I love steak. Until recently, I could eat it five times a week—pan roasted, basted with butter, cooked medium rare, served with a drizzle of olive oil. Just thinking about it makes my mouth water. Unfortunately, given my age and my doctor’s recommendations, my steak indulgence is now limited to once a week. I’m now dining more healthfully, albeit less rapturously, with at least one vegetarian and one fish meal a week, and eating more chicken than I want to admit.

One chicken recipe that’s become a weeknight favorite is Pollo all’arrabbiata from Louie Werle’s book on Italy’s cucina povera, Italian Country Cooking. As the recipe’s name implies, the chicken is cooked in a tomato sauce with hot chili peppers. Starting with a soffrito of garlic, fatty pancetta, and fresh rosemary makes this dish even more flavorful.

As was recommended in the recipe, I served the dish with polenta. Given my time constraints on a weekday night, however, I opted for an “instant” polenta, which I prepared with chicken broth, butter, and Parmigiano Reggiano.

I’ve always  followed the recipe closely, but the next time I prepare it, I’ll probably cut the tomatoes into halves to extract more of their flavor.


Pollo all’arrabbiata
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 red onion, cut into 8 wedges
4 whole chicken legs (thighs and legs), about 3 pounds
1 garlic bulb, cloves peeled
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons dry red wine
2 hot red chilies, chopped (I substituted dried Calabrian chilies, crushed.)
1 pint cherry tomatoes

2 large cloves garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 ounces fatty pancetta, cut into cubes (I used slightly more than 2 ounces.)
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary leaves

To make the soffrito, combine the garlic, pancetta, and rosemary in a small food processor and pulse until fairly finely chopped.

The soffrito
The soffrito

Transfer the mixture to a heavy-based pot, add the oil and cook over moderate heat until the pancetta is golden, about 5 minutes, stirring frequently.

The browned soffrito
The browned soffrito

Turn the heat up to high, add the onion, chicken, and garlic cloves and brown the chicken well on both sides, about 8 minutes.

Browned chicken
Browned chicken

Stir in the wine and cook 1 minute. (I used this time to scrape any browned bits from the bottom of the pan.)

Adding the wine
Adding the wine

Then add chili and tomatoes, and season with salt.

The tomatoes and chilies
The tomatoes and chilies

Bring to a simmer, cover with a lid, and cook gently for 40 minutes. The chicken is cooked when the juices run clear when a skewer is inserted between the thigh and leg. Check seasoning. Serve on deep, heated plates with polenta.

The finished dish
The finished dish

Serves 4. (Like most braised dishes, this chicken is even better when re-heated a day or tow later.)

Wine Pairing: Montepulciano d’Abruzzo

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