Italian Hunters' Sauce with Chicken + Whole Wheat Linguine
Chicken Cacciatore is also called Italian Hunters’ Stew. It’s traditionally made with bone-in, whole bird chicken, braised and cooked with wine, veggies, and tomatoes. I love the flavors, but I don’t love picking bones out of something saucy like Chicken Cacciatore. This recipe takes all the flavors or traditional Chicken Cacciatore –but it simplifies it and makes it healthier and easier to eat. AND! You can prep for about 45 minutes and do the rest in the slow cooker.
I like to prep everything the night before, put it in the slow cooker, refrigerate it, and turn it on in the morning. But you can do it however your schedule permits, and I’ll let you know when to stop if you are going to make it ahead. If you’re in a pinch, substitute out a bag of frozen stir fry onions and peppers (Birds Eye makes it), and it’ll cut your cooking time down. Also, If you don’t have (or don’t want to buy) Calabrian Chili Paste, substitute crushed red pepper to your liking.
You can use any shape pasta for this, but I like linguine because it’s easy to find in whole wheat, and it hold a thick, tomato-y sauce very nicely.
Okay, so one or two things about cooking with alcohol. Yes, the actual alcohol does cook off when you bring it up to temperature. But in order for that to happen, you need to leave it uncovered because the alcohol fumes need somewhere to go, so once the vapors are gone, you’re just left with flavor. That’s why if you’re cooking a dish with alcohol, you can’t only cook it in a slow cooker completely covered the whole time. You want the actual alcohol to reduce and leave the flavor behind.
Total Time: 6-7 hours (1 hour hands-on time)
Difficulty Level: Easy
2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 green bell peppers, julienned
2 small (or 1 large) yellow onion, sliced very thin
Salt and pepper
8 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
3 tablespoons dried oregano
2 tablespoons dried basil
2 tablespoons dried parsley
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2-3 tablespoons Calabrian chili paste (or red pepper flakes)
4-5 Roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
1 25 ounce bottle red wine
3-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
6-8 sprigs fresh thyme
3 bay leaves
5 cups canned tomato purée
1 cup water
1 pound whole wheat linguine, cooked according to package instructions
- Add olive oil to a large pan over medium heat. Once the oil has begun to heat (you’ll smell the fruity olive scent), add the julienned peppers and sliced onions. Cover, and cook for 6-8 minutes, checking every few minutes to turn.
- Add the garlic, oregano, basil, parsley, cinnamon, and Calabrian chili paste. Saute uncovered on medium heat for 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently.
- Add the seeded and diced Roma tomatoes, and continue to cook for 3-4 minutes. Add a little more olive oil if necessary.
- Now’s the fun part! Pour an entire bottle (25 ounces) or red wine into the pot. Bring to a boil for 1-2 minutes. Then reduce to a simmer, and cook over medium for 6-8 minutes until it has reduced and the alcohol has cooked off.
- Meanwhile, add the chicken breasts, fresh thyme, bay leaves, tomato puree, and water to a slow cooker.
- Pour the spicy, peppery, onion stuff to the slow cooker, on top of the chicken. (see cook's note***)
- Cook on high for 6 hours or low for 8 hours.
- Pull out the chicken, and shred it. I like to hold tongs in my non-dominant hand (left), and use a fork in my dominant hand (right) to pull the chicken apart.
- Add the chicken back to the slow cooker, and continue to cook uncovered for at least 1 hour before serving over cooked whole wheat linguine.
- Serve hot with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
***cook's note: If you are going to make this ahead (which I pretty much always do), stop here. Pour the cooked veggie/wine mixture on top of the thyme, bay, and chicken. Cover, and refrigerate for up to 3 days before finishing!