Chicken Marsala is a classic chicken dish with a richly flavored reduction sauce of Marsala wine, mushrooms and pancetta. It offers enough flair for entertaining and is easy enough for cooking during the week. Start with golden chicken cutlets, then make your Marsala mushroom sauce in the same pan. This recipe is without cream.
While Chicken Marsala sounds Italian, it's an American-Italian creation. I make mine with chicken cutlets and show you how to create the cutlets. But first a little information on ingredients.
Marsala is a fortified wine made on the Italian island of Sicily. It's wine where spirits are added, creating rich caramelized sauces when use for cooking. They come sweet or dry. Dry marsala is typical for savory dishes (like Chicken Marsala) and sweet marsala for dessert recipes (like Zabglione).
Pancetta is 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 pre-diced for quick use in many stores. Much of the fat is rendered out during cooking so don't worry if you are not familiar with it. After cooking, the fat is drained off and the meaty part is added back into the sauce for fantastic flavor.
Slice Chicken into Cutlets
- Lay a boneless skinless chicken breast rounded or smooth side up on a cutting board.
- Position a sharp chef's knife in the center of the chicken breast at the larger end.
- Slice through the length of the chicken breast horizontally creating two equal pieces.
- Aim a little high while slicing so the bottom piece is a decent thickness.
Season and Dust with Flour
Sprinkle chicken cutlets with salt, pepper and granulated garlic then dust or coat with flour of choice.
- Use a GF blend, cassava flour, rice flour, or coconut flour for gluten-free.
- For wheat flour, try white whole wheat.
The light flour dusting gives the chicken a nice crisp crust. You can skip the flour for grain-free or Paleo and it still tastes great.
Cook the Cutlets
Heat a medium sauté pan or skillet over medium heat and add the oil or oil and butter combination. Cook until the cutlets are golden brown on the first side then turn them and cook for another minute or two until they are done. They will feel firm to the touch, with just a little give to them.
Depending on the size of your pan and the number of cutlets you are cooking, you may need to do this in two batches. Keep the first batch warm on a plate in a low oven (175°F-200°F).
Tip - To make this non-dairy, use a plant-based butter or all olive oil.
Make the Sauce
In the same pan as the cutlets, create the sauce with Marsala, 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 ⅓ the amount and add along with the mushrooms so the fried herbs have a chance to rehydrate.
Cook the pancetta and drain fat on layers of paper towels. Add the mushrooms and cook until they give off their moisture and start to brown. Add back the drained pancetta, garlic and tomato paste. Stir for 1 minute, then add the Marsala and cook down until reduced and a little syrupy. Add herbs and serve.
Safety tip - Because Marsala may have up to 20% alcohol, it could flame when you pour it into the pan. For safety, move the pan off the the burner when you add the wine, then carefully slide it back on the burner.
To serve family style, arrange cutlets on a platter and pour sauce over the top. Garnish with a sprinkle of fresh chopped herbs if desired.
Leftovers will keep for 4 days in an airtight container.
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. Roasted red potatoes are good too.
Chicken Marsala (without cream)
- Saute or fry pan
- 1 ½ pounds organic boneless skinless chicken breasts
- sprinkles salt
- sprinkles ground black pepper
- sprinkles granulated garlic
- ½ cup flour: cassava, coconut, rice or white whole wheat
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil oil and butter combo is nice too
- 3 ounces Pancetta 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
- 1 ½ cups dry Marsala wine 12 ounces
- 1 tablespoon fresh chopped oregano 1 teaspoon dried
- 1 tablespoon fresh chopped parsley optional for garnish
- 2 tablespoons unsalted dairy or plant butter optional
Slice and Season 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 Marsala 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 into the pan along with the garlic and tomato paste. Cook 1 minute, stirring. Add the Marsala to the pan along with the herbs. Cook until the wine is reduced by about half and starting to get thick and syrupy. To serve, place chicken cutlets on warm plates and top with the sauce.