Cacciatore means “hunter” in Italian. In cuisine, alla cacciatora refers to a type of stew prepared “hunter-style” with onions, herbs, bell peppers, and sometimes wine. It is named in honor of the hunter’s wife—who, all over northern Italy, might traditionally cook the dish on the eve of the hunt. In Italy hunter’s stew was made with rabbit or other wild game, not chicken, sometime during the Renaissance period. This stew dish was simple but delicious and 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. Contrary to popular belief, Cacciatore did not originally contain tomatoes or tomato sauce, as tomatoes were brought to Italy from the New World later than it would have been made for the first time. When the Italian immigrants came to America, they brought with them their traditional recipes but needed to adapt them to the ingredients available in America.
In true Italian fashion, there are probably more than a thousand recipes for this dish and here is mine.
4 lbs chicken cut up or use all thighs, skin removed
8 oz Italian pork sausage, casings removed
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (divided)
1 large onion, diced (about 1-1/2 cups)
1 large carrot, peeled and diced (about 3/4 cups)
1 large bell pepper, seeded and diced (about 1-1/2 cups)
1 large clove garlic, finely chopped
1 (26-oz.) container finely chopped Italian tomatoes
Arrange the chicken in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet or plate. Season with the salt, pepper and Italian seasoning.
Place a large Dutch oven over high heat for several minutes. When hot, add 1 tablespoon of the oil and heat until shimmering. Add a layer of chicken and brown on both sides. Remove to a large plate. Add 1 tablespoon oil and brown the remainder of the chicken. Remove and place with the first batch of chicken.
Add the sausage to the pan and brown completely, crumbling the meat as you stir.
Add the tomatoes and the chicken to the pan and bring to a simmer. Cover the pan and cook for about 1 ½ hours or until the chicken is very tender.
To prepare ahead.
Remove the pot from the heat and cool. Remove chicken to a large baking dish and pour the sauce from the Dutch Oven over the chicken. cover with foil and refrigerate overnight.
The next day, heat the oven to 350 degrees F and reheat the chicken covered for one hour.