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Playing Cincinnati Spaghetti


  • 1 ½ pounds bucatini or spaghetti
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • 2-3 slices smoky bacon, finely chopped
  • 1 ½ pounds ground sirloin
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 4-5 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • Salt and pepper
  • 3 jalapeño chili peppers, seeded and finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons ancho chili powder or chili powder blend (Gebhardts preferred brand), a couple of palmfuls
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon smoked sweet paprika, a palmful
  • 1 teaspoon allspice, ⅓ palmful
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon, eyeball the amount in your palm
  • 1 healthy pinch ground cloves
  • 1 ½ teaspoons dried oregano, about 1/2 a palmful, lightly crushed in palm
  • 3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 cups beef stock
  • One 14-ounce can tomato sauce
  • One 32-ounce can fire-roasted crushed or diced tomatoes
  • One 14-ounce can red kidney beans, drained
Toppings bar:
  • Finely chopped raw white, red or green onions
  • Shredded cheddar cheese
  • Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • Pickled jalapeño slices


Serves: 6


Heat EVOO in large Dutch oven or soup pot over medium-high heat, add bacon and crisp, add beef and brown well, add onions, garlic, jalapeño peppers, chili powder, cocoa powder, paprika, allspice, cinnamon, cloves, oregano and Worcestershire.

Cook until onions tender, 10 minutes. Add tomato paste, stir a minute, add stock, tomato sauce, crushed or diced tomatoes and beans. Bring to a bubble, reduce heat and simmer partially covered 45 minutes.

Cool and store for a make-ahead meal. Reheat over medium heat stirring frequently, adding water or stock to thin if sauce gets to thick.

To serve, while sauce heats, bring a large pot of water to boil for pasta. Season boiling water with salt and add pasta, cook to al dente. Remove 1 cup of starchy cooking water just before draining pasta. Add cooking water to meat sauce, drain pasta and return to hot pot. Toss pasta with tongs combining starchy cooking water and about ⅔ of the sauce.

Transfer pasta to large serving platter and top with remaining sauce. Set up toppings in front of platter.