Easy Chili-Chilly Days

It’s easy to impress me. I don’t need a fancy party to be happy. Just good friends, good food, and good laughs. I’m happy. I’m satisfied. I’m content.
Maria Sharapova

So the weekly cooks club assignment is all about “snow days” and while we don’t expect any white stuff it sure is cold enough and Nigella’s easy cheese chili was just the ticket to a warm and cozy evening. Look for the link to her recipe below…I did have a few adaptations as I wanted a big “chili” flavor after tasting it while it was cooking.

For the most part, I used ingredients that I had in the refrigerator and pantry instead of making a store run. I had burrata instead of a mozzarella ball or bocconcini so the grated mozzarella was used as a topping for the hot chili. I substituted a can of fire-roasted tomatoes and added about a cup or so of tomato passata for a “saucier” chili. The seasoning was just a little too light for us so in went a little chili powder, a bit more Mexican oregano, and a can of diced Hatch green chiles. Taste as you go and make it your own.

The thing about chili for me is that I love it loaded up with toppings and for this version, I had few choices. Fresh pico de gallo or fresh salsa so I didn’t have to chop a lot of separate toppings, grated mozzarella, and a few chip choices to go with the chili. I forgot the guacamole…

Ingredients & Instructions, slightly adapted from Nigella’s “CHEESY CHILLI”

  • 4 ounces chorizo (cut into fat coins and halved)
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • ½ teaspoon unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano + more is needed
  • 1 tablespoon sundried tomato paste or tomato puree (plus some purée or passata if you like)
  • 1 x 14-ounce can of diced tomatoes or fire-roasted tomatoes
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 x 15 ounces can of kidney beans (drained and rinsed) or try a can of ranch beans
  • 8 ounces mozzarella balls (chopped)
  • kosher salt (to taste)
  • freshly ground black pepper (to taste)
  • chopped cilantro to serve (optional)


I increased the cooking time after adding the passata.

  1. Put a small cast-iron casserole or heavy-based pan (that comes with a lid) on the heat and add the semi-circles of chunky chorizo, cooking just long enough for them to start giving off a lucent orange oil.
  2. Add the mince, trying to break it up a little with a wooden fork, and turn it in the oil to combine with the chorizo.
  3. When the meat has begun to lose its all-over raw color, sprinkle with the cocoa and oregano, dollop in the paste or puree, and give a good stir before adding the canned tomatoes. Swill the empty can out with 125ml / ½ cup water, and empty that in turn into the pan, followed by the Worcestershire sauce and the drained, rinsed kidney beans, then let it all come to a bubble.
  4. Turn the heat down low, clamp on the lid and let the chili simmer gently for 20 minutes. I often remove it to a cold dish (for efficient cooling) when it’s cooked, to reheat and eat later. (I’ve done that here, and reheated it in a frying pan, which is why you see the chili in what might seem an inappropriate vessel.)
  5. If you’re moving seamlessly on, remove the lid, turn up the heat until the chili bubbles with vigor again, then turn off the heat and stir in the mozzarella. Season and serve immediately, sprinkling with cilantro, if so desired.