This all started on a Saturday, around noon. I was planning to work on a new recipe later that day, but I was also trying to plan dinner. Typically, new recipe experiment = dinner, but I was kind of bummed because I really wanted Italian that night and not chili. So I was torn between excitement over trying out a new recipe (I believe I had a pork pozole-like idea rattling around in my brain) and disappointment that I wouldn’t be having pasta that night.
I’m sure, being the intelligent and insightful reader that you are, you can see where this is going. A spark of inspiration later, and I was now planning an Italian-style chili. I’ve used Asian influences and Mexican influences, so why not Italian!
I reached back into the recesses of my brain and recalled an episode of Cook’s Country, or maybe it was America’s Test Kitchen (why are they two separate shows? They are EXACTLY the same!), where they made Bolognese sauce with organ meat. This is the direction I wanted to go in: hearty, slow cooked, and layered with flavors from a variety of meats.
I then started searching for Bolognese recipes and couldn’t find a gosh-darn one with organ meat! Had I hallucinated the Cook’s Country/ATK episode? I kept digging and started drowning in articles and recipes on Ragu versus Bolognese, versus lord-knows what… true Italian, Giada Italian, Batali Italian, Burrell Italian. The few ragu recipes I saw that used organ meat tended to use chicken liver and typically threw that ingredient in at the end (I would assume, mostly just for flavor), so I followed suit.
Since the liver is an organ used to filter toxins, I wanted to make sure I got one that came from as well-cared for of an animal as I could find, and so I went for the grass fed beef liver instead of the unmarked, shady looking chicken bits. I also picked up some ground pork, ground beef, and a tasty-looking chunk of pancetta (bacon’s more sophisticated cousin). Meat in hand, I grabbed a bottle of red wine (I was going to be cooking Italian style after all) and headed home to start my experiment.
This dish came together as a chili VERY well! No doubt that I hit all the criteria for what counts as chili, but still managed to leave this feeling like a meaty Italian stew. A background of sweet from the nearly caramelized carrots and onions, depth from reduced red wine, a warm spice mix of red pepper flake, nutmeg, and clove. The pancetta adds saltiness, the pork and beef create structure, and a grating of liver stirred in right at the end, give a minerally tinge of unexpected flavor mellowed by creamy, whole milk. Poured over fettuccini, and sprinkled with shaved parmesan and chopped, fresh parsley: there is no doubt that the Italian shines through with this chili! Mangia!
Brown 1 ½ pounds of ground beef together with ½ pound of ground pork. Drain the grease and set the meat aside.
Dice 3 oz of thick cut pancetta and add to a large pot over medium heat along with 1 cup of diced carrot, 1 cup of diced celery, and 1 cup of diced white onion. Cook until the pancetta starts to brown and the vegetables are near caramelized- about 15 minutes, stirring frequently.
Add in 1 cup of red wine (I used a merlot) and lower the heat to maintain a low simmer. Cook for about 10 minutes, uncovered, allowing the wine to reduce. Then stir in 2 T of fresh, minced garlic, 2 t red pepper flake, ½ t cloves, ¼ t nutmeg, 2 cups of chicken stock, one 6 oz can of tomato paste, and the browned meat. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 45 minutes.
Prior to serving, stir in 2 T of grated liver and 1 cup of whole milk. It’s best to freeze the liver first so it’s stiff, and then grate using a box grater or microplane.
Serve over the pasta of your choice and top with parmesan and parsley.