Ricotta Stuffed Chicken

Butterflied chicken stuffed with ricotta, Parmesan and herbs, then grilled or baked.

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Photography Credit: Sally Vargas

Typically when we think of stuffed chicken, it has to do with stuffing the cavity of a whole chicken. In this recipe however, we are flattening a whole chicken by butterflying it first (it’s easy!) and then pressing an herby ricotta cheese stuffing underneath the skin, which will bathe the chicken with flavor as it cooks.

The chicken parts cook more evenly that way and the presentation is beautiful.

Richard Olney wrote about this method for making ricotta stuffed chicken decades ago in his wonderful book Simple French Food (high recommend). We also found a similar recipe in a Weber grilling cookbook, which makes sense as the method of butterflying chicken makes it easy to grill a whole chicken.

Ricotta Stuffed Chicken

Butterflying a chicken is easier than you think! It does help to have a strong pair of poultry shears.

To butterfly a chicken, you cut it open on one side, spread open the chicken and press it down flat. (See our guide—with video—on How to Spatchcock or Butterfly a Chicken.)

To stuff the chicken, you’ll need a firm and gentle hand to separate the skin from the meat beneath. Use your fingers to work your way under the skin to open up enough room for the stuffing.

 

Ricotta Stuffed Chicken Recipe

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  • Prep time: 20 minutes
  • Cook time: 1 hour
  • Yield: Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients

  • 1 whole roasting chicken, 4 to 5 lbs.

Stuffing:

  • 12 oz. ricotta cheese
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh basil (or 1 teaspoon dried)
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh tarragon (or 1/2 teaspoon dried)
  • 2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced

Rub:

  • Salt
  • Olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh basil (or 1/2 teaspoon dried)
  • 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh tarragon (or 1/4 teaspoon dried)
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika

Method

1 Butterfly the chicken: Rinse chicken and pat dry with paper towels. Butterfly the chicken by using poultry shears or a knife to cut along one side of the backbone. Cut along the other side and remove the backbone and tail. (See our guide to how to spatchcock or butterfly a chicken.)

Ginger-Orange Spatchcocked Chicken Ginger-Orange Spatchcocked Chicken

Spread the chicken open, skin side up. Press down on the chicken with the palms of your hands (or pound with your fists) to flatten the chicken. Fold the wings under the chicken.

2 Make ricotta Parmesan herb mixture: In a medium bowl, mix the ricotta, Parmesan cheese, egg, parsley, garlic, 2 teaspoons of chopped basil, and 1 teaspoon of chopped tarragon.

3 Stuff ricotta mixture under chicken skin: Using a sharp paring knife and your fingers, loosen skin over top of chicken and drumsticks starting at neck edge. Work with your fingers and hand to press under the chicken skin to separate the chicken skin from the chicken breasts, thighs, and drumsticks. Be gentle, the skin can easily tear.

Carefully spoon cheese mixture under skin of chicken, pressing with your fingers to distribute evenly over the chicken and drumsticks.

4 Season chicken: Brush chicken lightly with oil; sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon basil, 1/2 teaspoon tarragon, paprika, and a generous amount of salt.

5a Cook chicken using an oven: Preheat oven to 500°F. Place chicken, skin side up, on a rack in a roasting pan. Place in oven and immediately turn the heat down to 350°F.

5b OR Cook chicken using a grill: Prepare grill for medium indirect heat. If using a gas grill, heat all burners on high until the grill is hot, then turn off the middle burner.

If using a charcoal grill, bank the coals to one side of the grill and place a large aluminum drip pan underneath the grate on the side without coals, adding a couple cups of water to the drip pan so that the drippings don't burn.

Place the chicken, skin side up, on the cooking grate, away from the side with coals if you are using a charcoal grill, or above the middle burner if you are using gas.

Alternatively, you can lay the chicken out on a rack in a disposable aluminum roasting pan and place the roasting pan on the cooking grate (this tip works well with gas grills, I haven't tried it with the charcoal one yet). Cover the grill.

6 Roast the chicken for an hour or until the juices run clear from the thigh when pierced with a fork. (Chicken should have an internal temperature of 165°F.) If the skin browns before the chicken is cooked through, cover it loosely with foil.

7 Let rest: Transfer chicken to a cutting board; let stand 10 minutes. Cut into quarters to serve.

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Links:

Spatchcocked Grilled Chicken with Orange and Ginger here on Simply Recipes

Richard Olney's ricotta stuffed chicken

Showing 4 of 9 Comments

  • Kimborloni

    i am making this right now and it smells amazing. I over seasoned the chicken inside and out so that it will be perfect after baking in the oven at 350. It looks amazing and everyone is pacing in front of the oven waiting for it come out. Also, i didn’t have any of the spices on hand so used SPIKE and a little mediterranean spice, but had the fresh parsley used twice the amount and 3 cloves of garlic.
    I will report back with the taste but i am sure if it taste like it smells it will be amazing!

  • lydia

    Years ago, when I wrote a newspaper column in Boston, one of my favorite articles was about the day I cooked with a well-known Boston police officer. He was of Italian descent, and he taught me to make chicken stuffed with ricotta, raisins and mint. I’d never had chicken stuffed with cheese before, but it was a thing of beauty, served with a fresh tomato sauce.

  • Janet V

    Any idea about how long you should grill the chicken like this? I have a large charcoal grill, so I’d be using the one-side method. I haven’t grilled any chicken at all on it yet, so I have no guidelines. I am also guessing you would not turn it over, and that you’d cook it with the lid closed. I guess you can tell I’m anxious to try this! Thanks.

  • Dani

    Wow…that looks a little tricky but sounds absolutely fantastic. I’ll have to put on my thinking cap and see if I can come up with a recipe that uses the same idea and flavors but is a little less involved….or better yet, can I just come over for dinner(hee hee)?!!
    Thanks for another great recipe!

  • Elise

    Hi Lydia – Ricotta, raisins, and mint? What a great sounding combination! I’ll have to try that, thank you.

    Hi Janet – You definitely do not turn the chicken over. You want low, indirect heat. If your charcoal grill doesn’t come with a thermometer (mine didn’t, but a $4 thermometer was easy to install with a little drilling), you can use a candy thermometer, just insert it into the air vent. The temp should be around 350°F. Cooking time depends on the size of the chicken. Ours was perfectly cooked at about one hour ten minutes.

    Hi Debbie – We have both a charcoal and a gas grill. I roasted this chicken on a roasting rack, over a roasting pan, in the gas grill, basically mimicking our oven. It was over 100°F that day, so we didn’t want to use the oven. I think the taste would have been the same if we had used the oven. Charcoal, on the other hand, is a different story. The smoldering charcoal will impart its own smokey flavor to whatever is cooked on it.

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