Nik’s Divas Proudly Present: Spagilli!

While I was in Las Vegas my divas were playing with their food.

Apparently the story goes like this. My dear friend Katey bravely agreed to stay with them while I was away and one evening they decided to make Zar’s famous chili (Zar = Zariyah = La Petite Diva), which is very similar to my Turkey/TVP Chili, but with a few extra “special” ingredients.

But they found they were missing a few ingredients, namely canned tomatoes. So they decided to use spaghetti sauce. The outcome was actually quite good. They saved me a bowl!

So you all know me. My brain immediately began working on how to carry this recipe to the next level. I thought on it and proposed to the divas the recipe you see here! It’s a Southwest/Italian fusion that works on so many levels.

Nik’s Divas Present: Spagilli


  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 large green pepper, diced
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1 lb. lean ground meat (we used lowfat turkey)
  • 2 Italian sausage links (we used spicy but sweet would work too)
  • 1 jar of your favorite spaghetti sauce
  • 1 can of black beans
  • 1 can of white beans (we used canellini)
  • 2 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • OPTIONAL: 1/4 tsp ground chipotle pepper (THE MYSTERY INGREDIENT FROM FACEBOOK!) and 1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder (Just trust and read on, Foodies. Trust and read on!)
  • Greek yogurt and either a Mexican or Italian blend cheese (your choice!) for toppers


For me it all started with these babies. Much as I love chopping veggies (it’s quite cathartic), I was running really late the evening I made this. I keep these in the freezer for those kind of nights when you just need to get dinner on the table! I set a pan over medium heat and sprayed with nonstick and let it get HOT then added these in (along with my garlic) and let them cook about 7-ish minutes.

I then added my ground turkey into the mix and my Italian sausage. Now this is where fusion cooking gets fun. The spices in Italian sausage lent a definite “spaghetti sauce flavor” to the deal, which is why it gor really fun when I added:
BEANS! I chose black beans and cannelini beans for color variation (keeping in mind I was about to dump a bunch of spaghetti sauce in there). But any beans you like should work fine!
Then it was time to spice it up! The divas and I like our food “Oooh, hurt me!” hot. So I added a generous dose of ground chipotle pepper. I get mine from Ye Olde Amish (Amish market) but you can find it in lots of grocery stores, usually where the specialty spices are kept. The amount of heat is directly commensurate to the amount you add and when you add it. Add a little at the end of cooking and you get a very slight kick that isn’t too bad. Add a generous dose while you are cooking (cuz heat + spices = more intense flavor) and…ZOO-WEE MAMA! You have some hot stuff on your hands! If you don’t like any kick in your food, skip it altogether but I will say chipotle lends not only spicyness but also a very rich, smoky flavor to any dish.
Now don’t freak on me about the cocoa. Many chili recipes use it. As do recipes for mole sauce (which has so many damn spices I might need to take out a loan to try to make it!). I decided to add it to this dish anticipating that the spaghetti sauce would give the whole thing a certain “tang” that would lean too heavily on the Italian side. Remember, fusion is about fusing! So the cocoa powder calms the tang down. But your chili will NOT taste like chocolate. I repeat, your chili will not taste like chocolate!
I also added a lot of very uninteresting (in comparison) spices at this point like my chili powder, cumin, coriander and a bit of salt and pepper, along with a pinch of cayenne (cuz we are gluttons for punishment). Notice that all the spices I’m manually adding lend to the Southwest/Mexican part of the fusion. That’s because the sausage and spaghetti sauce are bringing the Italian spices. 
Finally I added:
This stuff! I chose garlic and herb because I personally really like garlic. So I cooked the veggies with fresh garlic and paired all that with garlic/herb sauce. I dropped my heat down to low and allowed this all to simmer for about 20 minutes and the result is what you see up above. I personally ate mine with a bit of shredded cheddar cheese and a dollop of Greek yogurt.
Verdict: YUM! It has a really yummy combo of flavors going on. The Italian Sausage actually shines in this dish, even against the contrasting spices. When I make it in the future I think I’ll add a packet of Splenda to help offset the tang even more. But we live, we learn. The cocoa not only calmed down the tang, but it also made the “sauce” of the spagilli rich and velvety and deepened that read color just a shade. 
The divas reactions? La Petite Diva “It’s not the same as mine and Miss Katey’s but I really like it!” La Grande Diva: “It’s different. I sorta like it.” (Look, she ate a full bowl of it which, in her world, is an endorsement!)

Now you might ask “If it’s spagilli, where’s the spaghetti?” Good question! I’ve learned after years of wasting money and food that my children just aren’t that passionate about pasta. So I always make pasta sauce without pasta. BUT for your family, I will say that spagilli goes great over a regular (not thin) spaghetti. You can make it whole wheat to add health value. I’d even say this could work with fetuccine (chili-cine?). 


  1. I will definitely be giving this a try 🙂 Thanks again for all your wonderful recipes.

  2. This look so good….what we need is for you to put out a cook book.

  3. Alyssa @

    My mind is blown about the cocoa powder trick!!! Definitely going to try this soon, because you're right, so many good Mexican recipes use it for mole or cinnamon for savory…

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