Back in the 1970s, there was a beautiful, demure Italian opera star who became the spokesperson for Ragu Spaghetti Sauce. Her famous line, with its memorable cadence was, “Hello, I’m Anna Maria Alberghetti and I’m here to talk to you about spaghetti sauce.” She said this as she stood in front of a pile of luscious tomatoes, onions, and garlic. As kids who watched a lot of TV, this line became part of our kitchen jargon. Fifty years later, as I was choosing photographs for today’s installment of Sheet Pan Supper: Chicken Cacciatore, my first thought was, “Hello, I’m Anna Maria.”
Chicken Cacciatore is a traditional Italian stew consisting of braised chicken parts sautéed with fresh vegetables. We had this stew for dinner at least once a month growing up. My mother and grandmothers served it over pasta, polenta, or rice.
In Italian, the meal is called pollo alla cacciatora, or “the hunter’s wife’s chicken,” from the verb cacciare which means to hunt. My romantic brain pictures one of my relatives in Sicily going to hunt a chicken (pollo), rabbit (coniglio) or wild duck (anatra selvatica). He brings the meat home to his apron-clad wife (she wears an apron all day), who cleans it, chops it, braises it, and then goes out to her kitchen garden to pick the vegetables and herbs that will go into the stew.
Some of these aprons were made by my grandmothers.
As we did in the recipe Sheet Pan Supper: Lemon Chicken, we’re going to start by making a marinade for the chicken to soak in while we prep the vegetables. Once the meal has finished cooking, immediately pour the ingredients into a serving bowl to allow the flavors to meld until dinnertime.
In the MDK Shop
Yield: Serves 4
Prep Time: 20 minutes. Roasting time: 40 minutes
½ teaspoon fine salt
½ teaspoon ground pepper
the leaves from 2 or 3 sprigs of oregano
the leaves from 3 or 4 sprigs of basil
4 large garlic cloves, smashed then rough chopped
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1½-2 pounds boneless chicken thighs, or bone-in skinless thighs
½ pound onions
½ pound sweet bell peppers
2½-3 pounds tomatoes
½ pound white mushrooms (avoid Bellas which turn the sauce brown)
1½ teaspoons sea salt
½ teaspoon ground pepper
Preheat oven to 425º.
Pour olive oil, ½ teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon pepper, garlic, and rough-chopped basil and oregano leaves into a large mixing bowl. Mix together.
Trim fat from chicken thighs. Add to marinade and toss together. Set aside.
Cut onion into thin slices. Set aside.
Remove seeds and stem of bell peppers and chop into 1-2 inch pieces.
Core tomatoes. Do not peel. Slice in half horizontally and use your index finger quickly scoop out seeds. It’s fine to leave some of the seeds. Chop the tomatoes into 1- to 2-inch chunks. This looks time consuming, but goes quickly once you get the hang of it. Set aside. I use this same prepping technique to make fresh marinara sauce.
Slice mushrooms, or save time by buying a package presliced. Set aside.
Add chopped vegetables to marinated chicken, add remaining salt and pepper, and toss together until vegetables are well coated with marinade.
Spread ingredients onto an unlined rimmed sheet pan. Be sure to fold thighs to create a double thickness. This will help keep the chicken from drying out. Roast for 40 minutes. No need to stir while cooking.
Once cooked, pour ingredients into a serving bowl and allow flavors to meld until dinnertime.
You’ll see a nice thin, juicy sauce emerge as the food rests. You can serve it over pasta, polenta, or rice, or eat it as is in a bowl.