Pollo alla Cacciatora

cacciatore cooking

cacciatore cooking

I had half a large chicken, which had been languishing in the freezer and some good tomatoes and mushrooms in the fridge, so Chicken Cacciatore was an obvious choice for supper. Chicken Cacciatore is an Italian classic – the word cacciatore means hunter and therefore the dish is probably related to the way in which Tuscan hunters cook rabbit or game birds, both of which benefit from slow cooking in stock and I’m sure, taste delicious done this way.

Pollo alla Cacciatora recipe (serves 3):

Half a large (6lb) chicken or a 3lb chicken (jointed), or 4 legs (divided)
1 large onion (chopped)
6 pieces of garlic (finely chopped)
3 large tomatoes  (blanched, peeled and chopped) or half a tin
1 carrot (chopped)
1 stick of celery (chopped)
8 mushrooms (chopped)
a glass of red wine
half a pint home made chicken stock
12 black olives (Kalamata)
a dessertspoon tomato pureé
a large squirt of anchovy paste
a teaspoon of Dijon mustard
a dessertspoon red wine vinegar
2 bay leaves
8 fresh basil leaves (torn)
4 sprigs of fresh rosemary
3 dessertspoons plain flour, seasoned with a little salt and pepper
additional cracked black pepper (to taste)
2 tbsp olive oil

peeled tomatoes

peeled tomatoes

Since I was using fresh tomatoes, I blanched them in boiling water for a couple of minutes and peeled them before doing anything else. I only used half the above six, the rest became a sauce with garlic, basil and anchovy paste, to use with pasta or a pizza (now in the freezer for a rainy day).

leg and wing

leg and wing

Dust the chicken with seasoned flour and brown to caramelise the sugars in the skin. Do this in batches as meat browns better if given some space. The chicken is not cooked at this point, just coloured for 5 minutes or so per side. If using a terracotta cazuela like me, use plenty of olive oil and heat it up slowly or the terracotta will crack. Don’t get it too hot before you put the chicken in. If using a normal frying pan, get it nice and hot to brown the chicken quickly. When the chicken is done, transfer it to a plate. If there is a lot of oil in your pan, pour some off and save it for later – it will taste great for frying steak!



Using the same pan (terracotta cazuelas, cast iron casseroles or frying pans are ideal) fry the onions until translucent, followed by carrot, celery, mushrooms and garlic. When the vegetables have been coated with oil, add the tomatoes and crush them gently with a potato masher.



Squeeze the tomato purée and anchovy paste into the vegetables, sprinkle on the olives and pour in the red wine vinegar, the glass of wine and half the stock. The mustard, bay leaves and rosemary can go in now too. Allow the sauce to bubble for a few minutes to burn off the alcohol in the wine. At this point, if the sauce is a bit thick, add some more stock. I held on to the leftover seasoned flour, which can be used to thicken the sauce if it’s a bit too liquid. Taste the sauce, it may be a little frisky, but you should be able to tell if it needs more anchovy paste (if lacking saltiness) or pepper. It will mellow over time. When you are satisfied that the sauce is good, return the chicken to the cooking pot and cover with a lid or some foil – remember that it is not cooked through yet, so allow at least 20 minutes before tasting again!

chicken cacciatore

chicken cacciatore

If using a small 3lb chicken the cacciatore will take about 45 minutes to cook on a low heat. It’s done when the meat starts to fall off the bone. Do turn the chicken over half way through, so that it absorbs lots of flavour and stays moist. I cooked my chicken for 90 minutes because the pieces were quite large (especially the breast) and removed the foil for the last 10 minutes to thicken the sauce. If using a cast iron casserole with lid, the cacciatore can be cooked in the oven at about 150º C.



I was delighted by the thick gelatinous skin that started to form on top of my cacciatore – there’s a lot of goodness in the bones and I love it when the sauce makes my lips stick together!

Serve with boiled potatoes, rice, polenta or salad. I enjoyed a glass or two of La Niña Roja with mine.

About Mad Dog

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39 Responses to Pollo alla Cacciatora

  1. Ruth says:

    Does this perfect? Yes, it does! Yum.

  2. Eha says:

    Hello to an old favourite: so ‘comfortable’ to make when friends drop in! Well: new ingredients to try – have not used your favourite anchovy paste nor olives as a rule nor basil . . . more than happy to try! Oops, and the UK surely produces rather bigger poultry than what is on sale here . . . methinks our producers are too eager to get theirs onto the market . . .

