What is pollo alla cacciatora?
In Italian cuisine, there’s perhaps no more comforting a dish than pollo alla cacciatora, which, translated directly, means chicken cooked ‘hunter’s style’. The name of this dish is a reference to the tradition of hunters slow-roasting their prey in a large glug of wine – along with herbs, garlic, and plenty of ripe, full-flavoured tomatoes. In fact, nearly any meat can be cooked in this style – coniglio alla cacciatora (hunter's rabbit) is another common variation.
As Marcella Hazan claims in ‘The Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking’: "Since there has always been a hunter in nearly every Italian household, every cook prepares a dish with a claim to that description. There are uncounted permutations in the dishes that go by the cacciatora name, but what they generally consist of is a fricassee with tomato, onion, and other vegetables."
From north to south, all 20 Italian regions have their own version of chicken alla cacciatora, each one as equally authentic as the last. For our recipe, we slow-cook chicken in a sauce of red wine, tomatoes and juniper berries, before shredding the meat and serving the finished sauce with thick ribbons of pappardelle.
Our hunter's chicken pasta recipe
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour
Calories per serving: 673 kcal
- 500g fresh pappardelle, or 400g dried
- 8 skinless, boneless chicken thighs
- 2 onions, diced
- 1 carrot, diced
- 1 celery stalk, diced
- 2 red peppers, diced
- 3 cloves of garlic, sliced
- 60g black olives, pitted
- 3 sprigs rosemary
- 20g flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
- 800g peeled plum tomatoes (2 tins)
- 250ml red wine
- 6 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
- 3 juniper berries, crushed
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Heat a large saucepan or casserole dish over a medium high heat and add 3 tbsp of olive oil.
- Add the chicken to the pan and fry on both sides for about 10 minutes, until golden brown. Once done, remove from the pan and set aside.
- Turn the heat down to medium low, then add the remaining oil to the same pan, along with all of the diced vegetables. Cook for 10 minutes, stirringly regularly to ensure that they don’t stick.
- Once the vegetables begin to turn golden brown, add the garlic and cook for a minute more.
- Add your chicken thighs back to the pan, along with the peeled plum tomatoes, red wine, olives, rosemary and juniper berries. Use the back of a wooden spoon to break the tomatoes, stir to combine, then cover and simmer for 40 minutes.
- Once done, remove the sprigs of rosemary, then use two forks to pull the chicken thighs into large chunks and stir them into the stew. Taste for seasoning, then turn the heat down to low. This is your chicken alla cacciatora.
- Put a large pan of water on to boil for your pasta. Once your pan of water is at a rolling boil, salt it generously and stir well. Add your pasta and cook until al dente (aim for 3-4 minutes for fresh pappardelle, or two minutes less than the packet instructions if using dried).
- Drain the pasta, saving some of the cooking water, then add it to your pan of sauce, giving everything a good swish and tossing to ensure each strand of pasta is covered in sauce.
- Garnish with the parsley and serve immediately. Buon appetito!