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.

Chicken Marsala with Pancetta and Cream Recipe

  • Prep time: 10 minutes
  • Cook time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 3-4.

Ingredients

  • 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

Method

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.

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Adapted from Fine Cooking Magazine.

Links:

Pollo al Marsala from Bell'Alimento

Marsala from Ryan's Cafe - video and recipe from Chef John of Food Wishes

Chicken Marsala from She Wears Many Hats

Dinner Party Chicken Marsala from The Kitchn

50 Comments

  1. Ellie

    This was delicious and so very easy!

  2. Ellen

    OKAY, WOW.

    This is pretty much the best recipe ever. I’ve done Chicken Marsala before, and it’s been pretty blah and disappointing, but this recipe was phenomenal: simple, elegant, and perfect.

    I’ve found that to be the case with most of your recipes: they suit my tastes (and capabilities in the kitchen) to a tee. Bless you for this collection!

  3. Shannon

    This is absolutely one of the best chicken dishes I’ve ever had. I’ve made this about 3 times now and it never fails to disappoint! However, I have added mushrooms to the recipe and I cook them with the pancetta. I also make a bit more of the marsala sauce because it is so good and I can’t get enough of it! This recipe is now a favorite in my household. Thanks so much!

  4. Kalyn

    This looks like a fantastic recipe. I remember seeing it in Fine Cooking but somehow I missed this post; looks delicious. (And I do like your dad’s bacon/pancetta philosophy.)

  5. Stacia

    I have a version of Chicken Marsala that includes mascarpone instead of cream, and I’ve been wanting a healthier version for a while. This looks perfect! I can’t wait to try it.

  6. dave

    I have a pretty newbie question, as I am not the most comfortable nor experienced with chicken breasts. You indicate thin cutlets, but when I buy boneless breasts from the local mexican grocery, they are HUGE. Big thick breasts. How do I get from that to thin cutlets? Slice them sideways? If so, to what thickness?

  7. Elise

    Hi Dave – that’s a great question. You can either use a meat pounder to pound them down or you can cut them horizontally, or you can do both. The thinness of the cutlet determines the cooking time, the thinner the cutlet, the less time needed to cook it. I think my dad cuts his to about a half inch thickness, but there is lots of flexibility here.

  8. Mary

    This looks incredible and I look forward to making it. One question that I need to ask before I attempt…Step 4 states “Pour off the excess fat.” Does that mean to pour out all the fat/olive oil combo that was in the pan? Or leave a little? Thank you!

  9. Kris

    I’ve been looking for a good marsala recipe and this looks delicious. I love the flavor of pancetta, so it has to be good! I can’t wait to try it out on my husband and 2 year old.

  10. Iris

    Ok, here’s a silly question. What is Marsala wine and where can I find it? I would love to try this recipe but I have no clue what Marsala wine is.

    Note from Elise: There’s a link at the bottom of the recipe to a good explanation on Marsala wine. You should be able to buy it at any grocery store that also sells liquor.

  11. isis

    What side dishes do you recommend with this recipe?

  12. Michael

    I was well into sauteing the chicken last night when I went looking for the Marsala I thought I had… the recipe works well with Sherry.

  13. irish

    Elise! I can tell this is a keeper. Yum. Thanks a bunch.

  14. Patricia Reed

    I love chicken marsala. One of my favorite versions also includes a couple of tablespoons of marinara sauce after the marsala wine is added. Gives it a little different flavor, but really complements it.

    I had never tried it with pancetta, but sounds really good. Thanks.

  15. Susan from Food Blogga

    Oh, yes, it was a standard in my husband’s Italian-American home. His mom made a fabulous chicken marsala. Yours looks delicious, especially with the addition of the pancetta.

  16. Neil McNicholl

    VERRRY rich. I had to substitute the pancetta with some smoked bacon as my local deli had stopped stocking pancetta – but a most successful dish. I wonder would marinading the chicken prior to cooking help the chicken breast’s flavour?
    Thanks!

  17. chigiy

    This is something Rich will love.

    Note from Elise: Hi Chigiy, knowing your husband Rich, I would have to agree. :-)

  18. Jonathan Lam

    When adding mushrooms to the recipe, would you add them to the pancetta or with the wine when making the sauce? Adding them to the pancetta would mean more brown bits to be scraped up later byt he wine, but I’m not sure…

    Note from Elise: See the links to other Chicken Marsala recipes at the end of the post to review ideas of how to incorporate mushrooms. If I were to add mushrooms I would probably saute them right after I had browned and removed the chicken. Then I would remove them, setting them aside to deglaze the pan with Marsala, returning to the pan with the chicken and sauce all together.

  19. Sunny

    I was just wondering. Can this receipe be done ahead at some point. I would cook this for my husband, but would be a little nervous with company. I don’t like cooking and doing everything while I entertain. Any recommendations?

    Note from Elise: This isn’t exactly a make-ahead recipe. It cooks up so quickly, it doesn’t need to be. I would suggest if you wanted to make this for company that you have your prep work already done – onions and pancetta chopped, chicken cutlets cut or pounded, Marsala and cream measured. That will make the cooking even faster and stress-free.

