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Exploring Chicken Cacciatore: History Plus 5 Recipes

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Linda explores food facts, folklore, and fabulous recipes, one ingredient at a time.

Chicken cacciatore is a classic Italian chicken dish with mushrooms, herbs, and tomatoes

Chicken cacciatore is a classic Italian chicken dish with mushrooms, herbs, and tomatoes

Do Food Historians Have It Wrong?

According to folklore, chicken cacciatore (hunter-style chicken) is an Italian dish—from central Italy, to be exact. We're also told that this savory braise of chicken, mushrooms, and tomatoes originated during the Renaissance. What’s wrong with this story?

First, the chicken. If indeed this was a dish inspired by the bounty of a hunting party, would it really have been a free-range chicken? I would wager that the poultry was actually quail or pheasant. Next, the ingredients don’t mesh with history. The Renaissance was 1300–1600 A.D. and at that time tomatoes were across the Atlantic, roughly 6,000 miles away.

The website Days of the Year has a much more plausible scenario:

"It is thought that the first Chicken Cacciatore was not made with chicken at all, but with rabbit or other wild game sometime during the Renaissance period, so between the 14th and 16th centuries. Chicken cacciatore’s simple but delicious recipe was likely developed to satisfy the appetites of hunters who may have been on the track of a larger animal or herd of animals for several days, and who needed a tasty, filling stew that could easily be cooked outdoors to keep them going. The spices used, such as parsley and oregano, would have also been readily available to humble hunters."

Nevertheless, chicken cacciatore is a nourishing bowl of comfort, containing simple ingredients that are inexpensive and readily attainable. Although the time spent cooking an authentic dish might be lengthy, it's an easy dish to prepare; even a novice cook can make chicken cacciatore.

Let's look first at an authentic recipe, and then some fun alternative dishes that provide all those same amazing flavors.

Pasquale Sciarappa's Authentic Chicken Cacciatore

I have a secret to divulge, and I hope none of you will tell my husband. I am in love with another man. The first time I saw him was on a television cooking channel. Yes, intellectually I recognize he was performing for the masses, but in my heart of hearts, I know that he was speaking to me. Allow me to explain.

Pasquale Sciarappa was born in Orsara, the Apulia region of Italy, in 1939. He began his culinary career in Torino in 1957 then moved to the United States where he found a new home in Long Branch, New Jersey.

I don't know what he did all those years, but after retirement, Pasquale wanted to share his love of cooking with the world, and so he began Osara Recipes, named for the town of his birth. What began as a hobby is now a full-time new career with a website, media appearances, and merchandise.

Watch this video of him making his authentic chicken cacciatore, the old-fashioned way, and you'll understand my adoration.

Slow cooker cacciatore

Slow cooker cacciatore

Slow Cooker Chicken Cacciatore

By tradition, chicken cacciatore is slow-simmered. How lucky we are that, unlike the Italian nanas of long ago, we now have slow-cookers (crockpots) to do almost all of the work for us. This slow cooker cacciatore utilizes health(ier) breast portions, but they stay incredibly moist when slow-simmered in a crockpot. There's plenty of garlic and herbs, and Erin adds a dash of balsamic vinegar to brighten the flavors.

Vegan cacciatore

Vegan cacciatore

Vegan Cacciatore

My younger daughter is a vegetarian, so of course, I wanted to find a cacciatore for her. Most of the recipes I found on the internet use eggplant (not her favorite), so I was happy when I found this vegan cacciatore that uses extra-firm tofu. It's rich and comforting, with the deep umami flavors of carrot, mushrooms, and canned tomatoes.

Chicken cacciatore meatballs

Chicken cacciatore meatballs

Chicken Cacciatore Meatballs

What if you don't want to wait hours for your chicken braise to simmer slowly in the oven or on the stovetop? You have a family to feed (or yourself) and stomachs are rumbling. Make this dish of chicken cacciatore meatballs with all the savory flavors you want, but without all of the time and fuss.

Cacciatore Soup

All the flavors you love in our featured dish can come to your table even faster with this chicken cacciatore soup. Dan and Christie use rotisserie chicken to streamline the dish. Simply sweat the vegetables in your Dutch oven, deglaze with a splash of wine, add tomato, the chicken, and spinach. Let simmer till everything is hot and the flavors marry together. Use the pasta of your choice and in 40 minutes dinner is served.

Trivia

  • October 15 is National Chicken Cacciatore Day

Sources

© 2020 Linda Lum

Comments

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on November 11, 2020:

Shauna, they aren't our real parents. Its more like the evil stepmother (and by the way I had to go thru my feed to get here to respond to you )

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on November 10, 2020:

That's good, then.

I deleted a bunch of poems and need to delete the rest because they're still sitting here. A handful of the sixteen chapters of "The Gifts of Faith" have gone to discover. It makes no sense to have some and not all, so I'll have to look at them and see why they're sitting in no-man's land. I also have several others that are still sitting here. I'll edit and if they continue to sit, I'll delete. Then, I'll have to figure out a game plan, since it doesn't look like the ability to comment on the niche sites is going to happen, contrary to what we've been told.

Parents aren't supposed to lie to their children!

