Mary’s Chicken alla Coo Coo

In celebration of our Mary’s Italian Family Cookbook, on sale now in-store and online, we wanted to share a Mary’s original recipe, Chicken alla Coo Coo!

Mary never followed other people’s recipes, preferring to cook everything her way. Whenever she made up a dish, she’d tell nosy customers (or grandkids) that it was “alla coo coo,” her way of encouraging them to stop pestering her and start eating. Chicken alla Coo Coo was her version of chicken cacciatore, or “hunter’s style” chicken, made extra hearty with lots of roasted root vegetables in a lively tomato sauce. As Nanette remembers, Noni (Mary) always served it in a big, dented aluminum baking pan, with lots of crusty bread alongside for mopping up the sauce. Mary’s granddaughters still make it today.


  • 1 can (28 oz) whole plum tomatoes with juices
  • 2 russet potatoes (about 1 lb total weight), peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 small yellow onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup large pimiento-stuffed green olives (optional)
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 5 fresh time sprigs
  • 2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 bone-in whole chicken legs (drumstick and thigh)
  • 2 bone-in chicken breast halves, halved crosswise
  • 1 orange-fleshed yam (about 1/2 lb), peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 3/4 cup dry white wine
  • Chopped fresh basil, for garnish
  • Chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, for garnish


  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees, F.
  2. Put the tomatoes and their juices, crushing the tomatoes with your hand as you add them, into a large roasting pan. Add the potatoes, onion, olives (if using), oil, thyme, Italian seasoning, and 1 teaspoon each salt and pepper and stir to mix well. Spread the tomato mixture evenly in the pan. Nestle the chicken pieces in the mixture, turn to coat them evenly, then arrange them, skin side up, in a single layer.
  3. Roast, uncovered, for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and add the yam pieces and wine, distributing them evenly. Cover the pan with aluminum foil, return to the oven, and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover and continue to bake until the potatoes are tender and the chicken is cooked through, about 45 minutes longer. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper if needed.
  4. Let it rest for 10 to 15 minutes before serving. Garnish with basil and parsley and serve.


Order your Mary’s Italian Family Cookbook here.

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