks, I’ll gladly eat what they prepare.

My mother made an American version of chili. It was akin to spaghetti but it contained kidney beans too. And she’d throw in a package of chili seasoning to give it a little kick. We ate it over spaghetti, which I learned later was semi-Cincinnati style (no toppings on our chili). Maybe my Illnois-born mom had somehow inherited the custom from Illinois’s almost  next-door neighbor Ohio.

I don’t miss Chicago winters, but I still live in a climate that’s cold in the winter. Tomorrow’s forecast is 19 degrees. Maybe it’s time to make my version of Cincinnati chili.

Cincinnati Style Chili

Vegetable oil 2 tablespoons
Yellow onions 1/2 cup chopped
Lean ground beef 1 pound (can substitute soy crumbles)
Cocoa powder 1 tablespoon Chili powder 2 teaspoons
Cayenne pepper 1/2 teaspoon
Allspice 1/4 teaspoon
Cinnamon 1/4 teaspoon
Whole tomatoes 28-ounce can
Tomato paste 6-ounce can
Water 1/2 cup
Kidney beans, drained 15-ounce can
Spaghetti 12 ounce uncooked
Shredded cheddar cheese, chopped onions, and oyster crackers for topping

Note: Traditional Cincinnati chili is not cooked with kidney beans, they are added as a topping, like the cheese, onions, and oyster crackers. But I like my beans cooked into the mix.

In a large saucepan, heat oil. Cook onion in the oil until tender. Add beef and cook until done. (If using soy crumbles in place of beef, cook until thawed.) Stir in cocoa, seasonings, tomatoes with liquid, tomato paste, and water. Heat to boiling. Reduce heat and simmer 30 minutes. Stir in drained kidney beans. Heat through. Serve over spaghetti and top with shredded cheese, chopped onions, and oyster crackers.