The original recipe…
Here is what Artusi wrote in his book “Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well”:
“Chop a large onion and soak it for more than half an hour in cold water, then dry it and put it in a frying pan with oil or lard. When cooked, set it aside. Cut a chicken in pieces, and fry it into the remaining fat and, once seared and browned, add the said onion, season with salt and pepper and pour half a glass of “San Giovese*” over it, or some other of your best red wines and quite a lot of tomato sauce and, after it has simmered for five minutes, serve it. I warn you that certainly it is not a dish for delicate stomachs.”
… and its countless variations
So, apparently, that is how it was meant to be done originally. Obviously, there are as many variations and interpretations as many cooks there are in Italy: with black olives, with rosemary and sage, with rosemary and olives, with white wine, with parsley, with carrots celery garlic and rosemary but without olives… and the combinations can go on and on for ever.
Since I am Italian and I cook, I wanted to share my own opinion on the matter, so in the recipe I published here, I added the rosemary. I think its pitchy smell goes perfectly together with the body of a good red wine and the sweetness of the abundant onions… but, as I said, it’s just an opinion.
What does “Cacciatora” mean?
The word “cacciatora”, when translated into English, is commonly mistaken for the feminine form of “cacciatore”, which means “hunter”. So it’s improperly translated as “the hunter’s wife”.
The actual meaning of the word is “the hunter’s style”: it highlights the frank and strong flavours of this dish which, as Artusi himself says, is not advisable “… for delicate stomachs.”