  20. Wes

    Another definite winner!! Woo hoo! I doubled the recipe but the little piglets, aka my teenage sons, didn’t leave me any for lunch today! Now, I can’t wait to make this one again :-)

  21. Dave

    This was great, Elise! I made it with vermouth instead of marsala and I made it a little ‘saucier’ (a little more vermouth and cream). I think it ranks as one of the best things I’ve found to do with a chicken breast!

  22. Pille

    I’ve never made Chicken Marsala before, but I’ve made something similar, which I really liked. I’ll try your dad’s American Italian classic soon, Elise:)

  23. BETH

    Hands down the BEST chicken recipe EVER. I can’t tell you how much I loved this. Fantastic, thanks Elise.

  24. athina

    This was rich and decadent! It was also fast and easy to make! I had to substitute dry vermouth for the marsala, but wow!!! the cream and wine reduction ends up being an extremely flavorful, luxurious sauce. I would recommend tasting for seasoning at the end…the chicken remained moist and tender, and the sauce coated the cutlets beautifully, like a blanket. I served a fresh fettucine on the side, with a thyme infused butter, topped off with parmigiano-reggiano, and fresh black pepper- it was a great accompaniment to this dish.

  25. Oralea

    This is so delicious. I made it last night for a birthday dinner with wild rice and heirloom tomatoes. I was pleasantly surprised at how simple… felt a little guilty about how easy this special dinner was to pull together! So little chopping and a thin cut of meat makes it a really good option for a weeknight dinner. We ended with our favorite dessert too – wine stewed prunes over mascarpone cheese. Oh my goodness. I’d eat that every night if I could! Thank you for a great recipe.

  26. Jill

    This is a great recipe and it hit the spot last night- I’ve had picky tastes this weekend and the combination of the marsala wine, pancetta and mushrooms is exactly what I was craving! I added the mushrooms after I had cooked the chicken, based on Elise’s recommendation (above). I threw-in some minced garlic throuhout the cooking process and I seasoned the chicken, prior to dredging it in the flour. I’m glad I live alone because I had the chance to be a glutton and savor this dish by myself…maybe, if they’re lucky, I’ll share this recipe with a loved-one the next time around ;)

  27. Donna

    I absolutely love this recipe. The first time I made it I used cooking Marsala since I couldn’t find “drinking” Marsala. It made the dish too salty. I tried again with a better Marsala and had much better results. The third time, I used lower sodium bacon instead of pancetta (since that’s what I had on hand) and sauted sliced baby portabella mushrooms along with the onions. All I can say is WOW! I can’t wait to eat the leftovers for lunch today. :)

  28. Elisa

    Referring back to Mary’s questions, Step 4 states “Pour off the excess fat.” Does that mean to pour out all the fat/olive oil combo that was in the pan? Or leave a little? I can’t wait to try this recipe! Thank you.

    When you pour off the fat, there will be some left lingering in the pan, assuming you don’t wipe the pan down. This lingering amount is what you want. ~Elise

  29. Rita

    This is by far the best chicken meal I have ever made. Not only was it easy, but I had everything already stocked in my kitchen. Nothing beats looking up a quick recipe online and getting an amazing meal in less than 30 min.

    All I have to say is THANK YOU,THANK YOU, THANK YOU!!!!

  30. ang

    Not the best cook, and for some reason or another can not cook with wine. Had a big problem with the sauce. so I made my own with some butter , flour, heavy cream , and chicken broth. and add it to the pan, then the pancette, and onnions. First time have pancetta and it smells and tastes wonderful. Meal was ok, served with parmsean garlic mashed potatoes. But wouldn’t make again. just because I felt like it took to long for it just to be ok.

  31. MK

    Someone had mentioned about making this in advance. I need to make enough for 35 people for a buffet so I really do need to make this the day before. Any suggestions on how to keep the chicken tender if made a day in advance?

  32. mel

    Elise, this is absolutely marvelous! Followed the recipe to the toe and it turned out better than what I could find in a restaurant. Thanks a lot!

  33. Mona

    I wanted to make a special dinner for a friend. He loves this dish (as do I) and I stumbled upon this recipe online last night. We both dine at top restaurants all over the world and are quite spoiled when it comes to fine dining.
    I made this recipe, and we both agreed it was the very best Chicken Marsala we have ever had.
    I followed the recipe exactly with one change: when I went to saute the onions, I also added a little container of sliced button mushrooms. I believe this addition made this recipe 100% outstanding. I give this recipe a 5 Star rating!

  34. EdFromToronto

    WOW, was this ever good!
    I’ve made chicken marsala before but the pancetta really added a touch of genius.

  35. suzette

    This recipe was awesome delicious and super easy to put together.I will definitely make it again.Thanks for this website, it’s a lifesaver.

