This whole chicken cacciatore stew is a traditional Italian recipe. The bucatini pasta is cooked in the tomato sauce for a complete dinner!
This chicken cacciatore is a delicious stew recipe, straight from Italy! Cacciatore means hunter, so this is the hunter’s chicken! I don’t know about you, but when I think of a hunter’s kitchen, I imagine a small kitchen inside a wooden hut in the countryside, very simple and totally adorable, and with just the basic ingredients with which you can make the most delicious food! In other words, this recipe is the perfect example of “cucina povera” which uses simple, fresh (and local) ingredients and produces culinary marvels! Cucina povera is not wasteful. It utilizes everything available, in the best way. That’s why, this chicken cacciatore stew uses a whole chicken, bone-in and skin-on, something that also contributes to great depth of flavor and a rustic, irresistible look.
I think I’ve mentioned cucina povera before when I posted this Mediterranean vegetable orzotto with marinated cheese cubes. Actually, I’m pretty surprised I remember this, because I wrote it months ago, and this is me, the guy who forgets which recipe posted the day before. Seriously, I sometimes talk with my mom on the phone and when she asks me what recipe I posted on the blog (just visit my blog mom!) I’m always trying really hard to fight that blank space that fills my head at that moment!
As happens with a lot of traditional and regional recipes, there are some basic ingredients to this stew (like chicken, haha), and then there are others that depend on the geographic area (like the use of white or red wine, the kind of spices and herbs, etc.). I happen to really like the taste that one star anise lends to the dish, so I highly recommend it (just one though, not more!), but you can omit it and have a totally different outcome, equally delicious.
The bucatini pasta is like thick spaghetti with a hole in the middle. It is cooked in boiling water until almost done and then transferred in the tomato sauce to absorb flavor and cook all the way through. Cooking pasta in sauce is a common thing in Italian and Greek cuisine. And though bucatini pasta is ideal for this rustic whole chicken cacciatore, you can use any kind of pasta you like. I would also try it with elbow macaroni, a type of pasta which produced excellent results in this Mediterranean octopus stew recipe. Since both of these pasta types have holes, the sauce gets all over and inside them, making them extra scrumptious!
And if you’re wondering about the perfect dessert to serve after this dish, is there anything better and more suitable than this eggless tiramisu in a glass?
- Omit star anise for a different but equally delicious flavor.
- Use a whole chicken. You can very easily remove the skin before eating, though some people (like my dad) like to eat it!
- Finish cooking of the pasta in the sauce for more flavor.
- Serve with grated parmesan cheese or parmesan flakes
- 1 medium whole chicken, bone –in, skin-on (ask your butcher to cut it into 6 or 8 pieces). Alternatively you can use 6 chicken legs.
- 3-4 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 star anise, whole
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 2 cups pureed tomatoes
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 10-15 Kalamata olives, pitted
- ⅓ cup chopped basil
- 1 pound bucatini pasta
- Grated parmesan cheese for serving
- Pat dry the chicken pieces very well with a paper towel (it will reduce oil-splashing during sautéing).
- Heat a deep, large pot over medium/high heat. Add the olive oil and chicken pieces and sauté, without stirring, until well browned on one side. This stage is very important because browning will give flavor to the final dish. When chicken is ready, it will not stick to the pot anymore.
- Using tongs, turn chicken from the other side and brown well.
- Transfer chicken pieces to a plate and set aside.
- In the same pot, add the onion, garlic, star anise, bay leaves and pepper and reduce heat to medium. Add a bit more olive oil if required.
- Cook until onion is soft and translucent, then add the chicken pieces back to the pot.
- Add the wine, the pureed tomatoes, and the salt. If needed, add enough water to cover the chicken by two-thirds approximately. Cover the pot and when it starts to simmer, reduce heat to low and cook until chicken is fork tender, about 30-45 minutes. Halfway through, flip chicken pieces using tongs.
- When chicken is done, cook the pasta according to the packaging, but 1 minute less.
- Transfer chicken pieces on a clean plate, drain the pasta and add it to the pot with the tomato sauce. Add the basil and olives and cook for one minute to absorb some of the sauce.
- Serve the chicken cacciatore with the bucatini pasta and some grated parmesan cheese.
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