When you grow up in Cincinnati, you’re always grabbing a coney or three way for lunch, dinner, after a night of drinking and sometimes even for breakfast (depending on what time you get up).
I mean, the stuff is delicious. I’ve had friends who moved away who literally craved it and always made a point to stop and get some any time they came back in town.
Heck when I went to college in Columbus (mind you, that’s only a 1 ½ hour drive) I would purposely drive 20 minutes from my dorm just to get my fix.
In Cincinnati, we’ve got two big home grown chains: Skyline and Gold Star, along with a multitude of other independent chili parlors that dot the landscape.
For those not in the know –Cincinnati style chili is a thin meat only chili (no beans unless you order a 4 or 5 way) that incorporates a multitude of spices to give it a very distinct taste. Honestly, it kind of reminds me of a Mexican mole in spirit rather than the traditional chili you find (or maybe expect).
People always say it’s Greek style, but once again I’ve always been confused by that. Yes the originators of the chili recipe were Greek, but I imagine that they just used a variety of spices to make the American style chili for their own unique take on it. I mean, there’s nothing even remotely Greek about it.
But I digress – for years I’ve tried different combinations of spices (along with different recipes) to get a chili that was close to the taste I love. Yes, I could definitely run to my local chili parlor, but it’s easy to make at home and this way I can use the leanest ground beef I can find along with reduced fat cheese i.e. make it healthier.
I PROMISE YOU – this tastes almost dead on one of the big chain’s chili. It even smells like it.
In Cincy, the cheese is served literally mounded by the fistful on top of dishes (super delicious) but in the recipe below I’ve reduced the cheese quite a bit. It’s still crazy good, but be aware that 2 cups of cheese is usually no where near enough for 4 servings (the more traditional route is at least 1 cup of cheese per serving).
When I make this I make at least enough for 8 servings, since my husband and I like to freeze additional individual portions that we can pull out for a quick lunch/dinner (plus its much cheaper than buying the frozen version at the store – double win).
Oh some lingo and definitions for you (I’m staying with just coneys and spaghetti here, I’m not going to even go into the fries, potatoes, burritos and chilitos you can use this on and in):
- Phony Coney/Chili Cheese Sandwich: Hot Dog Bun, chili cheese
- Cheese Coney: Bun, Hot Dog, Chili and Cheese (mustard & onions optional)
- Chili Spaghetti: Spaghetti and Chili
- 3-way: Spaghetti, Chili and Cheese
- 4-way: Spaghetti, Chili, Cheese and Fresh Diced Onions OR Beans
- 5-way: Spaghetti, Chili, Cheese, Fresh Diced Onions AND Beans
And I know I’ve been hitting on the fact that this is chili and spaghetti but shh – I was out of spaghetti so fettuccine got subbed.
To make eight 3-ways use 16 oz of dried whole wheat spaghetti. To make four 3-ways use 8 oz of dried whole wheat spaghetti or about 2 oz of dried pasta per serving. The nutritional info includes the cheese and spaghetti.
- 2 lbs ground extra lean ground beef (at least 95% lean)
- 2 onions, finely chopped
- 4 cups water
- 16 ounces tomato sauce
- 4 tablespoons chili powder
- 3 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons paprika
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon allspice
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
- 2 beef bouillon cubes
- 1 bay leaf, crumbled
- 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
- 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
- 4 dashes Tobasco or similar sauce
- 4 cups sharp cheddar (I'm also a fan of doing a mix of habanero cheddar with regular cheddar)
- Bring the water to a boil and add the ground beef. Stir until the beef is separated.
- Stir in the remaining ingredients (onions through bouillon cubes).
- Reduce heat and summer, uncovered, for 2 to 3 hours or until thickened. Cincinnati chili is not super thick - it should have a runnier consistency. If you've overcooked it and it's too thick, thin it out by stirring in 1/2 cup of water and letting cook for another 10 minutes.
- Optional: Cool, then refrigerate overnight. Skim off any accumulated fat and reheat the chili.
- Use to make either 3 ways or cheese coneys. Top with cheddar.
- Note: If you make half a recipe of this, you’ll simmer about 1 ½ to 2 hours.