Skillet Chicken with Tomatoes, Pancetta, & Mozzarella

Wow. This dish was AMAZING. I would describe it as a lighter take on chicken parmesan, but it even brings that classic dish to another level with its more complex flavors.

The first time I made this dish, I served it with roasted red potatoes and roasted broccoli on the side. Realizing that it would have been more perfect with pasta, we “had” to have it again. Absolute perfection served over rigatoni!

This recipe was adapted from the New York Times, contributed by Melissa Clark. She referred to the dish as “Pizza Chicken.” 🙂 I used boneless skinless chicken thighs instead of bone-in, increased the garlic, decreased the pancetta, and used ciliegine instead of bocconcini. Fabulous!!

Update: I made this delicious dish using fresh tomatoes (updated below) from another version of this recipe adapted from Dinner: Changing the Game by Melissa Clark. Also incredible!

Yield: Serves 6

  • 3 ½ pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs (about 15)
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 ounces pancetta, diced
  • 6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 2 to 4 anchovy fillets
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 (28-ounce) can whole plum tomatoes OR 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved (preferably mixed colors) and 3 1/2 cups diced Campari tomatoes
  • 1 large basil sprig, plus more chopped basil for serving
  • 8 ounces bocconcini or ciliegine, halved (or use mozzarella cut into 3/4-inch pieces)
  • 1 pound of cooked pasta, such as rigatoni, for serving (tossed with pasta water, olive oil, or butter, as desired)
  1. Heat oven to 400 degrees, preferably on convection. Pat chicken dry with paper towels. Season with salt and pepper.
  2. In a large oven-proof skillet, warm oil over medium-high heat. Add pancetta and cook, stirring frequently, until browned. Use a slotted spoon to transfer pancetta to a paper-towel-lined plate.
  3. Working in two batches, add chicken to skillet. Sear, turning only occasionally, until well browned on all sides, about 2-3 minutes per side. Transfer to a large plate.
  4. Add garlic, anchovies and red pepper flakes to skillet; fry 1 minute.
  5. Stir in tomatoes and basil. Cook, breaking up tomatoes with a spatula, until sauce thickens somewhat, about 10 minutes.
  6. Return chicken to skillet. Transfer skillet to oven and cook, uncovered, until chicken is no longer pink, about 25 minutes.
  7. Scatter bocconcini, ciliegine, or mozzarella pieces over skillet. Adjust oven temperature to broil. Return skillet to oven and broil until cheese is melted and bubbling, 2 to 3 minutes (watch carefully to see that it does not burn).
  8. Garnish with pancetta and chopped basil before serving. Serve over pasta, as desired.

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Chicken Parmesan with Chicken Thighs

Growing up in the DC metro area, I didn’t eat a lot of chicken parmesan. I am surrounded by it in New York! You can eat this classic Italian-American dish pretty much anywhere and everywhere. It is served at every casual function. (not to mention eggplant parmesan!)

BUT… Wow! None of it is this good!! This is the perfect indulgent recipe for absolutely fabulous chicken parmesan. Simple and fresh-tasting sauce. Made with boneless skinless chicken thighs too- I think that is the secret to this incredible version. Comfort food at its best. 😉 We ate it with pasta and roasted asparagus. This recipe was adapted from the New York Times, contributed by Melissa Clark. As Melissa Clark says, “hearty, gooey, and satisfying.”

For the Simple Tomato Sauce:

Yield: about 5 cups

  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • ¼ teaspoon red chile flakes (optional)
  • 2 (28-ounce) cans whole plum tomatoes (I used San Marzano)
  • 2 sprigs basil or 1 bay leaf
  • ½ teaspoon coarse salt, or to taste
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  1. In a large, straight-sided skillet over medium heat, warm the oil. Add garlic and cook until just lightly golden. Add chile flakes if desired and cook 30 seconds.
  2. Stir in tomatoes and juices, basil or bay leaf, and salt and pepper.
  3. Bring sauce to a simmer and cook until sauce is thick and tomatoes have mostly fallen apart, about 30 to 40 minutes. Adjust heat as needed to keep at a steady simmer. Mash the tomatoes with the back of a wooden spoon or a potato masher to help them break down. Remove sauce from heat and discard basil or bay leaf.

For the Casserole:

Yield: Serves 6

  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs (I used 10)
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 to 3 cups panko bread crumbs, as needed
  • coarse salt, as needed
  • freshly ground black pepper, as needed
  • extra-virgin olive oil, for frying
  • 5 cups Simple Tomato Sauce (recipe above)
  • 1 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • ½ pound fresh mozzarella, torn into bite-sized pieces
  • noodles for serving, if desired
  1. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Place chicken thighs between two pieces of parchment or plastic wrap. Using a kitchen mallet or rolling pin, pound meat to even 1/4-inch-thick slices.
  2. Place flour, eggs and panko into three wide, shallow bowls.
  3. Season meat generously with salt and pepper.
  4. Dip a piece in flour, then eggs, then coat with panko. Repeat until all the meat is coated.
  5. Fill a large skillet with 1/4-inch oil. Place over medium-high heat. When oil is hot, fry cutlets in batches, turning halfway through, until golden brown. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate.
  6. Spoon a thin layer of sauce over the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking pan.
  7. Sprinkle one-third of the Parmesan over sauce.
  8. Place half of the cutlets over the Parmesan and top with half the mozzarella pieces.
  9. Top with half the remaining sauce, sprinkle with another third of the Parmesan, and repeat layering, ending with a final layer of sauce and Parmesan.
  10. Transfer pan to oven and bake until cheese is golden and casserole is bubbling, about 25 minutes (on convection) but up to 40 minutes (in a standard oven). Let cool a few minutes before serving.

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