Cacciatore, which means “hunter” in Italian, is one of the classic authentic Italian recipes. Hunters would eat this simple dish after a successful day in the woods. Originally, beef cacciatore was eaten without tomatoes, because tomatoes were brought to Italy from the New World. This version of beef cacciatore has tomatoes and bell peppers creating a sweeter, more flavorful Mediterranean sauce.
Beef cacciatore recipes vary depending on the region of Italy where it is made. For example, in Southern Italy, they might use anchovies, olives, and sometimes spicy peppers. In northern Italy, they use more ground vegetables like carrots, celery, and onions in their cacciatore dishes.
What is Chuck Roast?
To create the perfect beef cacciatore you want to have a beef that is melt in your mouth tender. Since the cooking time for the beef is relatively short you want something with some marbling (fat) so it will tenderize quicker. I have found chuck roast (shoulder) perfect for this. It is marbled, but not super high in fat. l try to buy it when it is on sale and freeze it. Then I have it at a good price and can use it whenever i want to.
Meat and the Mediterranean Diet
I am often asked why there are so many meat dishes on our site. The Mediterranean Diet is a plant based diet, but they still do eat meat and chicken. The major difference is that they eat it in much smaller quantities. You are less likely to see a big piece of meat at a meal. The preference for most is to create a sauce or stew or casserole that is packed with vegetables and has a small amount of meat to give it some extra flavor. You have to remember that even a sauce like this that has a few ounces of meat per serving would still be served with other vegetables including both cooked vegetable dishes and salads. A meal that has meat in it is still majority plant based. Because the people of the Mediterranean love to cook and because they use meat as a flavoring, there are many different recipes with meat in it. Don’t let that fool you into thinking they eat a high meat diet.
Pureeing the sauce makes the sauce
Some might want to skip the pureeing of the tomato and pepper mixture, but you definitely want to puree away! The blending of flavors of onion, olive oil, peppers and tomato give it an authentic Italian feel that is worth the extra few minutes (and cleaning of the food processor). There is a depth of flavor with the sweet peppers blended into the sauce that makes this a favorite Italian dish in our family.
Recipe Additions: If you have some extra red wine you can add a 1/4 cup while it simmers for an even richer flavor.
Koula Barydakis was born into a long tradition of eating and living Mediterranean on the Greek island of Crete. She is a chef who has worked in many of the top restaurants in Crete and in Greek Town in Toronto, Canada. Koula is the co-author of “Foods of Crete, Traditional Recipes of the Healthiest People in the World” and is currently completing her second cookbook. Koula teaches cooking classes to tourists in Crete and has been hired to teach classes in other countries as well.