Chicken Cacciatore recipe! This was my grandmother’s (fathers mother, sometimes known as Nonna or Grandmother) favorite recipe that she loved to share with her very large family on many occasions. I can still smell the aroma of the cacciatore cooking in her kitchen–just like an Italian restaurant! She modified her own version of it, made from leftovers, which I will share with you in the recipe. I can still hear the voices and conversations that took place in her home as she cooked. The Red Sox baseball game from Fenway Park in Boston played on the radio. I can still hear the voice of the announcer, Ken Coleman, calling the plays as the crowd cheered. It was a favorite of my grandfather. We would hear the game in the background as we entered the house. My grandmother would say to him “Isaac, turn that down!” He was hard of hearing, so the volume was quite loud. Gosh, you could hear it coming up the hallway to my grandmother’s home. She lived in a tenement home in the west end of Boston with neighbors close by, and many of them. My father and his brothers didn’t mind because they were Red Sox fans. This was the 1960s when Carl Yastrzemski and Rico Petrocelli were popular. Later on we had Tony Conigliaro. I’ll never forget when Tony was seriously hurt during a games which, as I remember, ended his career. I can still see the newspaper headlines on the Boston globe with his picture and his eye injury. As a young person, I remember thinking how horrible it looked. I felt badly for him, because I remember thinking he was kind of cute.
These were such memorable times for us as a family. On occasion We could hear the game and crowd cheers as we drove up the street to Grandma’s(Nonna) house. (Now this sounds like “Little Red Riding Hood,” doesn’t it? Sorry, I got off track for a moment!) As I was saying, it was summertime, and we had the car windows down. Usually, it was quite hot. People didn’t have much air conditioning back then, not like today, so we relished the breeze as we drove. That was good because my parents, as well as many others, were smokers. Whew–the smoke in the car could be so heavy! We were always asking for the windows to be rolled down. Ok, whining really, but it might explain why I have asthma today. Oh well. What did they know about the danger back then? We could hear others in the neighborhood cheering for the Red Sox, and you could feel the excitement in the air. And, then there were the mosquitoes! Everything was fun, no worries! It was a simpler time for sure!
And so, by the time we got to my grandmother’s, we met other members of the family at the door. Each family would enter with anticipation of visitation, play time, meal sharing, and not to mention, “The Ball Game.” My grandmother had 5 children and 16 or more grandchildren. Her home was the central point of family gatherings. I have some very vivid and warm memories of those times spent with aunts, uncles, cousins, and my parents, brothers, and sister. How many of us have memories that revolve around family time and food–the whole country? I was one of the first to run and greet my grandmother as we entered. I was greeted with a big embrace and lots of kisses. She would always ask, “Who wants to help?” I chalk it up to the fact that she was chronically ill and had handicaps. That’s how they used to say it back then. So she was delegating to her large crowd. Oh come on, handicap or no handicap, with a large crowd like that, anyone would be screaming for help. Anyway, there’s where I began learning Italian cooking, and the joy of eating. Oh, the joy of eating! My brother, Alan, claims she is responsible for his chronic heartburn today. He swears he was the only 8-year-old with heartburn from all the spices. Not to mention the large portions. Of course, I didn’t eat as much as Alan ate, so I was a young connoisseur in the making!
Today, when Alan visits me and I cook like our grandmother Nonna did (only healthy and in small portions), he has no heartburn. But oh boy, when I dig out our grandmother’s Italian recipes it’s heartburn alley for Alan. Pull out the tums! (And Tum’s are Gluten free I’ll have you know! ) He liked that better till after the meal. My mother used to say the same thing. She carried a bottle of tums with her every time she visited. She, too, loved my cooking and used to brag to others about it. While it made me feel good, I felt bad that they were uncomfortable with heartburn. But it was a sign they enjoyed my cooking for sure! Bottom line, It made me feel good! I Loved my mother’s approval.
So enjoy my grandmother’s chicken cacciatore recipe. Incidentally, making this gluten free, and reducing the portions, cuts down on the heartburn. I’m not sure, but I think the wheat had something to do with all the heartburn. Who knows? Smile! Have fun! And, let me know how it comes out. Spring is coming; get ready to play ball, and go Red Sox!” Ok now that I live in Washington State, I should say, “Go Mariners!” I’m getting there!
Note: The traditional recipe calls for a broiler or fryer chicken cut up. However, my grandmother would improvise to make the recipe simpler to make. She would use cut-up chicken breast from leftovers then did the following: she didn’t always use measurements either. She would often throw a little of this and a little of that, and it came out as if she measured everything. She would often say, “It was made with love.” How can you argue with that?
Prep time should be about 15 minutes. Cook time 1-1/2 hours
About 2 pounds of cooked chicken breast cut up into pieces. (You can add some leftover dark meat if you like. Also you can add more or less chicken depending on your liking.)
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons of olive oil
2 tablespoons of butter
1 large onion chopped
2 stocks of celery, sliced or chopped
1 large green pepper, cut into strips
1/2 pound of sliced fresh mushrooms
1 can (28 ounces) whole tomatoes cut up–reserve the juice
1 can tomato sauce (8 ounce can)
1 can tomato paste(6 ounces)
1 cup dry red wine or water
1 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon crushed rosemary
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon basil
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tablespoon of honey or agave (agave is like maple syrup, only less problematic for blood sugar)
1 package of gluten-free hot, cooked, rice spirals
Grated parmesan cheese
In a large skillet place butter and olive oil over medium heat.
When butter is melted, put all the cut up vegetables and garlic in the skillet and Saute about 5 minutes. Stir in tomatoes , tomato sauce and paste, wine , herbs, garlic, and sugar. Bring all this together to a boil. Reduce the heat and cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Add cut up Chicken to the mix, cover and simmer an additional 45-60 minutes. Very low heat, but enough to simmer. Stir occasionally to avoid crusting of mixture on the bottom. Serve over gluten free Pasta and sprinkle with parmesan. Fine! This yields about 6 servings My grandmother used to serve this with bread and salad! The gluten free way of course, would be to serve it with gluten free bread or baggett and a salad. Also, gluten free salad dressing of your choice. My grandmother used to also serve this with wine. I do today as well, as most wines today are Gluten free and safe for Celiac Disease and Gluten intolerant individuals. My grandmother used to also add butter to the pasta before pouring the mixture on top. But to save on fat and calories, I omit that, and try to keep the fat content down.