Chicken cacciatore is a hearty Italian dish of slowly braised chicken in a rich sauce with vegetables. This is a classic Italian dish, that is quite popular in North America, as well as Italy. In North America, cacciatore is typically made with chicken that has been cooked in a tomato based marinara sauce. In Italy, cacciatore does not always have chicken, and instead may be made with rabbit instead.
Chicken cacciatore is made by slowly cooking the chicken in the sauce. I love to create a rustic type of sauce with roughly diced onions, peppers and tomatoes. I also include green olives and white wine. The result is a tender flavourful chicken surrounded by stewed vegetables. So delicious!
Usually, I cook chicken cacciatore in the oven. Braising it uncovered allows the vegetables to caramelize as they roast, and the sauce to thicken.
While the oven is the normal way I prepare this dish, cacciatore can also be cooked in the slow cooker or even a pressure cooker, like an Instant Pot. I have a recipe for cooking this in a slow cooker, which can be found here: Crock Pot Chicken Cacciatore. You will notice that the ingredients are quite similar to this oven-based recipe.
With the slow cooker method, the taste is fairly similar, although baking cacciatore in the oven, gives the vegetables a bit more of a roasted type flavour which is really nice. In the end, use the method that works for you.
Chicken cacciatore works great with any cuts of chicken you have. Chicken breasts, thighs and drumsticks all are great in this recipe. It also does not matter if they are all the same cut, or you decide to use a mixture. You could even use a whole chicken and break it down into individual pieces.
For me, one of the most important aspects of the chicken is to use cuts with the bone in and skin on. While using boneless chicken will work, you do sacrifice a lot of flavour from roasting ‘bone-in’ chicken cacciatore in the oven. Don’t worry, the chicken is so tender that the meat will just fall off the bones!
While I have used many different cuts of chicken in the past, today I used chicken breasts. They were on sale this week at the supermarket, so that made the decision for me. That is so often the way I decide my menu for the week – whatever is on sale.
Before everything goes into the oven, you will want to brown the chicken on both sides first. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper. Place three chicken breasts, skin side down. Let them develop a nice sear on the skin, for about 3 minutes. Then, flip and cook for a few minutes with the skin side up.
You are not wanting to cook the chicken through. The purpose of this is to brown the outside of the meat and skin. This will seal in the juices as well as deepening the flavour profile of the cacciatore.
After you have browned both sides of the chicken, place them in the baking dish. Take the remaining three chicken breasts and brown them the same way as the first.
Once the chicken is out of the skillet, you will notice there are lots of browned goodies at the bottom of the pan. That is full of flavour and we do not want to lose those bits. To get this out of the skillet we will deglaze the pan with the diced veggies and white wine.
With the skillet still on medium heat, toss in the diced veggies and garlic and pour in the white wine. Sauté for a few minutes, stirring and making sure all the browned bits are incorporated into the wine. Remove from the heat and whisk the tomato paste into the white wine until dissolved.
Dump the sautéed vegetables, and liquid in the skillet, across the chicken breasts. Spread the green olives evenly on top. Regarding the green olives, you can use any kind that you like: with the pit, pitted and filled with pimento, garlic, almonds or even jalapeño. Really, any kind will work great. I had some nice garlic stuffed green olives, so I used them.
It might seem like green olives is an odd choice in chicken cacciatore, but I have done it for years and it is consistently the most sought after ingredient in the sauce. People are always digging the spoon in the sauce looking for more olives.
Spread the diced tomatoes all over the chicken and vegetables. Sprinkle with oregano. This makes a lot of food, so you want to make sure that the baking dish you use is large enough to hold everything. A large lasagna dish or other deep baking dish should work.
Once everything is in the dish, place it in the middle rack of the oven and bake at 350F for 1 1/2 hours or until the chicken breasts are cooked through.
Halfway during the cooking, I like to baste the chicken breasts with the juices that are in the dish. Just use a large spoon and scoop some of the sauce, tomatoes and veggies from in the dish and ladle it over the chicken breast.
Once if has finished baking, take it out of the oven and let it rest for 10 minutes.
The smell is incredible and just looking at the dish is awesome. You can see the browned roasted tomatoes and vegetables all over. The chicken is swimming in the sauce and you just know that it will be tender and full of so much flavour!
You can serve the chicken cacciatore over cooked pasta or mashed potatoes. Even rice works very well.