Chicken cacciatore

  • Serves: 4
  • Preparation time: 15 minutes
  • Cooking time: 30 minutes
  • Total time: 45 minutes

Ingredients

  • 4 chicken breasts
  • 800g/1¾lbs chopped tomatoes
  • 400g/14 oz penne rigate pasta
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced (Optional)
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • Olive oil
  • A handful of fresh basil
Chicken cacciatore

This is a simple recipe for a classic chicken cacciatore. In cuisine, “alla cacciatora” refers to a meal prepared “hunter-style” with tomatoes, onions, herbs, often bell pepper, and sometimes wine.

Cacciatore is usually chicken, but sometimes rabbit is used instead. If you are using rabbit, or if you are using chicken and have the time, I would suggest a lower heat, for a longer period. Cooking for over a longer period will make the meat even more tender — just be careful not to cook away the sauce!

This recipe uses one pan for the cooking of the main meal, rather than the chicken and the sauce being prepared separately — I find it easier and more flavoursome to cook everything in a single cast iron shallow casserole dish, before transferring it to the oven. I am happy to open that to debate though!

The recipe only uses a handful of pretty basic ingredients — ingredients found in any respectable home kitchen. I always keep pots of basil, coriander/cilantro, and mint on my kitchen window, as I use them so often, and Italian cuisine almost always benefits massively from the inclusion of fresh basil.

The dish can also be prepared in advance, just don’t do the last cycle of cooking, or cook the pasta until you are ready to have the meal, and as it uses pasta shells not spaghetti its not too messy for a romantic meal either!

Method

  1. Heat the oven to 190ºC/375ºF/Fan 170ºC/Gas Mark 5.
  2. Fry the chopped onion and the crushed garlic cloves in olive oil until they begin to soften.
  3. Add the chicken breasts to the pan and cook them until they turn golden, and the onions are soft.
  4. Add the chopped tomatoes and half a handful of chopped basil, season, and then simmer for 10-15 minutes.
  5. If the pan is not ovenproof transfer the contents to an oven dish.
  6. Place in the oven with the lid on and cook for 15-20 or until the chicken is cooked through.
  7. After the first stage of the sauce cooking, cook the pasta in a pan of boiling, salted water. Taking care to keep the pasta very firm, as the texture is important.
  8. Add the remaining torn basil to the oven dish, and give it a stir and check if it needs any further seasoning. Once you are satisfied, return it to the oven — uncovered — until the pasta is cooked.
  9. Drain the pasta, and remove the casserole dish from the oven.
  10. Serve a whole chicken breast on a bed of pasta topped with sauce.
  11. Garnish with some small basil leaves and serve hot.
The ancient Greeks and Romans thought basil would only grow if you screamed wild curses and shouted unintelligibly while sowing the seeds.

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