This chili is perfect for a cold day. It is such a comfort food. What is great about this dish is that you can make it as spicy as you want or not at all. I like mine mild so I opt for bell peppers instead of jalapeño and crushed red pepper.
1 bag (12 ounces) dry small red beans
6 bay leaves
1 large onion, diced
2 lbs. Italian sausage
2 (28 oz) cans diced tomatoes
1 (16 oz) can tomato sauce
1-3 tablespoons chili powder
1-3 tablespoons ground cumin
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional)
1 red bell pepper, diced, or 1/3 cup jalapeño slices (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste
Rinse and soak beans in large pot overnight (6-8 hours). When ready to cook the chili, add the diced onion, bay leaves and salt to the beans and boil until the beans are soft. Pour out excess water until the water and bean levels are the same.
In a Dutch oven brown the meat. Add tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste, chili powder, cumin, sugar, black pepper, crushed red pepper, and red bell pepper or jalapeños. Simmer for 15 minutes.
Before transferring beans to sauce pan remove bay leaves. Add beans to sauce and simmer for 30 minutes. Serve chili warm. Top with cheese, sour cream, crackers, and/or onions. Serves 16.