A delicious and easy-to-make family dinner. Try it tonight!
The recipe title, “One-Pot Italian Chicken Cacciatore,” refers to a type of meat stew made in Italy, presumably when a hunter would bring home a fresh catch. Or possibly, the hunter himself would make this stew with the one pot he had on hand while out in the forest. Exactly where the title comes from is no longer known, and many delicious variations of chicken stew are called “alla cacciatore”—meaning “as a hunter would make”—in Italy today.
For our Italian chicken cacciatore recipe, a whole cut chicken is cooked in one large skillet, using olive oil and fresh summer tomatoes and peppers. Although this dish started out “back in the day” as a stew (in cooking terms, a fricassee), I’ve omitted the flour to make less of a gravy and instead a light, fresh “sauce.” By taking the chicken out of the pot after browning and then putting it back in to finish cooking, the amount of chicken fat in the dish is reduced. I like mushrooms, which I often add to the dish as well.
Hearty, crusty Italian bread makes a perfect accompaniment to Italian chicken cacciatore, although I have to admit that my family does not follow the proper Italian food “rules” when it comes to this dish. If you’ve been to Italy, you know them: the first course (il primo) is pasta, risotto, or gnocchi, and the second course (il secondo) is the meat—all by itself in a sauce or gravy. Fresh vegetables are abundant in Italy, but in Italian restaurants, they must be ordered as a side dish (contorno) during the second course.
Like good Italian-Americans, we eat our chicken with the pasta on the side and cover both in sauce. Add Parmesan cheese if you like, but only to the pasta! I hope your family enjoys this recipe as much as mine does. —Kathryn Occhipinti
1 frying chicken, cut into 2 breasts, 2 thighs/legs, 2 wings
(or any chicken with breasts and thighs of similar size)
approximately 1/4 cup olive oil, and more as needed
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
3/4 cup Italian dry white wine
1 large medium onion, sliced thickly
2 bell peppers (1 green and 1 red preferred), sliced lengthwise
11 (15 oz.) can tomatoes or fresh tomatoes, coarsely chopped, in liquid
6–8 cremini (baby portabella) mushrooms, sliced lengthwise (optional)
(quickly rinsed, gently rubbed dry with a paper towel, stem trimmed)
1/2–1 cup good chicken stock, or water
2 sprigs of Italian flat-leaf parsley (chop off leafy parts and reserve; tie stems in a small bundle)
(*Scroll to the end of this section for an abbreviated method for an even quicker weeknight dinner.)
Rinse the frying chicken inside and out, pat dry, and cut into pieces. Reserve the back for chicken soup to be made at a later date!
Sprinkle chicken lightly with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Use a large, shallow pot, Dutch oven, or skillet to cook all ingredients over medium high heat as follows:
Pour olive oil into your pot or skillet to coat the entire bottom of the pot with a thin layer of oil, using approximately 1/4 cup of olive oil.
Add 1 of the cloves of crushed garlic and cook under low heat until it softens and adds flavor to the olive oil, but do not brown.
Raise heat to medium high. When the oil has heated, add chicken to the pan skin side down, keeping each piece separate from the other. Let cook without moving the chicken for a few minutes. Lift up one of the chicken pieces to check. When the skin has browned lightly, turn chicken pieces once and cook about 5 minutes more.
Remove the chicken to a plate. Pour off any rendered chicken fat and a couple more tablespoons of olive oil so pan is coated lightly.
Add the second piece of crushed garlic, the onions, and the peppers and sauté until all vegetables have softened a bit but have not cooked.
Add the white wine and boil off about 1/2 of the wine. While the wine is boiling, use a wooden spoon to scrape off any browned bits that have stuck to the pan while the chicken was browning.
Add the chopped tomatoes with their juices, bundled fresh parsley stems and optional sliced mushrooms. Then add a few pinches of salt and a few grinds of pepper.
Add enough chicken stock or water to almost cover the chicken and vegetables.
Cover the skillet, leaving the lid slightly ajar, and cook on medium low heat about 30–40 minutes. The liquid should be simmering but not boiling in order to give a nice consistency of the vegetables and retain their shape. Turn the chicken over a few times gently as it cooks, to ensure even cooking, and add more water as needed. (Additional cooking time will depend on how cooked the chicken was initially, of course.)
Test the chicken to make sure it is cooked through by cutting a slit into one of the breasts. When the chicken is done, the juices should run clear. Just before the chicken is cooked through, you may want to uncover to boil off any excess liquid.
This dish is not quite a chicken stew,** and the “sauce” it yields will usually be a bit thin, because we have not added flour as a thickener.
Taste the sauce, and adjust salt and pepper before serving. Remove the parsley stems.
Place the chicken pieces on a large platter or on individual plates. Garnish with fresh parsley leaves.
The “sauce” can be served over the chicken and the dish eaten accompanied by bread, like a stew. But as I’ve noted above, I have to admit that here in America, my family breaks the “pasta first course and meat second course” rule and serves this chicken dish together with pasta. I think that this dish is a great way to introduce children to how delicious fresh vegetables can be. But only put grated Parmesan cheese on your pasta—not the chicken, please!
With this method, the chicken can be cooked on the stove top, with a large, deep skillet, or started on the stove top and finished in the oven with an oven-safe pot.
(Note: It is not traditional Italian to cook onions and garlic without softening them first in olive oil, but when simmered in hot, salted liquid, onions and garlic will mellow and add a sweet flavor to the sauce.)
Put 1/4 cup olive oil, crushed garlic, sliced onions, sliced peppers, tomatoes and their juices, optional sliced mushrooms, and parsley stalks into your cooking pot of choice. Sprinkle with salt.
Place the chicken, washed, patted dry, and sprinkled with salt and pepper, on top of the vegetables.
Add enough water or stock to just cover the chicken and vegetables. (Omit the white wine in the ingredients list.)
Cook on stove top over high heat to bring the liquid to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, on the stove top or in the oven at 350° until done, about 40–60 minutes. Turn chicken and mix vegetables so all remain in liquid every 15 minutes or so while the chicken is cooking. Add more liquid as necessary. When the chicken is cut with a knife, the juices should be clear when the chicken is cooked through to the proper temperature.
Plate chicken and vegetables in their juices and serve with bread or pasta on the side, as given in the first method.
**In a stew meat is cut up, sautéed, and braised, with flour as a thickener. In this recipe, we use a generous amount of healthy olive oil. If you want to decrease the amount of fat, the same methods can be followed with skinless, bone-in chicken, browned for a shorter time initially.
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD, is the author of the
Conversational Italian for Travelers series of books and a teacher of Italian for travelers to Italy in the Peoria and Chicago area.
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One-Pot Italian Chicken Cacciatore