Have you ever been to Rome in August (recipe link)? I hope not. For one thing, most Italians take off for vacation during August, so most small businesses are shuttered and the ancient city is devoid of locals. Second, it's hot, oppressively hot, two-showers-a-day hot. For those who stay in the city, though, it's a festive time as Romans celebrate the mid-August holiday of ferragosto. The occasion is traditionally commemorated with a braised chicken and pepper stew served as a main course. Since it's hot, and most Romans live in small apartments, dishes need to be prepared simply and off the stovetop, and since it's late summer, bell peppers are plentiful and - as an added bonus - come in red and yellow, the main colors of the beloved local AS Roma squad.
This recipe is a riff off the iconic Roman chicken stew, and combines a primo piatto with the secondo in economical American fashion. Braising the chicken yields a lot of leftover red sauce, which I tossed with some spaghetti alla chitarra, but you are welcome to use any pasta shape you like, just make sure it's a sturdy, bronze-extruded pasta that can stand up to a rich sauce. We recommend watching the 2008 Italian film Pranzo di Ferragosto, but don't try to keep up with the main character's Chablis drinking.
4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2 large bell peppers, cut into strips
½ red onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 28oz. can San Marzano tomatoes
crushed red pepper (or 2 whole diavoletto peppers)
about a cup of red wine
1---Season the chicken thighs with plenty of salt and black pepper. Heat 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil in a saucepan or skillet over medium-high to high heat. When the oil is fragrant and nearly smoking, add the chicken thighs and sear each side until a nice brown crust forms. Remove the thighs and set aside, lower the heat on the pan to medium.
2---Add the chopped onion and bell peppers, stirring frequently. When the onions are nearly browned or translucent, and the peppers are soft, add a pinch of oregano, crushed red pepper (or 1-2 whole diavoletto peppers), and the minced garlic. Stir the aromatics with the onions and peppers for about a minute, careful not to burn the garlic. Turn the heat back up to medium-high and pour in the wine. Deglaze the pan by carefully scraping the brown bits off the bottom of the pan, and allow the wine to reduce by ⅔.
3---Add the tomatoes and return the chicken, ensure that the chicken is submerged in the sauce. Bring the sauce to a boil, and then immediately lower to a simmer. Allow the sauce to simmer for about an hour.
4---Serve the chicken with some of the sauce, and use the remaining sauce to toss with your favorite pasta as a primo piatto.