Chicken cacciatore is a relatively new dish for me. Clearly I am not Italian though as this classic entrée is about as standard in Italian homes as spaghetti and meatballs. It is “family style” food, the kind of dish you can vividly imagine a big Italian family informally digging right into, talking over one another and happily eating away.
In fact, the first time I ever had chicken cacciatore was a few years ago at a family gathering at my mother-in-laws. As I have recently learned, like so many Italian dishes, there are a jillion different interpretations of chicken cacciatore. The version my mother-in-law served was saucy, flavorful and plenty moist and best of all eating it didn’t leave you with that dreaded, heavy and “drowning in your food” sort of feeling. I was sure it had to be a homespun recipe because it just tasted too good to be catered —plus more often than not, a tell-tale sign you are eating restaurant or catered food is if it has a heavy oil hand, which this dish definitively did not. But, it turns out the healthy chicken cacciatore was actually catered by a local Italian gourmet market (Joseph’s Classic Market). This is not a bad thing because Joseph’s is a fine place to get food, but it did mean I didn’t have the chicken cacciatore recipe to recreate at home….
The healthy chicken cacciatore recipe was just too good to not have again so I decided I better try and figure out how to make it myself. After researching chicken cacciatore recipes galore I came up with a few different versions, but this one is my favorite. This healthy chicken cacciatore recipe has it all—lots of veggies, superior taste and easy prep too! You can serve it on top of pasta for a complete Italian dinner or with a side dish of quinoa or millet. Oh, and leftovers make a great sandwich with steamed garlicky spinach nestled between slices of toasted sprouted whole grain bread.
P.S. Be sure to buy the healthiest chicken! You definitely want to buy organic PASTURED chicken. Chickens require pasture along with insects, grubs and worms (sounds gross, but that’s what chickens are supposed to eat) in order to be optimally healthy and to have the most nutritious meat, so you never ever want a “vegetarian” chicken. Organic chicken and free range chicken are of course much better choices than the standard factory farmed chicken, which by the way, I simply refuse to eat anymore. But the absolute gold-standard for the healthiest and best tasting chicken is an organic, PASTURED chicken. If the chicken is not labeled PASTURED then it is not.
Healthy Chicken Cacciatore Recipe
- 1 1/2 pounds boneless, organic, pastured skinless chicken breasts, cut into 2-inch pieces
- Unrefined sea salt, to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Paprika, to taste
- 1/2 cup white whole wheat flour, for dredging
- 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large red bell pepper, chopped
- 1 onion, chopped
- 8 ounces baby Portobello mushrooms, sliced
- 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 3/4 cup dry red wine
- 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes, with juice
- 1 (14.5 ounce can) petite diced tomatoes (such as Muir Glen Fire Roasted with Roasted Garlic), with juice
- 3/4 cup organic free-range chicken broth (such as Pacific Natural Foods)
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- Crushed red pepper, to taste
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 cup coarsely chopped parsley
- Sprinkle the chicken pieces with 1 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Liberally sprinkle the chicken with paprika. Dredge the chicken pieces in the flour to coat lightly. In a large heavy sauté pan (preferably cast-iron), heat 2 tablespoons oil over a medium-high flame. Add the chicken pieces to the pan and sauté until just brown, about 5 minutes per side (note: if all the chicken does not fit in the pan, sauté it in two batches.) Transfer the chicken to a plate and set aside.
- Add the remaining 2 tablespoons oil to the same “dirty” pan used to cook the chicken. Add the bell pepper, onion, and garlic; sauté over medium heat until the onion is tender, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add the mushrooms and cook 3-4 minutes. Add the wine and simmer until reduced by half, about 3 minutes.
- Add the crushed tomatoes and diced tomatoes, broth, garlic powder, crushed red peppers, and oregano. Return the chicken pieces to the pan and turn them to coat in the sauce. Bring the sauce to a simmer. Continue simmering over medium-low heat until the chicken is just cooked through, about 30 minutes.. Sprinkle chicken with parsley and serve.