A gloomy fall day is the perfect day to make this Simple Chicken Cacciatore. Actually any day is a good day to make this delicious falling off the bone chicken! Cacciatore combines simple ingredients; onions, sweet peppers, tomatoes and wine, to create a wonderfully aromatic sauce for the chicken to simmer in.
Chicken cacciatore is a favorite Italian classic in our house. It is one of my favorite meals because it is hearty, flavorful and easy to prepare. So it sits at the top of our list of go to chicken recipes along with Chicken Spezzatino, Nonna’s Chicken Cutlets and Simple “Agrodolce” Sweet and Sour Chicken.
What is Chicken Cacciatore
“Cacciatore” in Italian means ” hunter”. This rustic dish would have been prepared after a successful hunt. Originally it would have been made with small game, such as rabbit and it would have included onions, mushrooms and herbs. This would all have been combined to create a tasty stew.
Tomatoes were added to the dish after their introduction in Italy during the 15th or 16th century and are considered a southern influence. Some time later, wine was added to develop the version that we are familiar with today. There are numerous variations of the dish depending on what was readily available in different regions of the country.
Ingredients for chicken cacciatore and variations
There is no definitive formula or list of ingredients that makes a “Cacciatore” but this is what I think makes a tasty flavor combination.
Chicken is by and far the most popular meat used today. But you can use any fowl, rabbit, pork, etc.
Dried Basil and Oregano are available all year long and always in my pantry, but you can also change the herbs you use based on what you have on hand or what you like. I have seen versions of this dish that call for tarragon, thyme or oregano.
Canned whole tomatoes in puree are also always in my pantry and they have become a staple in this dish. I like the tomatoes in puree vs. juice because it helps to thicken the sauce a bit.
White wine adds richness and depth to this stew. I have made this with red wine in the past and it is also delicious, but the wine intensifies as it cooks and the flavor can overpower the other ingredients, so I prefer to use white. You can use any wine you have, but remember to use something that you enjoy drinking.
Sweet Peppers, onions and garlic are is a very traditional flavor combination for this dish. I like to cut the peppers and onion in chunks so they stand out, but I mince the garlic so it melts into the sauce.
Other ingredient options
In some forms of the dish you will also see the addition of olives which will add a lovely briny saltiness.
Mushrooms are also a common vegetable in cacciatore that I love but family doesn’t so I have conceded and left them out.
Capers can also be found in many cacciatore recipes and also add a lot of flavor.
A parmesan rind added during the last 20 minutes of cooking makes for a delicious sauce! Just make sure to remove it before serving.
I think that you get the idea that there really is no right or wrong way to make a “cacciatore”. It all depends on what makes your taste buds sing!
How to make this simple chicken cacciatore
Step 1: Brown the chicken. This creates bits of chicken on the bottom of the pan, that add a lot of richness to the flavor of your dish.
Step 2: Sauté the onion and garlic
Step 3: Add the wine and allow the it to reduce by half.
Step 4: Add the tomatoes, herbs and chicken and cook covered for 20 minutes.
Step 5: Add the peppers and cook an additional 20 minutes.
Tips for making a delicious cacciatore
- Salt and Pepper your chicken generously before browning. I use all of the salt and pepper called for in the recipe at this stage and do not need to add any more while it’s cooking.
- Don’t overcrowd the chicken while browning. It will end up steaming rather than developing a nice crust.
- You can coat the chicken in flour before browning if you like. The flour will help create a thicker sauce. I would recommend doing this if you are using canned tomatoes in juice rather than puree. I have found that I don’t need to do this when I am using the puree. The sauce thickens up quite nicely without it.
- Make sure that you use a wine that you enjoy drinking. Cooking with wine will intensify the flavor and if you use a wine you don’t like you will just end up disappointed.
- I let the stew rest uncovered for a few minutes while I get everything else ready. This resting time also helps to thicken the sauce a bit.
What to serve with chicken cacciatore
I love this recipe because I don’t have to really think about what to serve with it. Pasta, rice, polenta or a loaf of crusty bread make a great accompaniment. Add a crispy salad and your dinner is complete. Want to make this a gluten free or low carb meal? Serve it over zucchini noodles! This dish proves that a great dinner does not need to be complicated.
Yes you can and it tastes even better the next day! Just reheat it on the stove top and serve!
This is a great dish to freeze. Stored in an airtight freezer container, this can be frozen for up to 3 months.
A red wine like a chianti or pinot noir pairs very nicely with this dish and enhances the flavors of the tomatoes and chicken.
Absolutely! This recipe works well in a slow cooker. Brown your chicken first. Then add all of the ingredients in your slow cooker and set it on low for 6-8 hours or on high for 3-4 hours.
Suggestion for other Italian dishes
If you tried Chicken Cacciatore or any other recipes on my website, leave me a comment below to let me know how you liked them. I love getting your feedback.
Simply Delicious Chicken Cacciatore
- 2 tbsp Olive oil
- 4 Chicken leg quarters separated, 8 pieces
- 2 tsp Salt
- 1/2 tsp Black pepper
- 2 Sweet Peppers Green, Red, or Yellow, cut into thick strips
- 2 Onions medium, cut into chunks
- 2 cloves Garlic
- 1 tsp Basil dried
- 1 tsp Oregano
- 1 cup White wine dry
- 28 oz Tomatoes, canned peeled and in puree
- Salt and Pepper the chicken thighs
- Heat olive oil over medium heat in a heavy sauce pan or a Dutch oven
- Brown the chicken on both sides. About 5 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate.
- Sauté the garlic and onion in the same pan until the onion is just tender
- Add the wine and stir, scarping up the bits on the bottom of the pan. Cook for 2 minutes.
- Add the tomatoes, oregano and basil. Stir well.
- Add the chicken back in to the pan stirring to make sure the chicken is coated with the tomato mixture.
- Bring to a boil. Cover and cook for 20 minutes.
- Stir in the peppers. Bring back to a boil and cover. Cook on low heat for another 20 minutes.