Pollo alla cacciatora, a.k.a. chicken cacciatore, is perhaps one of the most commonly mistreated Italian dishes outside of Italy.

Once, while visiting the States when we still lived in Italy, Stefano saw “Chicken Cacciatore” on the menu of a restaurant.  Always wary of Italian food in other countries, he thought this would be a safe choice.  How surprised he was when the waiter brought him a heaping plate of fettuccine with pieces of chicken in a cream sauce!

There were a couple of problems with this.  First, generally speaking, Italians don’t put chicken in their pasta.  Second, food prepared – alla cacciatora refers to meats, typically chicken or rabbit but sometimes other fowl, wild boar or even lamb, seasoned with aromi (onion, carrots, celery and parsley) and stewed in tomatoes, possibly with some white wine.  There is no cream sauce involved, and it is definitely a protein-based second course, not a first course pasta dish.

Cacciatore means “hunter” and food prepared -alla cacciatora typically is translated to “hunter’s style.”  This likely refers more to the fact that the meats were hunted, and then prepared at home with foods and seasonings found in the garden.  Pollo alla cacciatore is a recipe of Tuscan origin that is prepared across Italy today.  As is so often the case, there are variations of the recipe, some which call for mushrooms or red bell peppers.

Our recipe below is quite traditional, except for the fact that we remove the skin.  Many recipes call for the skin to be left on.  We prefer the healthier skinless version below, and have found that the meat turns out tender and flavorful.

For another version of pollo alla cacciatora, see fellow Italian food blogger and Cannolo Award recipient Manu of Manu’s Menu, and for other examples of comical Italian food aberrations, see Paolo’s Quatro Fromaggio and Other Disgraces on the Menu.

Ingredients
1 whole chicken, 4-5 lbs (approx. 2 kilos), whole or in pieces, preferably all natural
Two 28 oz. (500 g.) cans whole tomatoes
1 medium onion
1 stalk celery
1  medium carrot
2 cloves garlic
1 bunch flat leaf Italian parsley
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 Tbsp. Olive oil
2 Tbsp. butter
Salt
Pepper

Directions
Remove the skin from the chicken, using paper towel to help pull the slippery skin off, if necessary.  If your chicken is whole, chop it into 6-8 pieces.  Pat it dry and set aside.

Slice your onion into thin rings, and slice your carrot and celery lengthwise into 4 pieces.   In a large skillet, sauté the onion in olive oil and butter.  When the onion is translucent, add the celery, carrot, parsley and chicken.  Salt and pepper liberally.  Allow the chicken to brown, turning it occasionally so that it cooks evenly on all sides.  Add the wine, and let it cook for 5 minutes.  Then, add the canned tomatoes, passing them through a food mill first to produce a smooth sauce.

Once the sauce boils, turn the heat down and allow the chicken to simmer for an hour or more, until the meat separates easily from the bone.  Taste for salt and adjust.  Serve with crusty bread to soak up the juices.

Download a pdf of the recipe Pollo alla cacciatora

Wine Pairing
We paired our pollo alla cacciatora with a classic Langhe Chardonnay by Giacomo Vico. It is a fresh, medium-full bodied wine that nicely balances the chicken and sauce of this dish.

10 thoughts on “Pollo alla cacciatora

  1. This is interesting because my Nonna Ada in Rome always made this dish “in bianco”, finished off with vinegar. I asked for it often. She taught it that way to her daughter-in-law (my mother) and that’s how my mother taught it to me (and how I taught it to friends). My entire Roman family acts surprised when they see it made with tomato (very amusing), to say nothing of how they react when they see or hear about American versions (the thought of chicken on pasta makes me gag–how did that get so popular in Americanized Italian restaurants?). I have seen the tomato-less versions in some publications, but usually with tomato. I would love to know more about the history of the dish and the different versions.

    • That is interesting, Lisa. We spoke with Filippo Caffari, owner and chef of The Butcher Block in Minneapolis and a native of Rome. He concurred that in Rome, Pollo alla cacciatora is made without tomatoes. Your Nonna Ada was spot on!

  2. I just made pollo alla cacciatora! very similar to your but left the skin on and usually add mushrooms if I can.

    Anyway I also like to use the leftover sauce to dress pasta. After I eat all the chicken. I agree no chicken on pasta!

  3. Yep, this is one of those dishes that has been the victim of its own popularity. Always good to see when someone sets the record straight!

    I’m a fan of Paolo’s blog, too…

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