Vinegar chicken

Vinegar chicken

Pollo all’aceto

Emiko Davies; Lauren Bamford

This is an intriguing dish I came across while reading Aldo Santini’s Cucina Maremmana, a collection of recipes from around Maremma. This book is a wonderful resource of traditional dishes recounted by chefs, home cooks and others, where many recipes of oral tradition have finally been written down.

Santini describes this dish as an ancient one, derived from a method commonly used to cook game, such as wild boar or guinea fowl (the vinegar was not only for flavour, but also preserved the meat). In fact, along with the vinegar, the use of juniper, bay leaves and so many herbs is reminiscent of many traditional wild boar dishes (see Cinghiale in dolce-forte), and they all help to make this sauce so very special. It has become one of my favourite dishes.

The recipe that Santini recounts comes from Igino and Eloge Niccolucci from a hotel and restaurant in Pitigliano called Guastini, where you can dine while overlooking a stunning view of the valley and Pitigliano itself. After the vegetables are cooked, they’re puréed to create a creamy sauce to serve over the chicken. It’s a more elegant way to have this, but I quite like it rustic and simple, as it is.


Quantity Ingredient
1 whole chicken, chopped into large pieces, about 1–1.2 kg
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 brown onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
1/2 celery stalk, finely chopped
1 handful fresh herbs, such as basil, sage, parsley, oregano, calamint and fennel pollen
3-4 juniper berries
2 bay leaves
80ml white wine vinegar
1 lemon, juiced
125ml dry white wine


  1. In a deep casserole pot, brown the chicken pieces (in batches if necessary) in the olive oil over high heat until evenly coloured, about 5–7 minutes. Remove the chicken from the dish and set aside.
  2. To the same dish, add the onion, carrot and celery with a pinch of salt and turn the heat down to low. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes or until the vegetables have softened. Add the herbs, juniper berries and bay leaves, then pour over the vinegar, lemon juice and wine. The liquid will deglaze the pan, so scrape up any wonderful juicy brown bits from the bottom of the pan.
  3. Return the chicken to the pan with the vegetables, add about 500 ml of water and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Bring to a simmer and cook, covered, for 1 hour. Check occasionally, and top up with a little splash of water if needed. Towards the end, check for seasoning.
  4. Serve the chicken with its lovely sauce and any form of bread, potatoes or polenta (for a soft, creamy polenta) to soak up the sauce.
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