Chicken alla Cacciatora

This recipe uses the robust flavors of pancetta, juniper berries, rosemary and tomatoes to make a classic fall dish. As with many braised meats, it tastes even better the next day. 

Course Main Dish
Cuisine Italian
Prep Time 40 minutes
Cook Time 50 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Servings 6 servings


  • 2 1/2 to 3 pounds bone-in chicken parts, preferably thighs or legs, skin removed
  • kosher or sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 ounces very thinly sliced pancetta or dry-cured bacon
  • 1 teaspoon juniper berries
  • leaves from 1 or 2 sprigs rosemary
  • 1 large onion chopped
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 or 2 carrots diced small
  • 1 celery stalk diced small
  • 2 garlic cloves finely chopped
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup pureed tomatoes passata di pomodoro (see note)


  1. Sprinkle chicken pieces lightly with salt and pepper. Wrap each with a single layer of pancetta. Crush juniper berries with a mortar and pestle or side of a cook’s knife, and chop finely with rosemary.
  2. In a large skillet, sauté onion over medium-high heat in 2 tablespoons olive oil until golden brown, stirring often. Add carrots, celery and garlic, stirring until softened. Scrape pan contents into a bowl.
  3. Add a little olive oil if needed to the same pan. Saute prepared chicken until golden brown, turning carefully.
  4. Return onion mixture to pan. Sprinkle with chopped rosemary and juniper berries. Add white wine and sizzle briefly before stirring in pureed tomatoes. Reduce heat and simmer gently, partly covered, until chicken is fork tender, about 30 minutes. Add a little water as needed for a saucy consistency. 

  5. Arrange chicken pieces on a bed of polenta. Spoon sauce over them. Surround with sautéed mushrooms such as hen of the woods, shiitake or crimini.

Recipe Notes

Variation: Substitute bone-in or boneless quail for chicken. Serve with their sauce on farro boiled in water seasoned with salt. Garnish with black or green olives if you like. Note: Pomi is one brand of pureed tomatoes (passata di pomodoro). Alternatively, blend good-quality canned tomatoes in a blender. Do not use canned tomato puree.