For someone who collects, develops and cooks recipes for a living, I have an extremely inefficient, you might say nonexistent, organization system for keeping track of all of them. There are cookbooks. There’s a binder. A few are lurking in Google Docs. Many standbys are filed away in my head, and I simply pull them up on my phone whenever I’m ready to make them.
A bunch are tagged and sorted in a folder in my personal email, and these are a fun time capsule. Often they’re just notes or links I sent to myself. For others, I can see who sent me the recipe and when and what they said about it. I can think about where I was at that point of my life and why I might have requested the recipe. Several are from my mom.
The very first entry in that folder has the subject line “Mom’s recipe” — for chicken cacciatore. I can’t tell you how accomplished and sophisticated I felt to cook and dish up this saucy Italian classic of braised chicken and tomatoes to my then-boyfriend/now-husband, on one of those quiet at-home date nights we used to have before we had our son.
I don’t cook a lot of meat at home these days, but I recalled that recipe — and its enticing aromas — fondly. I’d been thinking about revisiting it when the new edition of “Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking” by Marcella Hazan landed on my desk. Fate!
What I really wanted to do was convert this braise into something I could make in my Instant Pot for a more hands-off approach that didn’t require turning on the oven or stovetop. My mom’s recipe leaned heavily on canned tomatoes, which can burn and scorch in the Instant Pot, so I decided to see whether an adaptation of Hazan’s could help me cross the finish line.
In fact, what did the trick was mashing up her two versions of cacciatore in the book, which offer subtle differences in ingredients and techniques. I’m offering one recipe’s bell pepper as an option, and you can also play around with adding or subtracting other vegetables, such as mushrooms or carrots. As Hazan notes, there are “uncounted permutations” in Italy that claim the tradition of cacciatore, or “cacciatora,” as she calls it.
After a few tests, I was thrilled with the results — fall-apart meat nestled in a sauce of tender vegetables and wine-enriched pan juices, ideal for a family meal served with a loaf of crusty bread. Better yet, the Instant Pot cut the braising time in Hazan’s recipe considerably (though you do need to account for the time it takes the appliance to come up to pressure). About 5 minutes to cook down the sauce finished it all off.
It’s so satisfying and comforting that I hope it finds its way into your own recipe collection, wherever or whatever that may be.
Instant Pot Chicken Cacciatore
This is an adaptation of Hazan’s stovetop recipe; if you prefer that cooking method, see the VARIATION below.
We like the convenience and price of bone-in thighs, but feel free to substitute your favorite bone-in, skin-on parts or even a whole cutup chicken. We tested this recipe in a 6-quart Instant Pot. It should work in an 8-quart as well, but not in smaller appliances.
Serve with crusty bread or another starch, such as pasta or mashed potatoes, to soak up all the juices.
Storage: Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 3 days; reheat in the microwave or in a skillet.
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- 6 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs, excess fat trimmed (3 to 4 pounds total)
- Fine salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium yellow onion (7 ounces), halved and thinly sliced
- 1 yellow or red bell pepper, seeded, cored and thinly sliced (optional)
- 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 1/3 cup dry white wine, such as pinot grigio, plus more as needed (may substitute low-sodium or no-salt-added chicken or vegetable broth)
- One (14 1/2-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes, coarsely chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
Pat the chicken dry. Season lightly with salt and pepper on both sides.
In your electric multicooker on the highest SAUTE or BROWN function, heat the oil for 3 minutes or until it starts to shimmer. Add half of the thighs to the pot, skin side down, and cook until browned, 5 to 7 minutes, then transfer to a plate. Repeat with the remaining thighs.
If at any point your Instant Pot shows the HOT message and shuts down, reduce the heat setting and wait for it to come back on (often it will cool down enough when you add the second batch of thighs or, subsequently, the onions). If the message persists, splash in a little wine, scraping up any browned bits. Just make sure to save 1/3 cup of the wine for pressure-cooking the chicken.
Stir the onions into the oil and rendered fat left in the pot and cook, stirring often, until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the bell pepper, if using, and garlic. Cook, stirring constantly until the garlic is fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the wine, scraping up any darkened bits on the bottom of the pot. Return the chicken to the pot, skin side up (overlapping is okay), along with any accumulated juices. Nestle the chopped tomatoes around the thighs (they can scorch on the bottom of the pot), trying not to cover the chicken completely. Press CANCEL to turn off the heat.
Lock the lid in place, set the pressure-release knob to sealing, select PRESSURE at the high setting, and set the cook time to 9 minutes. Once the cooking cycle is finished, press CANCEL and release the pressure manually by moving the pressure-release knob to venting, covering your hand with a towel or oven mitt. Never put your hands or face near the vent when releasing steam. The temperature of the meat should read at least 165 degrees when checked with a thermometer in the thickest part of the thigh, away from the bone.
Transfer the thighs to a platter, cover loosely with foil and let the chicken rest while you finish the sauce.
Taste the sauce and season with more salt and/or pepper as desired. If you’d like to thicken the liquid, cook using the highest SAUTE or BROWN function until you reach your desired consistency, typically 5 to 7 minutes, stirring frequently.
Pour the sauce over the chicken and serve warm.
VARIATION: To make this on the stovetop, use a large Dutch oven. The steps are largely the same, but you’ll want to brown the chicken and then cook the onions over medium heat, adjusting the heat as needed. After you have stirred in the wine and added the chicken back to the pot, reduce the heat to low, cover the pot and cook for 25 to 30 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through, checking occasionally to ensure the pot is not dry. If it is, add a little more wine. If desired, remove the cooked chicken from the pot and thicken the sauce over medium heat, stirring occasionally.
Per serving (1 thigh, including skin, and 1/2 cup sauce)
Calories: 453; Total Fat: 32 g; Saturated Fat: 8 g; Cholesterol: 152 mg; Sodium: 275 mg; Carbohydrates: 6 g; Dietary Fiber: 1 g; Sugar: 3 g; Protein: 32 g
This analysis is an estimate based on available ingredients and this preparation. It should not substitute for a dietitian’s or nutritionist’s advice.
Adapted from “Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking 30th Anniversary Edition,” by Marcella Hazan (Knopf, 2022).
Tested by Becky Krystal; email questions to email@example.com.
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