Traditionally, pollo alla cacciatore (hunter-style chicken) features chicken, pan-braised in a tomato sauce with mushrooms, served over pasta, very often spaghetti. I say “traditionally” because this is not the cacciatore Mom made. Her recipe did not result in a tomato sauce and Mom never served this dish over pasta. Although I will agree with the purists who’ll be quick to point out that this is not a true cacciatore, I very much prefer it Mom’s way if, for no other reason, than that I already make a number of tomato-based sauces. Making another one with chicken holds little interest for me. All of this doesn’t mean that tomatoes aren’t used in this recipe. I’ll add a diced tomato or about a tbsp of tomato paste “for color,” as Mom would say. Additionally, this recipe uses chicken thighs with the skin-on and bone-in because the combination adds so much flavor to the final dish. Of course, you may use whatever chicken parts you wish, with or without skin or bones, but your choices may affect cooking times. Use an instant read thermometer when in doubt. If you do not wish to use wine, one cup of chicken broth/stock may be substituted.
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Mom’s Chicken (that’s not really) Cacciatore Recipe
total time: about 75 minutes.
yield: 5 or 6 servings
- 1 pkg chicken thighs (5 or 6 thighs), with bone-in and skin-on
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 3 slices of bacon (or 1/4 lb. of pancetta), chopped
- 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 large yellow or sweet onion, halved and sliced
- 3 cloves garlic, sliced
- 1 bell pepper, cut into strips
- 8 oz. crimini or button mushrooms, sliced
- 1 tomato, diced, or 1 tbsp tomato paste
- 2 – 3 tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped
- 1 cup white wine (or low-sodium chicken stock/broth)
- 3 tbsp capers (optional)
- 3 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped, for garnish
- salt & pepper, to taste
- Heat olive oil in a large frying pan with lid over medium heat. Add bacon/pancetta and cook until crisp and the fat is rendered. Remove meat from pan and drain over paper towels.
- Meanwhile, season chicken with salt & pepper. Place flour in a plastic bag, place 2 chicken pieces in bag, and shake to coat. Remove chicken to a plate and repeat until all the chicken is coated with flour.
- Once the bacon/pancetta has been removed from the frying pan, increase the heat to medium-high and add the chicken pieces, skin-side down. Sauté until chicken is lightly browned, about 5 – 6 minutes, turn the chicken pieces over, and sauté until they, too, are lightly browned — another 5 minutes or so. Remove chicken to a plate.
- Remove all but about 3 tbsp of oil from the frying pan. Add the onion and begin sautéing. Lightly season with salt & pepper. Use a wooden spoon to clean the pan’s bottom of the brown bits. (These are where the flavor is.)
- After about 5 minutes, add the garlic & bell peppers and continue sautéing.
- After 5 minutes more, add the mushrooms.
- 5 minutes later, add the tomato/paste and sauté for 2 – 3 minutes. Season lightly with salt & pepper.
- Return the bacon/pancetta to the pan, season with the rosemary, return the chicken to the pan, and add the wine.
- Bring the pan to a boil before covering and reducing heat to medium-low.
- Continue cooking for 45 minutes or until chicken is fully cooked. (Use an instant read thermometer if in doubt.) Periodically, throughout the cooking, slightly shift the chicken pieces to prevent their sticking/burning. If the pan looks too dry, add a little water/chicken broth. A few minutes before serving, sprinkle the capers over the pan’s contents. Taste the sauce to see if salt or pepper is needed.
- When finished cooking, remove to a serving platter and garnish with parsley.
Strictly speaking, I do not have any variations for this recipe. It’s pretty much the same recipe that Mom used. Where we part ways is in the serving. As was mentioned earlier, Mom never served her cacciatore over pasta. On the other hand, I’m a pasta fanatic and I’m always on the look-out for ways to include pasta in a meal. For me, this recipe is delicious when served over wide noodles that have been buttered and lightly sprinkled with freshly chopped parsley. And on those extremely rare occasions when I’m not in a pasta mood, I’ll serve it atop polenta. Either way is aces in my book.
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The only thing missing is a “print” button with which to print a printer friendly version to take to the store and splatter on in the kitchen…
I’ve changed the page format to include a print option but, to date, there is no option for creating a grocery list. I hope that they will one day make it possible. Thanks for the input.
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This looks so delicious, and not like the cacciatore recipes I’ve seen and tasted…this definitely looks better. I’ve bookmarked it to try for sure this fall/winter. Lovely!
Thanks, Betsy. Many of the cacciatore recipes create a tomato sauce. We make plenty of tomato sauces in a variety of ways. Making one with a chicken base is of little interest to me or was to my Mom, for that matter. You can change this recipe, too, by adding more/less bell peppers and more/less mushrooms. You can thicken the sauce to make gravy or serve it as-is. I make this dish about once a month and never tire of it. I hope you, too, will like it. 🙂
John, thank you for sharing your holiday with us. Mother’s Chicken Cacciatore looks splendid……..especially served on polenta.
Thank you, Elaine. I’ve loved polenta since I was a boy. If the entrée has a sauce or gravy, I’ll try serving it over polenta. I’ve yet to be disappointed. 🙂
When the cooler weather comes I will invite guests and make this for them all. We will lift our glasses to your mother and you! Cheers. The recipe sounds perfect.
That’s so nice of your, Ruth. I have the large frying pan that Mom used when she made this. From the pan used to the aroma-filled kitchen, this dish is such a nostalgic trip for me. I really do hope you and your guests enjoy it. 🙂
Thank you for sharing the recipe. This is something I haven’t had in a very long time. My grandmother cooked chicken cacciatore all the time!
“Mother’s Chicken Cacciatore” looks absolutely delicious!
Thank you, Judy. This dish remains a favorite of mine and I make it at least once a month. I bet your Grandmother’s cacciatore was a great dish and wish you had that recipe to share. I’d love to give it a try.
Her recipes were wonderful! I really miss everything about her. My mom passed before her and many of my aunts received her recipes. I wish I had her recipes. Thank you for your lovely reply, I appreciate it.
Don’t give up, Judy. Ask your Aunts again and again for the recipes. I feel that the family recipes are an important part of the individual’s legacy. That’s the idea of this blog. To make sure everyone in my family has access to these recipes. If you can get them, I promise it will be a very rewarding experience. 🙂
Thank you! I have many of my mom’s which were the only items I really wanted. All handwritten : )
I agree with you, and that is what makes your blog so special. It is a breath of fresh air reading your stories with the recipes! Love it!
Thanks, Judy, and I’m so glad you do have your Mom’s handwritten recipes. I have a few of Mom’s and they’re priceless!
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This is a great way to prepare chicken and I’m definitely going to prepare it soon. I applaud you for pointing out it isn’t really alla cacciatora, although calling it “alla cacciatora in bianco” would be quite accurate. I think it could be nice to substitute capers with olives, but then it wouldn’t be your mom’s anymore I suppose. As always, thanks for sharing the family recipes!
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Thanks. Stefan, What I love most about this recipe are the scents of rosemary & garlic that permeate my kitchen while the chicken braises. I find it irresistible. You’re correct in that this would could certainly be called “alla cacciatora in bianco”. I really do prefer it prepared this way, though, and find that a tomato sauce, though tasty, overpowers much of the dish’s other flavors. As always, Mom knew best. 🙂
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