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.
I made this chicken marsala for a dinner party of 10. It was an incredible success with much appreciation & enjoyment by all! Thanks Chef Sally!!
This is my new favorite chicken dish! Sooo good! Thanks for sharing!
Christi G says
Your recipe made my mouth water so I made it tonight and it turned out great and my husband loved it. But one question, I cooked the pancetta and drained on paper towels like you said but when was I supposed to put them back in the sauce.
Oh my gosh! I just amended the directions to add the pancetta back in. Thanks Christ! I appreciate other "eyes" checking my posts! Glad your husband liked it.
this looks like the perfect friday night meal. i love all of your tips and advice at the end of the post!
This sounds like a beautifully indulgent meal! I can see why its a winner at dinner parties.
I love your inclusion of the food pairing. This is going on my card. I have been going through your blog and making menu/ingredient list on a large card. I take it with me to the market so I have a complete menu on one card. It helps to keep me focused, and helped to cut down on food waste. I usually take 2 or 3 cards and shop several times a week.
I know this may sound silly, but all this time I did not know the purpose of the straight sided skillet. I always use a sauté pan, but now I will be dragging the straight side. Thank you and keep dropping those little pearls of wisdom please.
Wow Madonna! You are one smart and organized cook! Thanks for sharing your tip on shopping. You made my day. I always hope I am not writing too long of a post or giving too much detail, but I know it's helps many people. I will continue to add my "make it a meal" notes.
On the pan terminology, a straight-sided pan is a classic saute pan. A more slope-sided pan is often referred to as a frying pan or a skillet. These days the definitions get pretty blurred. Thanks for your comment!
Great Susan! I agree. I could eat a plateful. What I want to do is make a ton of them, then try pureeing them into a soup.