Lemon Chicken with Pasta, Olives, and Herbs

Cooking for TwoHealthyChicken

Lemon chicken is the perfect meal for two! We marinated it in yogurt to make it tender, then served over pasta tossed with fresh herbs. This dinner is easy to prep, easy to cook, and loaded with flavor.

Photography Credit: Sally Vargas | Banner Art Credit: Elena Resko

Our “Cooking for Two” series is all about those of us who love good food but need smaller batches. Maybe you’re single or coupled but with no kids (no kids, before kids, after kids). Whatever the reason, you don’t necessarily want a lot of leftovers hanging around. We had you in mind when we developed these recipes.

As an empty nester, I have gradually learned to make a few adjustments to cooking for just the two of us. It’s a process, especially if you have been cooking for a family for many years. I confess that I am surprised how much fun I am having cooking just for two. I hope you will, too!

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Easy Chicken for Two!

This chicken is my new favorite dish. It takes almost no prep time, uses one pot and one pan, and tastes dreamy with lots of lemon, herbs, and my favorite green olives!

Marinating the chicken in yogurt tenderizes the chicken, while maintaining a relatively neutral flavor. Golden chicken atop a plate of lemony, saucy, pasta is my kind of meal. It tastes great with little effort and its so pretty to look at, too!

Even though this recipe is intended to serve two people, it’s easy to double if you’re having company over or feeding a family.

Marble countertop with ingredients for yogurt marinated lemon chicken with pasta, olives and herbs. A wooden cutting board to the left of the photo has sliced lemons, sliced red onions and a small bowl of green olives on it. To the right of the cutting board is a glass casserole dish with two bone-in chicken breasts. Below the casserole dish is a small white bowl of shell pasta. Salt an pepper are int he upper left corner of the photo.

WHY MARINATE CHICKEN IN YOGURT?

Yogurt creates a crust around the chicken so it serves as a little barrier from the heat, which keeps the meat tender and juicy. I favor plain old regular yogurt for this recipe. It’s a little thinner than Greek yogurt, so it coats better. If you only have Greek yogurt on hand, stir in a little extra lemon juice to thin it.

I like to marinate the chicken early in the day, then cook it in the evening, but even just a half an hour in the yogurt gently tenderizes the chicken. The yogurt also adds a bit of tang that is underlined by the lemon in this recipe.

BEST PASTA FOR THIS RECIPE

I like to use small pasta like cavatelli, orzo, or ditalini, because it looks appealing and also allows you to scoop up some of the delicious sauce with each bite.

Yogurt marinated lemon chicken with pasta, olives and herbs on a rimmed plate. A fork and knife rest on the right edge of the slate plate. A grey linen is folded to the left of the plate an a tumbler of white wine is above the plate to the left.

BEST OLIVES FOR PASTA

I love how green olives look in this dish. My French chef mentor once famously said to a group of cooks in our restaurant in his heavy French accent, “The people, they eat with their eyes.” How very true!

I used pitted Castelvetrano olives here because I found them in my market, but really, use whatever type of olives you like. Most green olives are milder and less salty than Greek or French cured black olives, so it’s down to your personal taste; just be sure they are pitted. That way, you can be assured there will be no unfortunate trips to the dentist!

TIPS FOR MAKING CHICKEN FOR TWO

  • For best browning, cook the chicken on an upper shelf of the oven where all the heat is.
  • You can marinate the chicken early in the day, stick it in the fridge, and then pop it in the oven when you come home from work.
  • While the chicken roasts, cook the pasta and chop the herbs.
  • This is a dish that doesn’t do well in the freezer, but with so little prep time, you don’t really need a make-ahead-and-freeze option.

MORE GREAT RECIPES FOR TWO

Lemon Chicken with Pasta, Olives, and Herbs Recipe

  • Prep time: 10 minutes
  • Cook time: 35 minutes
  • Marinating time: 30 minutes - 12 hours
  • Yield: 2 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 lemon
  • 2 chicken breast halves with skin and bones (about 1 1/4 pounds)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 pinches ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup yogurt
  • 1/2 small red onion, cut into thin wedges
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock or white wine
  • 1 cup small pasta such as cavatelli, orzo, or ditalini
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 cup pitted green olives, halved or quartered

Method

1 Cut the lemon: Slice half of the lemon into rounds and use the other half to squeeze over the chicken.

2 Marinate the chicken: Place the chicken in a shallow dish. Sprinkle both sides with salt and a few pinches of pepper. Squeeze the juice from the lemon half over the chicken and spread it with the yogurt. Turn the chicken a few times in the yogurt, and let marinate at room temperature for 30 minutes or covered in the refrigerator for up to 12 hours.

A shallow glass casserole dish with two bone in chicken breasts marinating in yogurt to make lemon chicken with psta, olives and herbs.

3 Preheat the oven: Set an oven rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat the oven to 375ºF.

4 Bake the chicken: In the bottom of an ovenproof skillet or small roasting pan, scatter the onion wedges and lemon slices. Drizzle with the oil and sprinkle with a pinch of salt and pepper.

Place the chicken on top with the skin side up and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the skin is golden and an instant read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the chicken registers 165ºF. (Exact cooking time depends upon the size of the breasts.)

A white mixing bowl with sliced red onions, sliced lemons and topped with marinated bone-in chicken breast halves for easy weeknight chicken recipe.

5 While the chicken roasts, cook the pasta: In a large saucepan, bring 5 to 6 cups salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook for 10 to 12 minutes (or according to the package directions) until tender. Drain in a sieve.

6 Add the pasta, herbs, and olives to the pan: Remove the cooked chicken from the pan and stir in the stock or wine. Stir in the pasta, parsley, cilantro, and olives. Spoon it onto 2 plates and set the chicken on top.

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Sally Vargas

Sally Pasley Vargas is a freelance writer and the author of three cookbooks (Food for Friends, The Tao of Cooking, Ten Speed Press, and The Cranberry Cookbook). She currently writes the column The Confident Cook for The Boston Globe along with seasonal recipes for the Wednesday Food Section.

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5 Comments / Reviews

No ImageLemon Chicken with Pasta, Olives, and Herbs

Did you make it? Rate it!

  1. anne fleder

    what flavor yogurt? I’m assuming plain

    Show Replies (1)
  2. Loretta

    Can you leave out the Cilantro?

    Show Replies (1)
  3. John

    worked a treat – really enjoyed it

A horizontal image of two plates of yogurt marinated lemon chicken with pasta, olives and herbs. Each plate has a golden brown roasted chicken breast, roasted lemon wedges, sliced red onion, shell pasta and herbs scattered over top. The left plate has a knife and fork on the right side of the plate. The right plate is in partial view and has a fork on the left side of the plate.Lemon Chicken with Pasta, Olives, and Herbs