Roman chicken, also called pollo alla romana in Italy, is a very old peasant dish from Rome. Roman housewives (domestic dictators rather than goddesses all too often) would make this dish every week. Typical of such dishes, it use low quality meat, wine and herbs to tenderise and give flavour and the dish is slow slow cooked — traditionally prepared in the morning and left to simmer for several hours. When I first found it, Roman chicken had a rich sauce and this is the version I give here. However, in a back-street cafe in Rome last time I was there it was severed ‘dry’. Either way it is a stunning dish. My wife claims that she fell in love with me when first I made it for her (truly a seductive recipe) and it is still her favourite from my repertoire. In keeping with its origins, this is best made from cheap cuts of chicken and not breast! This is my adaptation of the original.
1.6kg whole chicken, cut into 8 pieces
150g pancetta, coarsely chopped
1 large red onion, cut into wedges
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
125ml (1/2 cup) white wine
500ml (2 cups) passata
6 large fresh marjoram or oregano sprigs
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 red capsicum, thickly sliced
1 yellow capsicum, thickly sliced
Heat a flameproof casserole dish over medium-high heat. Cook the chicken, skin-side down, in 2 batches, for 5 minutes or until golden. Turn and cook for 3 minutes. Transfer to a plate. Stir in the pancetta, onion and garlic for 3 minutes or until pancetta is crisp. Add wine. Cook for 1 minute or until liquid reduces slightly. Add chicken, passata and marjoram. Season with pepper. Reduce heat to medium-low. Cover. Cook for 20 minutes.
Turn chicken. Cook, covered, for 15 minutes. Uncover and cook for 15 minutes or until chicken is very tender. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large non-stick frying pan over medium heat. Stir in combined capsicum for 5 minutes or until softened slightly. Stir the capsicum mixture into the chicken mixture. Cook for 10 minutes or until heated through, then serve the Roman chicken very warm.