Puttanesca is a spicy and highly seasoned Italian tomato sauce. It's usually tossed with pasta, but today, I'm serving it with boneless chicken breasts.
This sauce is so good, it will make you want to grab crusty bread and wipe the plate. You can’t ask for a meal that gives you more, considering how little time you spend making it.
Puttanesca sauce is named for Italian ladies of the night, and though there are many stories about how it got its name, the one that seems plausible to me is that those women needed a quick, satisfying pasta to make between clients.
True to its history, this chicken version of puttanesca is ready in a flash!
You only need to simmer the sauce for five minutes, and then simmer five minutes more once you add the chicken. It’s surprising how much flavor you get from this quick simmer with just canned tomatoes, olives, capers, anchovies, fresh oregano, and plenty of olive oil.
The chicken breasts give the sauce a light meaty flavor, while the tomatoes turn gutsy and pick up a pleasing amount of heat from the red pepper flakes.
You can double the recipe easily if you have a larger skillet. Serve it right from the pan or arranged on a platter. Don't forget to put some crusty bread on the table for swiping up the last of the sauce. You’ll get rave reviews!
Skillet Chicken Puttanesca
The anchovy fillets in this recipe are highly recommended. They add a savory, somewhat salty depth and hardly any fishiness.
You can double the recipe easily if you have a larger skillet.
- 1 can (28 ounces) whole peeled tomatoes, with their juices
- 4 anchovy fillets, coarsely chopped (optional)
- 1 cup pitted Kalamata or other black olives, coarsely chopped
- 1/4 cup capers
- 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper, or more to taste
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
- 4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts (about 3 pounds)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper, or more to taste
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- Extra sprigs fresh oregano, for garnish
- Crusty bread, to serve (skip if serving gluten-free)
Prep the tomato sauce:
Pour the tomatoes into a bowl and crush with your hands or with a wooden spoon until you have uneven 1-inch pieces (you can also use scissors to snip the tomatoes into small pieces).
Mix in the anchovies, olives, capers, red pepper, and 2 tablespoons of the oregano to the bowl. Set aside.
Sear the chicken:
Sprinkle the chicken all over with salt and black pepper. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil until hot.
Add the chicken and cook without disturbing for 3 minutes, or until browned. If you are using a cast-iron or stainless steel skillet, do not turn until the chicken moves easily without prodding.
Turn and cook the other side for 3 minutes. Transfer to a plate.
Make the sauce:
In the skillet over medium heat, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.
Add the tomato mixture – be careful since the juices will splutter when you add them to the pan. Cook for 1 minute or until the spluttering stops. Stir well, turn down the heat, and simmer for 5 minutes. Taste for seasoning and add more salt, black pepper, or red pepper, if you like.
Add the chicken and finish the sauce:
Add the chicken breasts and any juices to the skillet and spoon a little sauce over top.
Cover the pan and simmer for 5 to 8 minutes, or until a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the chicken registers 165F.
Serve straight from the skillet or transfer to a serving platter. Sprinkle the remaining 1 tablespoon oregano over the top and garnish with oregano sprigs. Serve with plenty of crusty bread.