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on November 10, 2020:

Hey Sis, except for the Monday Q&A and a few odd articles that no longer fit my style, I really don't have anything on HP. I doubt anyone would want to steal them

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on November 10, 2020:

Linda, the only downfall to articles that remain on HP and allow comments, is we'll no longer earn from page views, comments, or anything else. Our articles will be a glorified social media outlet.

There is no more monetization of articles that sit on hubpages.com as of right...NOW.

I wonder if that leaves those articles more open to plagiarism. Will HP still scope the web to see if any of these articles have been stolen? Probably not.

Conundrum: Pray our articles are worthy of the ugly, formal, unfriendly niche sites and earn a passive income, or let them sit here so we can have a conversation outside the forums. Eventually, I think what's left of HP will take on the properties of heated sugar; it'll dissolve in all the tears and residual sweat.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on November 10, 2020:

Cristina, I'm guessing that years ago they flavored their stews with onions and garlic (ramps grow wild), perhaps some foraged mushrooms? Ooh, could there have been truffles?

You're so right about paella--another dish that now uses tomatoes, chicken, and seafood. I almost dread thinking what it might have been several centuries ago.

Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on November 10, 2020:

Shauna, he's just such a cutie pie, isn't he (but a little too old for me. Mr. Carb is 73 but doesn't look 73).

I don't know what to think about Maven. My weekly Q&A is safe. Hubs Pages absolutely HATES it, so you can always leave comments there. If the trend for the migration of my weekly food-related articles (like this one) continues, it will go to Delishably tomorrow by cob (close of business). Glad you were able to get your 2 cents worth in when you did.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on November 10, 2020:

Linda, I canna see a why a you fall in da love a wit Pasquale. Mama mia!

The slow cooker cacciatore recipe interests me. My son won't eat anything but chicken breasts, so he'd probably eat that. Thing is, he can - and pretty much does - eat chicken every day of the week. But he won't eat dark meat and he won't eat chicken on the bone.

Picky, picky, picky!

Glad I got to this before it got moved to the Discover abyss. Lordy, what are we gonna do?

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on November 10, 2020:

Pamela, I always smile when I see that there is a comment from you. You are always kind and cheerful. I hope t have an opportunity to try one of these recipes.

Ann Carr from SW England on November 10, 2020:

I keep saying I want to learn Italian but haven't got round to it yet. I can understand a fair amount (similarities to French) but, other than the basics, that's where it stops. I should make more effort to do so.

Ann

Cristina Vanthul from Florida on November 10, 2020:

I think you're on to something with those tomatoes. Even when they made it to the Old World, they were widely considered toxic. What would have hunters used rather than tomatoes? This all reminds me also of paella's history. Originally, it, too, would have been made over an open fire with rabbit and other country animals.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on November 10, 2020:

That first picture won my heart (for an Italian dish that is). All of these recipes look so delicious. I really enjoyed reading the history of chicken cacciatore, and it was fun to learn about your secret love. This is a terrific article, Linda. Thanks for sharing the history and the recipes.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on November 10, 2020:

Flourish, it's what I do. Thanks for your kind words dear friend. Have a great week!

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on November 10, 2020:

Peggy, this one was so much fun to write. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

FlourishAnyway from USA on November 10, 2020:

I love that you have provided some creative spin-offs. Those meatballs look like they will do the trick for my family. Thank you for sharing these! Splendid writing too as always!

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on November 10, 2020:

Chicken Cacciatore is a delicious dish. Thanks for clearing up some of the history related to this dish. That was an interesting tidbit to know.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on November 10, 2020:

Bill, I know how much you love chicken and I'm glad you liked this one. I'm even happier to receive your kind words. I think I've found my niche and I love doing this.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on November 10, 2020:

Eric, we ate this last night and it was wonderful--chicken, of course. No pheasant or wild hare for us.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on November 10, 2020:

You can explore it all you want; me, I'll just eat it, thank you very much.

As you know, I'm a big chicken fan, so it goes without saying that I would love chicken cacciatore. Delicious when done correctly.

Love the history lesson! You have a winning formula for these articles. Keep it up!

Stay warm and dry, my friend.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on November 10, 2020:

Wonderful. Cool history, I will buy the latter version. I would not of thought to use other main ingredients. This sure looks tasty and doable. I find Pascuale likeable. I can understand your crush.

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on November 10, 2020:

Ann, I was invited to give a lecture there, and then the pandemic happened. Oh well.

Ann Carr from SW England on November 10, 2020:

I love Italians and Italian cookery. Have wanted to visit Italy again ever since I went in 1974. Maybe, sometime.....!

Linda Lum (author) from Washington State, USA on November 10, 2020:

Ann, you've no idea how happy you have made me. We had cacciatore just last night and era molto buono (it was very good).

Ann Carr from SW England on November 10, 2020:

We have a slow cooker and we love it - it's used for all meats and is excellent for preparing the night before to let everything marinate, then cook it steadily through the next day.

I love every single ingredient in this recipe and I'm cooking chicken tonight so it will look similar!

Thanks, Linda, for such a wonderful, mouth-watering recipe. Your Italian is lovely!

Ann