When I want to serve a special chicken dish that I know everyone will love, I make Chicken Marsala. Richly flavored with a reduction of Marsala wine, mushrooms and pancetta, Chicken Marsala is a classic Italian dish. It offers enough flair for entertaining and is easy enough for cooking during the week. Start with golden chicken cutlets, then make your sauce in the same pan. Cook baby green beans in five minutes, whip up a salad, and make it a meal.
How to Create Chicken Cutlets
Slice the chicken breasts in half horizontally, sprinkle with salt, pepper and granulated garlic, and dust with coconut flour (for gluten-free). Otherwise, you can use white whole wheat. Cassava flour works too. Try it! The light flour dusting gives the chicken a nice crisp crust. You can also skip the flour and it will still tastes great.
Follow my directions for cooking chicken cutlets to a crisp golden brown, then set them side. It takes just a few minutes. To do them all at once use a large saute pan or a large skillet. Notes on tools are at then end of the post.
Make Your Sauce
In the same pan, create a sauce with Marsala wine, mushrooms, pancetta, garlic, tomato paste and fresh oregano. The flavors are irresistible. I prefer to use fresh herbs, but if all you have it dried, use 1/3 the amount and add along with the mushrooms so the herbs have a chance to rehydrate.
Marsala was originally named for where it was (and still is) produced, in the port city of Marsala on the Italian island of Sicily. Marsala is a fortified wine, which means spirits (like brandy or alcohol) have been added. It was originally produced this way to preserve it for long ocean voyages, which is hard to comprehend in the modern world of air travel and overnight shipping. It’s still produced the same way because of popularity.
I’ve tried making it with both sweet and dry Marsala separately and find the fry best but you can use either. The Marsala is inexpensive and fortified wines last almost forever in a cool pantry.
If you are not familiar with Pancetta, it’s Italian un-smoked bacon. Find it in the deli section or at a deli counter. The butcher can cut you a small chunk to dice up. When I buy it this way, I’ll often eliminate some of the fat and use more of the meaty portion. It’s also available diced for quick use in many stores. It regards to the fat content, much of the fat is rendered out during cooking, then drained off before being added back into the sauce.
Make it a Meal: Add a green vegetable like baby green beans or tossed green salad for a side dish and maybe some whole wheat or gluten-free pasta tossed with olive oil and good Parmesan and you have a terrific dinner.
Italian Chicken Marsala
- 1½ pounds organic boneless skinless chicken breasts
- sprinkles salt
- sprinkles ground black pepper
- sprinkles granulated garlic
- ½ cup coconut flour or white whole wheat
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil oil and butter combo is nice too
- 3 ounces Pancette chopped small
- 12-16 ounces white or brown mushrooms washed and sliced thin
- 2 large garlic cloves chopped fine
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste freeze extra for future use
- 2 cups dry Marsala wine 16 ounces
- 1 tablespoon fresh chopped oregano 1 teaspoon dried
- 1 tablespoon fresh chopped parsley optional for garnish
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter optional
Make the Cutlets
- Place the chicken breasts flat on your cutting surface with the rounded, smooth side facing up. Trim any tenders and set aside to cook with the cutlets. Place the palm of your hand gently but firmly on the chicken breast. Using a thin bladed, sharp knife, slice the chicken breasts in equal halves horizontally, keeping your knife parallel to the cutting board. Season both sides of the chicken with salt, pepper and granulated garlic. Sprinkle flour over the chicken and lightly coat both sides. Shake off excess.
- Heat a large saute or fry pan (about 11″-12″) over medium heat. Add olive oil. When it’s hot, add chicken cutlets, rounded side down first. Allow the cutlets to cook until they are golden. You can tell when they are almost ready to turn as the edges start to get white (cooked). Turn the cutlets and cook another minute or two, depending on how thickness. When done, they will feel firm to the touch but still give just a little. Remove from the heat and keep warm while making the sauce.
Make the Sauce
- On a small plate, fold up several layers of paper towels. Over medium heat in the same pan, cook the pancetta until crisp and golden. Pour the pancetta onto the paper towels and drain off fat.
- In the same pan over medium heat, add the sliced mushrooms. It may seem dry at first, but as the mushrooms cook they give off their moisture. You can add just a little more olive oil or butter if you want. Cook the mushrooms until they give off their moisture and start to brown. Add the pancetta back in along with the garlic and tomato paste. Cook 1 minute, stirring. Add both sweet and dry Marsala to the pan. Cook until the wine is reduced and starting to get thick and syrupy. Stir in the fresh oregano and you are ready to serve. To serve, place chicken cutlets on warm plates and top with the sauce.