Chicken Marsala is a classic Italian American dish that sounds fancy and is perfect for a dinner party, but believe it or not, Chicken Marsala is also easy enough to make for a midweek meal.
What Is Chicken Marsala?
Traditionally, Chicken Marsala is chicken cutlets dredged in flour and fried, served with a sauce made with a Marsala reduction. It often includes mushrooms.
Chicken Marsala Special Ingredient: Pancetta
This recipe for Chicken Marsala is a favorite of my father'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 Chicken Marsala 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.
Can You Substitute the Wine in Chicken Marsala?
Marsala is an Italian fortified wine from the region around the city of Marsala in Sicily. It can be either dry or sweet; chicken Marsala calls for dry Marsala.
If you have one of these other wines on hand, you can substitute them for Marsala. It'll change the character of the sauce, but the dish will still be tasty.
- Tawny port (will be a bit sweeter than dry Marsala)
- Dry Madeira
- Dry vermouth
- Oloroso or fino Sherry
Can You Swap the Heavy Cream in Chicken Marsala?
We don't recommend swapping the heavy cream for a different dairy option. Dairy with lower percentages of fat such as half-and-half or light cream will curdle when added to the acidic wine. Heavy cream, meanwhile, can handle it. So stick with heavy cream to prevent curdling.
Tips for Storing and Reheating Chicken Marsala
Leftover chicken Marsala can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator up to three days. Reheat the chicken and sauce in a pan with a lid over medium heat until just heated through.
To freeze chicken Marsala, put the chicken and sauce in a freezer-safe zip top bag with the air removed. Freeze for up to three months. Defrost the chicken. Once defrosted, reheat the chicken and sauce in a pan with a lid over medium heat until just heated through.
Wondering What to Serve with Chicken Marsala? Try These Ideas!
Chicken Marsala with Pancetta and Cream
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 2 ounces 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 pound skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut or pounded into thin cutlets
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 3/4 cup dry Marsala wine
- 6 tablespoons heavy cream
- Minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
Cook the pancetta:
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.
Cook the onions or shallots:
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 any remaining fat in the pan. Add the onions to the cooked pancetta and set aside.
Prepare chicken for dredging:
Put flour on a shallow plate for dredging. Pat the chicken cutlets dry with a paper towel 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.
Dredge and cook the chicken:
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.
Make the sauce:
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.
Coat chicken cutlets in sauce:
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.