Cacciatore means “hunter” in Italian and there are several historical rumours that circulate about this dish named after the hunter. It’s said that hunters in Italy would return from their forage with wild ingredients like game and forest mushrooms, and their wives would be waiting to cook up this hearty comfort food. Makes sense I suppose. But I’m glad we live in these times where we can get the ingredients we need right at our local market. No hunting required.
This classic rustic Italian meal is cooked in the traditional style. Crisped bacon and browned chicken are braised in a sauce of onions, mushrooms, rosemary and tomatoes. The result is a great combination of flavours and seasonings with an absolutely enticing aroma. The scent is irresistible, and your family will be hanging around just waiting for dinner.
The cacciatore sauce is ladled over spaghetti and sprinkled with Parmesan cheese for a hearty and warm meal that you won’t be able to resist. The chicken pieces are moist and tender, and they melt in your mouth. The balsamic vinegar in the sauce has just the right amount of pleasant and sweet acidity to tantalize your taste buds. Honestly, the thought of this dish makes me joyful!
The sauce can easily be made ahead and reheated when needed. This makes it convenient to serve on a busy night leaving only the spaghetti to be cooked. Have some crusty bread on hand to soak up the delicious sauce and add a crisp green salad to round off the meal perfectly.
To keep the dish on the lighter side, this version is made with boneless chicken breasts instead of bone-in skin-on chicken pieces that are typically used in a cacciatore.
Once you try this dish you will love it and I’m sure you will make it again and again.
- 2 teaspoons olive oil, divided
- 6 slices bacon, chopped into small bits
- 2 boneless chicken breasts (approximately 450g), cut into 1” chunks
- 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt, divided
- ¾ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
- 1 large sweet onion, sliced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 227g cremini mushrooms, sliced
- 2 tablespoons freshly chopped Rosemary, plus extra sprigs for garnish
- ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
- 1 796mL tin diced tomatoes
- 4 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 bay leaf
- 450g spaghetti pasta (6 portions)
- Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for garnish
- In a 5 quart Dutch oven over medium-high heat, heat 1 teaspoon oil. Add the bacon and cook until browned and crisped. With a slotted spoon remove bacon to a medium bowl. Leave the drippings in the pan, add chicken pieces, season with ½ teaspoon of the salt and ¼ teaspoon of the pepper. Cook until the chicken is golden brown. With a slotted spoon remove chicken pieces to the bowl with bacon.
- Leave the drippings in the pan and add the remaining 1 teaspoon oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook stirring frequently, for 2 minutes. Add garlic, mushrooms and Rosemary and cook while stirring until the mushrooms begin to soften, about 2 minutes.
- Add balsamic vinegar and cook while stirring until some of the balsamic vinegar has evaporated, about 1 minute.
- Add tomatoes, tomato paste and bay leaf. Return chicken and bacon to the skillet and stir to combine. Season sauce with the remaining 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper. Cook over medium-high heat while stirring until the sauce bubbles. Let bubble for 2 minutes. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 30 - 40 minutes until the sauce has slightly thickened.
- Meanwhile, start boiling a large pot of lightly salted water. Add spaghetti and once it comes to a full boil, cook for 8 - 10 minutes until al a dente (or follow package directions). Drain spaghetti, ladle portions of spaghetti into serving bowls and top with chicken cacciatore sauce. Garnish with fresh Rosemary and grated Parmesan cheese.