Italian Chili – My Recipe for Beating the Cravings of Pasta and Pizza

Last night I made this, it came out quite good, and I thought I would share.

This is yet another variation on what I’ve done before. It provides a meat and vegetable-filled dish similar to a chili or stew in consistency, and, covered in grated parmesan cheese, it not only awesome, but fills that hole left by foregoing both pasta and traditional pizza on a low carb diet.

This is more a technique than a hard and fast recipe. The basis of this for me is usually grass-fed ground beef. A pound of this, bought directly from the farmer, is expensive – $8.00/lb., but I also comes with a high degree of probability that the stuff is the real deal. The problem with food in general is that if you want ‘organic’, the good stuff looks pretty much like the cheap stuff, and fraud is an issue. Less so if you know the farmer himself – and see his kids at the market.

I don’t want to use this stuff in burgers – they’ll be gone in a flash, so I try to use the meat more as a flavoring.

Now for those of you who could care less about organic – the regular supermarket ground beef is just fine in this recipe.

The next part of the technique is to find the abandoned and forgotten food items – the can of whatever in the back of the cupboard, or the forgotten frozen veggies, or the middle-aged but still viable fresh veggie and give its brief existance some meaning as part of this dish.

The last part of the technique is a jar of pasta sauce. I have long searched for a pasta sauce that is low carb, organic, tasty, and cheap. The winner is Whole Foods 365 Brand Mushroom Marinara Sauce. While it has 6 grams of net carb per half cup, all of these carbs are from natural ingredients and not sugar – and since I’m on a low-carb and not a no-carb diet, I think that 3 grams of carbs from veggies and mushrooms per serving are fine – and I have also eaten this in the past during Atkins Induction and had not problem getting into or maintaining ketosis.

So – this particular time I ended up with as my ingredients:

  • 2 lbs. grass-fed ground beef
  • 1 jar Whole Foods 365 Organic Mushroom Marinara Sauce
  • 1 can pitted olives
  • 1 package of frozen asparagus
  • 2 sweet onions, chopped into 1″ chunks
  • 6 sun-dried tomatoes, packed dry, and cut into bits with kitchen scissors
  • 2 teaspoons crushed garlic
  • 4 fresh tomatoes, chopped into approx. 1″ chunks
  • 1 tablespoon of butter
  • oregano to taste
  • cayenne pepper to taste (if desired)
  • salt
  • pepper
  • Fresh parmesan cheese

The cooking is relatively straightforward. Melt the butter in a large skillet and place the meat in. I could have used 1 pound of beef and more veggies, but I had defrosted both and decided to make a meatier sauce. Cook the meat on high with a little salt and pepper added, breaking it up into bite-sized chunks. If you take the time to brown the meat for an extra flavor dimension, good for you – I didn’t – I just got it to the point where the bit-sized chunks were of a more or less uniform size and held together – I was in a rush as we were going shopping any minute.

Next went in the onions, which again, I tried to coat in the meat and butter flavors and cook a bit before adding more. Next up was the asparagus, which I microwaved to unfreeze. While it had a good flavor, it was wilted a bit having been frozen, and a bit stringy. As a sauce ingredient, it would be fine, but I did cut it crosswise at 1″ lengths to lessen the impact of any fibrous parts of the asparagus from ruining the dish.

The remainder of the seasonings and veggies went in then, and I let these cook together for maybe 7 minutes on high, stirring them to ensure nothing burned. This is when a nice fragrance began to come from the dish as the ingredients began to meld and cook.

The 7 or so minutes later, I poured in the jar of sauce, turned the heat to low, gave it a stir, and put the lid on. I let this simmer for an hour, with an occasional stir.

When done, I served it with large peels of parmesan cheese that I scraped off the block of cheese with a vegetable peeler. This parmesan cheese was a bit softer than the usual variety, so this worked out well and certainly grabbed the attention of the family – it apparently made for a nicer presentation, at least to them.

Alas, the kids, being anti-vegetable when it came to sauce ingredients, didn’t think much of it. To hell with them – I thought it came out great. This will get eaten, and I’ll make it again. It’s a great go-to recipe/technique.

While a little high in carbs, every carb in it is from high-quality vegetable sources – the kind you need, even on a low carb diet. And the past few days I have been going for Ketosis and showing a trace each morning – and after eating 2 bowls of this, I am still testing the same, so nothing wrong there.

© 2012,


5 thoughts on “Italian Chili – My Recipe for Beating the Cravings of Pasta and Pizza

    1. Here’s the problem I had. Lazy me once tried ground beef in the crock pot without frying it in a pan. The result was a beef gruel the consistency of oatmeal – sort of a ‘meat smoothie’. For me, using the slow cooker is so I can *avoid prep work*. I’ve made something similar to this with chicken in the crock pot and it came out fine with no prep.

  1. I really like the looks of this recipe, and moreover, I love your writing style. I imagine you write on topics other than low-carb as well. If not, I think you should!

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