When my husband and I were first married, we each had our own dishes that we claimed as our specialty. One of his, was chicken cacciatore. From what I remember, he made it well and it was his thing. Until one day, I made it. I may have insulted him by stepping over that line, but, whatever. I made it anyway. I found that it was one of those dishes that I just enjoyed the process of making. So, it kind of evolved into my specialty. After twenty-five years, it’s one of those recipes I’m most proud of. That cacciatore became my very first recipe I ever published on the blog.
Since this week marks three years since I’ve been blogging seriously, I decided that my old cacciatore recipe needed to evolve a bit. Much in the way I’ve changed over the past several years. You’ve probably noticed, there’s a lot of veggies, fruits and grains going on here lately. I’m trying to fill my diet with plant based foods. It makes me feel better than I’ve ever felt before. Eating this way doesn’t mean comforting stews like this are impossible. This has all of the wonderful flavors of my traditional cacciatore, but gives vegetarians and vegans (I’ve got vegan options for you) a bit of comfort food that tastes amazing.
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 24 ounces cremini mushrooms and/or white button mushrooms sliced
- 1 medium onion diced
- 1 stalk celery sliced
- 1 red bell pepper diced
- 1 medium carrot sliced
- 1 medium zucchini quartered lengthwise and sliced
- 3 to 4 cloves garlic minced
- 4 to 6 sun dried tomatoes sliced (optional)
- 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour omit to keep this gluten free
- 1 1/2 cups dry white wine
- 28 ounce San Marzano whole tomatoes
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/4 teaspoon ground thyme or 4 fresh thyme sprigs
- pinch of crushed red pepper flakes or more, to taste
- 2 tablespoons capers, drained and rinsed
- 15 ounce cannellini beans drained and rinsed
- 1 to 2 handfuls fresh spinach
- fresh basil leaves for serving
- grated Parmesan for serving omit for vegans and vegetarians
- <b>Soft Polenta</b>
- 1 1/4 cup milk use vegetable broth to keep this vegan
- 1 1/4 cup vegetable broth
- 1/2 cup quick cooking polenta
- 1 tablespoon butter use olive oil to keep this vegan
- few pinches of salt to taste
- 1/8 cup Parmesan omit for vegans and vegetarians
- Heat the olive oil in a heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and cook for about 10 minutes. They will soak up all of the olive oil, then release all of their moisture after a few minutes then begin to dry up and brown at about the ten minute mark. At that point, add the onions, celery, red pepper and carrot, Cook for about 5 minutes, then add the zucchini, garlic and sun dried tomatoes. Sprinkle the vegetables with the flour (if using) and toss to coat. Add the white wine. Using your hands, squeeze each tomato from the can over the pot to break it up. I like to remove the stem end and discard it. Add the remaining sauce from the can and the oregano, thyme, red pepper flakes and capers.
- Bring the pot to a light boil, then reduce to a low simmer. Simmer for 35 to 45 minutes or until the carrots are tender. Add the cannellini beans and the spinach. Cook for another ten minutes to warm the beans and wilt the spinach.
- <b>To make the polenta:</b> In a medium saucepan over medium heat, add the milk and vegetable broth and bring to a simmer. Add the polenta while whisking. Cook for three minutes. Add the butter or olive oil. Salt to taste. Top with grated Parmesan.
- Serves 4 (doubles easily)
- Serve on top of polenta, pasta or mashed potatoes with a sprinkling of fresh basil and grated Parmesan, if desired.