This chicken cacciatore recipe is comforting and perfect for a cold night. Cacciatore–or “hunter” in Italian–is a stew of chicken or rabbit prepared “hunter-style.” Chicken cacciatore sauce is often (not always!) made with onion, peppers, stewed meat, tomatoes, and wine. My chicken cacciatore is served with pasta and cheese for a perfect comfort meal.
Chicken cacciatore was always one of my favorite dishes growing up. My dad made his with boneless, skinless chicken breasts and melted provolone in a thick, tomato sauce, and we served it over pasta.
What is chicken cacciatore sauce made of?
Like the French beef bourguignon, Cacciatore is a rustic, hearty stew-like dish. While exact preparation differs from region to region and family to family, the foundation remains the same. It often includes a base of onions, herbs, and bell peppers. It may include wine or tomatoes.
For protein, the most common is chicken. People sometimes prepare it with rabbit and even Italian salami.
We always grew up eating cacciatore with cooked fettuccine or spaghetti on the side. You can also serve it with white rice or with crusty, toasted bread. Polenta would also be a delicious way to serve it!
You may notice that my variation is topped with mozzarella. Does chicken cacciatore have cheese? As far as I can tell, it doesn’t seem to be a common ingredient with traditional cacciatore. Like I mentioned from the outset, we grew up eating ours with provolone. I use slices of fresh mozzarella, though provolone or grated mozzarella would work well too.
How to make chicken cacciatore:
Making this chicken cacciatore recipe is quite simple, and you can substitute depending on what you have in your pantry or refrigerator.
To start, first prepare the chicken. Use chicken thighs, leg quarters, or drumsticks as the bone-in, skin-on chicken imparts the most flavor to the sauce. Fry up the chicken until the skin is crispy and golden brown.
Next, prepare the sauce base. This recipe calls for a base of the following:
- Yellow onion
- Diced carrots
- Sliced mushrooms
- Diced roasted red bell peppers
- Dry thyme
- Dry oregano
- Tomato paste
- Red wine
- Canned tomatoes; I used canned cherry and crushed
- Castelvetrano olives
Once you assemble the sauce, nestle the chicken into the pot. Simmer on the stovetop for 40–50 minutes or until the chicken is almost falling off the bone.
Right before the chicken finishes simmering, prepare a pot of pasta. Remove the cover from the pot of sauce and place the cheese slices on top and broil until browned and bubbly.
Garnish with minced parlsey or fresh basil. From there, simply pile the chicken and sauce on top of the pasta and enjoy a beautiful plate of chicken cacciatore with pasta!
Chicken Cacciatore Recipe
- 1 tablespoon neutral oil
- 6 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
- 1 yellow onion, peeled and diced
- 3 carrots, peeled and diced
- 8 ounces button mushrooms, wiped clean and sliced
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 6 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
- 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning or use 1 teaspoon dry thyme and 1 teaspoon dry oregano
- ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 10- ounce jar roasted red peppers, drained and sliced
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- ½ cup red wine
- 14.5- ounce can cherry or whole peeled tomatoes
- 28- ounce can crushed tomatoes
- Pinch of sugar, optional
- 6- ounce jar pitted Castelvetrano olives, drained and torn in half
- 8 ounce ball fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced into rounds
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Cooked pappardelle pasta
- Minced parsley
Fry the chicken:
- Pat the chicken dry and season all over with salt and pepper.
- Heat the 1 tablespoon of neutral oil in a wide pot over medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot and shimmering, add the chicken thighs, in batches if needed, skin-side down. Cook without moving for 5 minutes or until the skin is golden brown and releases easily from the bottom of the pot. Flip and cook for 2 minutes. Transfer to a plate. Keep the pot on medium-high heat.
Cook the aromatics:
- Add the sliced mushrooms to the pot. Cook, stirring regularly, for 8–10 minutes. Season all over with salt and pepper.
- Add the diced onion and carrots to the mushrooms. Sauté an additional 8 minutes until the onions begin to soften.
- Melt the butter into the pot and add the garlic, Italian seasoning, and crushed red pepper. Cook for 1 minute until fragrant. Add the red bell peppers and cook for 1 minute.
Brown the tomato paste:
- Add the tomato paste to the pot. Cook, stirring and mashing the paste into the pot, for 3–4 minutes. Adjust the heat to medium as needed to prevent it from burning. The paste will sizzle, deepen in color, and stick to the bottom of the pot.
- Pour the wine into the pot and bring it to a boil. Stir to lift anything stuck to the bottom of the pot.
Simmer the sauce:
- Add both cans of tomatoes. Add a pinch of sugar if you like. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, taste the sauce, and add a pinch of salt and pepper if needed. Add the chicken to the pot, spooning the sauce so that it completely covers the chicken.
- Cover the pot and simmer on low heat for 30 minutes. Stir occasionally to ensure that the sauce isn't sticking.
- After 30 minutes, remove the lid and add the torn olives, stirring them into the sauce. Cover and simmer for an additional 10 minutes or until the temperature of the chicken reaches 165ºF.
Finish the chicken cacciatore:
- Turn on the broiler. Remove the lid from the pot. Arrange the sliced mozzarella on top and drizzle with a teaspoon or two of extra virgin olive oil. Transfer to the broiler for 2–4 minutes or until the cheese is browned and bubbly. Turn off the broiler and remove the pot from the oven.
- Sprinkle the chicken and sauce with freshly minced parsley. Serve with pasta or crusty bread. Enjoy!