Dinner,  Soups / Stews,  Vegan

Vegan Chili alla Putanesca with Polenta

This remake was easier than I thought as my initial concern was achieving the intensity of flavor I was accustomed to with Putanesca sauce.  I vividly remember posting this recipe back when I was living in Atlanta in my gorgeous kitchen with two French balconies that seemed so fitting for this sauce!

So the story goes, at least the story I’ve heard, is that the Italian ladies of the night would make a robust and zesty sauce, place it near an open window and the intense aroma would entice male visitors.  Thus, this sauce earned its famous name, Puttanesca, which loosely translates to the ladies of the evening, to put it gently.  Trust me when I tell you that if I had my balcony window open while this chili was simmering on the burner, I just might have landed me a date!

Chili is certainly not an Italian dish, but its spicy tomato base along with endless versions makes me think of the Italian Puttanesca sauce or the heated, angry Arribbiata sauce.  So why not take the sauces I’m familiar with and mix up a pot of Italian style chili!

A key ingredient to the Puttanesca sauce is anchovies – which are now left out of my vegan remake and replaced with a teaspoon of Vegan Worcester Sauce adding that unique background note to the sauce.

I swapped out the ground chuck with Trader Joe’s Beefless Beef and added fennel seeds which are common to the Italian sausage I removed.  Cannellini beans seemed fitting along with Sicilian black olives and capers for my naughty but nice version.  An additional can of Cannellini beans or pinto beans, as I used, helped to bulk up the chili since I was only using a 12 oz. package of the beefless beef.  I did not list salt in the recipe as olives and capers can be salty.  Adjust as necessary.  Crushed red pepper intensifies the heat and should be added to your taste preference.

The following picture was the original post.  I honestly don’t see much difference from the swap to beefless ground meat!

Chili alla Putanesca with Polenta

1 medium onion, diced

1 medium red pepper, diced

1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced finely

3 cloves of garlic, minced

1/2 cup red wine

1 28 oz can whole plum tomatoes, smashed

1/2 tablespoon dried oregano

1/2 tablespoon dried basil

1/2 teaspoons fennel seeds

1/2 tablespoon crushed red pepper

1/2 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup vegetable broth

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 teaspoon Vegan Worcester Sauce

12 oz Trader Joe’s Beefless Beef (or your favorite beefless)

1 15 oz. can Cannellini beans, drained

1 15 oz. can Pinto beans, drained

1/2 cup black olives, Siciliano dried cured or Kalamata, sliced

2 tablespoons capers

In a large stockpot, water sauté the onion,  diced red pepper, jalapeno and garlic until the onions and peppers are soft.

Pour in the red wine, stirring to scrap up the bottom of the pan.  Allow to reduce slightly.  Add in all the remaining ingredients and bring to a simmer, stirring every so often for about 20 minutes to allow all the flavors to marry together..

Ladle into serving bowls and serve with polenta.  Makes about 4 generous servings.

Instant Polenta

3 cups water or vegetable broth

1 cup Instant Polenta

3 tablespoons nutritional yeast

1 tablespoon vegan butter (optional)

Bring the water or broth to a simmer.  Slowly stream in the polenta, stirring constantly.  It will immediately bubble up and thicken, and begin to pull away from the sides of the pan.  Stir in the nutritional yeast (which is subbing out the former parmesan) and vegan butter.  Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve immediately.


I love being in the kitchen. Early mornings, soft music, a hot espresso. Easing into the preparation of delicious meals. Glancing through cookbooks, gathering inspiration and planning my day. I look forward to the cycles of the seasons, the pleasures of tasting and savoring and sharing this with those dear to me. Weekends are special to me as my week days are often rushed, but still I create the ambiance, light the candles, set the table and uncork the wine.

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