Having fine lentils in a chili can make even the most adamant bean haters lovers of chili. I know for my little ones, lentils in chili provide a texture and flavor they just love. This Beef and Lentil Chili is a hearty (and spicy!) recipe filled with ground beef, French lentils, pancetta, celery, carrots, diced tomatoes, and plenty of spices.
115 oz candiced tomatoesif you desire more heat, opt for fire-roasted
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Place lentils in a small bowl and cover with boiling water. Let it sit for 15 minutes.
In a Dutch oven or large pot, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Brown ground beef and pancetta, stirring often and breaking down the ground meats until evenly crumbled and the pancetta is crisp. When browned, add the the onions, leeks and garlic, and season with salt and pepper. Add cayenne pepper, cumin, paprika, oregano, marjoram, and thyme. Stir in tomato paste. Add carrots and celery, cook for 1 minute. Add chicken stock, diced tomatoes, and drained lentils. Bring to a boil, then lower heat to a simmer. Cook slowly with the lid partially covering the pot, stirring and tasting periodically, adjusting seasonings as necessary, about 1 hour (or more). Stir in balsamic vinegar and some cilantro, if desired.
To serve, garnish with more cilantro, green onions, cheddar cheese, etc.
To adjust spiciness: Start small with the cayenne pepper--perhaps a 1/4 to a 1/2 teaspoon. Add more to increase the spice as desired.