Slow cooked chicken thighs simmered in homemade marinara sauce until they are meltingly tender, salty kalamata olives, sweet multicolored bell peppers, and plenty of fresh herbs! I love chicken cacciatore and cooking it in the slow cooker makes it even better since I can start it and walk away. Slow cooker chicken cacciatore is a recipe I’m happy to have in my life and you need in yours as well!
We are getting into comfort food season, which means Italian comfort food!
I clearly love Italian comfort food. As an Italian-American, I think it was included on my birth certificate, or possibly it’s from long conditioning of having such dishes at every family get-together. Either way, dishes like chicken cacciatore are in my blood. 🙂
However, mushrooms are not.
Yes, I am giving you a slow cooker chicken cacciatore which has no mushrooms! I do add a little secret ingredient to pump up the umami, but this recipe is safe for all mushroom abstainers. And, I’m sorry, but as I’ve never cooked a mushroom in my life, I can’t even give you any advice on when to add them or how to cook them if you are a mushroom lover. (Note: I have eaten them, just not cooked them! But what happens in this house is that the mushroom lover – i.e., my husband – sautes a few on the side every so often when he’s in the mood. I’m not even allowed to wash them since I apparently Do It Wrong.)
But chicken cacciatore is more than just mushrooms! It’s rich tomato sauce flavored from the meat stewing in it. It’s sweet and colorful bell peppers which have been cooked until they’re tender, but still have a little bite left. It’s briny olives providing a pop of flavor over the top. It’s all of that simmered together until the flavors marry and become more than the sum of their parts.
Oh I guess I’ll tell you now what’s the secret ingredient. 🙂 You’ve been good and waited.
It’s a bit of anchovy paste. Anchovy paste is one of my favorite little secrets to add to stews. You can’t taste it specifically, but it elevates the flavors of everything around it.
Don’t tell anyone.
It’ll be our secret now!
Tip: Bags of mini multi-colored bell peppers are great for this recipe. The different colors really pop against the red sauce.
The other secret of this chicken cacciatore is the Homemade Marinara Sauce. One thing about the slow cooker? It’s not going to cook down the tomatoes and let them evaporate. Nope. You need to start with a marinara which has already cooked down or you’ll end up with a watery sauce. You only need half a recipe of marinara to make the cacciatore. The rest can be tucked away in the freezer for next time!
One note – if you don’t have any marinara on hand, use one 28-oz can of whole tomatoes and then transfer the sauce to a pan and boil it down before you eat. It will work to make a thick, tasty, sauce, but I think it’s easier to start with a thick sauce.
And that’s it! Let the cacciatore simmer in the slow cooker all day, add the olives and peppers at the end, make some pasta, and open up a nice bottle of red wine.
– Happy Eating, Annemarie
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 4 medium boneless skinless chicken thighs (about 1 1/4 lbs)
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1 large white onion, chopped
- 4-6 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 cup red wine
- 1/4 cup brandy
- 1 tsp dried oregano, or 2 tbsp fresh chopped
- 1 tsp dried thyme, or 2 tbsp fresh chopped
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 cups marinara sauce
- 1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives, halved
- 2 cups chopped bell peppers, red orange and yellow
- 1 tsp anchovy paste
- 10 oz cooked pasta, such as penne or rigatoni
Heat the olive oil in a medium skillet. Add the chicken and brown it on both sides. Transfer to the chicken to the slow cooker. Add the salt, onion and garlic and saute for 5 minutes then transfer to the slow cooker. Pour the wine and brandy into the skillet, bring it to a rolling boil, and let it reduce by half, about 10 minutes.
While the wine is reducing, add the oregano, thyme, bay leaf, and marinara sauce to the slow cooker and set it for 6-7 hours on low or 2-3 hours on high. Then add the wine and stir it in.
When the initial cooking is done, add the kalamata olives, chopped bell peppers, and anchovy paste. Stir to combine and set the slow cooker to high for 30 minutes. Serve with cooked pasta.
I like to halve the kalamata olives before I add them to the slow cooker. I have had too many surprise pits over the years.
You can certainly use white wine in the cacciatore! I find that red makes for a deeper flavor, so I prefer it.
Though white pasta and red sauce makes for a pretty picture, mix some of the sauce with the pasta as soon as you've drained it. Scoop out a cup of the pasta water, then drain the pasta and put it back in the pot. Add the sauce and some of the pasta water (adding more if needed) and let the pasta and sauce marry. It'll take a few minutes. Then eat!