    • Mad Dog says:

      Thanks Eha. You’ll get the same results with anchovy fillets, but the paste is convenient to keep in the fridge. There are lots of variations on this recipe and I had some nice Greek olives which I thought would work – I wasn’t disappointed. Basil is always good with tomato, and I’ve got a plant on the kitchen windowsill.
      There are generally small, medium and large chicken on sale here. I don’t normally buy the big ones, but I was working late and found this one at 9pm on very special offer because they wanted to get rid of it. As it was free range and ridiculously cheap, I couldn’t refuse!

      • Eha says:

        Laughing: oh, it seems to work the same all around the world: if I am working post 9-10 pm: ’tis quite amazing what turns up on special – well, for me on line: one leaves it till the morning . . . gone and dusted 🙂 !! Off to cook a stirfry for visiting firemen – would you believe turkey fillets on special 🙂 !!

  3. You know what? I have never made this and I have everything right here. What was I thinking? Thank you for this. I will make it for Sunday dinner! And it will be on the menu again and again i am sure.. c

    • Mad Dog says:

      Thanks Cecilia, I thought I’d blogged it before – the same happened recently with lamb shanks. It’s very easy to make and can vary depending on the vegetables to hand. One recipe I saw even mentioned kale. I’m sure you’ve got plenty of chicken and tomatoes 🙂

  4. Everything about this looks delicious from the browning phase to the anchovy and Dijon. Mushrooms ams chicken are such a great combo. Cooking it on low and letting it become fall off the bone soft is just perfect for the season. What a wonderful mix of veggies to go with it. Yum!

    • Mad Dog says:

      Thanks Amanda – it’s a lovely savoury dish made with regular vegetables and things in the cupboard, but it turns out like the classic it is. Lots of umami and sticky lips 🙂

  5. Nadia says:

    One of all favourite way to cook chicken. I see you used the new dish, most probably quite well used already by now. Great wine pairing too. The Rioja will stand up well with this dish.

    • Mad Dog says:

      Thanks Nadia – I like the fact that I could take the dish and recipe and be cooking outside it in a field over a wood fire. That’s probably where the hunter element comes in.

  6. Still a favourite dish but rarely get to eat it as Jenny is vegetarian…..Molly is the only one that gets chicken….:)

  7. ¡Qué rico MD! Me ha encantado tu receta y la sugerencia del cariñena. No siempre tiene que ser Rioja, no crees? Un saludo 😉

  8. What a classic…and a fantastic reminder of just how good dishes like this are! I have a lot of little packets of anchovies that I bring back from Spain that last ages but when they run out I’ll have to get some paste. Just back from a few days in Asturias where we ate lots of Fabada and drank plenty of lovely wines. Like Giovanna I’m more of a white wine girl (mind you, rosado too!) and love the wines of rueda. Big Man is in charge of cooking for a few weeks from tomorrow so wish me luck!!

  9. Conor Bofin says:

    Great job MD. The vegetables in stock look delicious and the addition of the chicken makes for a lovely job. Far more complex than a traditional Hunters Chicken often sold here.

  10. ChgoJohn says:

    A wonderful recipe, MD. Just today, I was contemplating preparing chicken alla cacciatora but then I saw I had some harissa in the fridge and changed course. Damn! My dinner was tasty but yours would have been so much better. A fact that I’m sure to recall when I re-heat the leftovers. 🙂

  11. Michelle says:

    Nice! We’re just back from vacation and craving homemade food after eating out for two solid weeks. This looks like the perfect antidote.

  12. Chris says:

    Hello Mad! I am a member of C’s fellowship and pop over to your sight now and then to see what good things you are preparing in your kitchen! When I saw this recipe, I thought..I just have to make it because it looks and sounds so delicious!
    Two questions:
    Since fresh tomatoe season is over here I will use canned…Should they be whole tomatoes, crushed or can I use a can of diced?
    And by tomatoe puree, can tomato paste be used? It is quite a bit thicker than puree, I think but will thin out with the rest of the liquids…
    Thank-you! I love your blog…you live life to it’s fullest! 🙂

    • Mad Dog says:

      Hi Chris, it’s good to see you here! I’m sure canned tomatoes of either type will be fine. I used a potato masher to squash my fresh ones. I think what we call purée, is paste. It comes in a tube or small can and is quite thick 🙂

  13. Chris says:

    Yes, I thought maybe your puree was equivalent to our paste! And so nice now that it comes in tubes! 🙂 The small cans were such a waste! Are you an American ex-pat living in Spain now and if so, what state are you from? When I read that “foreign muck” wasn’t allowed in the house and that your meat was cooked beyond recognition, I thought, that has to be an American philosophy! Hah! 🙂

    • Mad Dog says:

      I’m from London, but I lived in Barcelona for a few years and the Atlanta. After that I was in Paris before going back to the UK. At present I’m in Barcelona for a while and hoping one day to move back here. There are a few Catalan posts coming up…

  14. This looks delicious Mad Dag, I can see myself making something like this.

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