  36. pw

    Okay, this is my new go to recipe for chicken marsala. My fiance LOVES chicken marsala and I’ve made a couple other well-known recipes with mixed results. This was simple, unfussy, quick and delicious. we didn’t have pancetta on hand so we subbed in bacon (bacon makes anything taste better) and we cooked down some chopped mushrooms in the marsala sauce as it was reducing to infuse more of the flavor. Thanks for sharing this fantastic recipe!

  37. Lindsay

    I have made chicken marsala a couple of times, but this time I didn’t have any mushrooms in the house so I needed to adapt accordingly. This recipe saved me a trip to the grocery store AND also impressed my boyfriend. Quick and flavorful, just the way we like it. Thanks!

  38. sarah

    Love this recipe. I use bacon instead of pancetta and shallots instead of onions. I also add mushrooms. Make sure to use real Marsala wine not Marsala cooking wine or it will come out salty. One of my favorite recipes!

  39. Amy

    Wow – this was an exceptionally tasty and easy dish – so much so that my 7 and 9 year olds did most of the work (much to their excitement)! I too used shallots and it suited my onion-hating husband much better. Thank you for this new addition to our family menu – not often I find something NO ONE can complain about!

  40. Bobbi Martiniello

    I made this recipe tonight and my family loved it! I have a very picky 11 year old and an Italian husband who is sometimes hard to please but they both thanked me for making this — thanks for the recipe! Bobbi

  41. Carrie

    This was so easy and super yummy!! I served it with asparagus and everyone cleaned their plates. I followed the recipe but added a little minced garlic and fresh chopped mushrooms in with the onions as well. I can’t wait to make it again!! Thanks for another fabulous recipe.

  42. Rebecca

    I was wondering, since I’ve been making breasts a lot lately, if I could substitute with thighs. I am completely a thigh woman, though I’m wondering about the cooking time. Instead of putting the chicken, onions, and pancetta into the pan for the last step, would baking for 15-20 minutes on 350 ensure the thighs were fully cooked? They, if I recall, still have the bone and skin.

    So, I was planning to dredge, saute, and bake in the sauce, but would that work?

    Hello Rebecca, this dish is designed to work with chicken cutlets, tender breast meat that cooks quickly. Your guess is as good as mine when it comes to subbing thighs for the breasts. But if you do try it, please let us know how it turns out for you. ~Elise

  43. Alan Bowman

    This is a wonderful recipe for chicken. We make it using veal, either scaloppini, or even better, cut the meat off a few veal chops, and flatten it out a little bit. It it almost supernaturally good. Everyone who tries it absolutely raves about it.

  44. Rebecca

    @Elise

    Just so happens that baking the thighs at 350 for, I think it was 40-45 minutes, worked wonderfully. I’m not much of a cook, (baker all the way), but it was just about the best meal I’ve ever done. The sad thing was that I only had four thighs, and that wasn’t nearly enough for my family! :D (Next time, I’m doing eight or ten, so there will be leftovers!) I had boned and skinned thighs, so I patted them dry and put some dried savory/Italian seasoning underneath the skin. Tasted fantastic and the skin came out nice and crunchy. The meat was very moist and flavorful. I even made 130% more sauce, and it was all eaten! Yummy! (You know it is good if my brother eats it!)

    I’m going to do it again when my grandparents are in town!

  45. Jodie

    Wow! Wonderful recipe. My husband and I absolutely loved it, and this will definitely be made again soon in our house!

  46. daria

    I tried to make it today with Marsala cooking wine and half-and-half. The chicken cooked just fine but the wine/cream mixture curdled every time… Could it be because I was using half-and half instead of heavy cream? (I was trying to cut down on calories). We ended up mixing the bacon/onion with sour cream and omitted the wine. It still tasted good, but I know it would have been so much better with the wine.

    Anyway, I am still wondering what could have caused the curdling?

    Yes, half and half will curdle with the wine. Heavy cream has enough fat in it to prevent curdling. ~Elise

  47. Anna

    I am not really good with recipes and I really want to try and make this but I need to know what kind of cream to use? I’m lost with the whole cream issue. Can anyone tell me a brand and name they use for this? Please! Thank you! :)

    Brands vary by location. Look for “heavy whipping cream” in the dairy section of your grocery store. ~Elise

  48. Deepa

    Hi Elise, I am new to your site and recently tried two of your recipes and loved it. I am not a big fan of cooking, but I found your recipes very simple and fast to make and delicious. I have a simple question. You use the “cup” as a measurement and I was wondering if you can clarify how much ml or gram a cup means in your recipes.
    Thanks.

    1 cup is approximately 236 ml. ~Elise

  49. Eileen McDonald

    What an absolutely delicious Marsala chicken recipe! I’ve just made this tonight for dinner and have never cooked with Marsala wine before. It was easy to make and was a big hit with my family!

    I prefer this recipe over the regular Marsala Chicken recipes because it doesn’t call for mushrooms which is not a favorite in my family. The pancetta and onions simply put this recipe over the top! Thanks, Elise for sharing so we can enjoy making and eating this wonderful dish!!!

  50. Keri

    this was absolutely wonderful!

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