Chicken Marsala with Pancetta and Cream
Chicken marsala is a classic Italian American dish that sounds fancy, and is perfect for a dinner party, but is also easy enough to make for a midweek meal. Traditionally it’s chicken cutlets dredged in flour and fried, served with a sauce made with a Marsala reduction. It often includes mushrooms.
This recipe for chicken marsala is a favorite of my dad’s and is adapted from one he found in Fine Cooking magazine years ago. It doesn’t have mushrooms (though you could easily add them), and gets tons of flavor from Italian pancetta. Pancetta is a lot like bacon (but better!); it’s the same cut, but salt cured, not smoked.
My father has been known to substitute bacon for the pancetta in this recipe, which also works, and is a little easier on the wallet. (According to him, “one can’t live on pancetta alone.”) He also sometimes switches out the Marsala for dry vermouth.
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 2 oz pancetta (about one 1/4-inch thick slice), cut into 1/4 inch cubes
- 1/2 cup finely diced onion (or shallots)
- 1/2 cup flour for dredging
- 1 lb of skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut or pounded into thin cutlets
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 3/4 cup dry Marsala wine
- 6 Tbsp heavy cream
- Minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 Heat olive oil in a large skillet on medium high heat. Add the diced pancetta and cook until lightly browned and crisp. Use a slotted spoon to remove the pancetta, leaving the rendered fat in the pan. Add the onions or shallots and cook until translucent and lightly browned (5 to 10 minutes for onions, if using shallots lower the heat to medium and cook a minute or two). Remove the onions from the pan, leaving the fat in the pan. Add the onions to the cooked pancetta and set aside.
2 Put flour on a shallow plate for dredging. Pat the chicken cutlets dry and sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper. Heat the skillet on medium high heat. You should have about 2 tablespoons of fat in the pan from the pancetta, if not add more olive oil to the pan.
3 When the fat in the pan is hot (test it to make sure by sprinkling a tiny bit of flour in the pan, it should sizzle), dredge a chicken cutlet in the flour on both sides, shake off the excess and place in the hot pan. Continue with as many cutlets as can fit in the pan without crowding.
Sauté until just browned, on both sides. It should only take a minute or two. Cook all of the cutlets in the same way, adding more olive oil to the pan if necessary. Remove the cooked cutlets to a plate.
4 Pour off any excess fat. Add the Marsala to the hot pan to deglaze it, scraping up any browned bits. Let the Marsala boil away until it reduces by a quarter or a half and stir in the cream. Let boil until the sauce thickens.
5 Return the chicken cutlets, the pancetta and onions to the pan and turn to coat with the creamy Marsala sauce. Reheat for 1/2 a minute.
Serve the cutlets with the sauce and a little freshly chopped parsley.