I spied this Melissa Clark recipe recently on the New York Times Cooking site. One look at the photo and I was sold! There’s lots to love about this dish and it turned out to be fabulous served with a bit of penne pasta.
Looking for a delicious chicken breast recipe? This is an easy and delicious one-pan meal, with skillet browned chicken, tomatoes, pancetta and melted bocconcini. Delicious with just a side salad, or serve with a bit of pasta.
I debated what kind of chicken to use. I have been loving bone-in/skin-on thighs lately, but worried about the amount of fat that would cook off into the sauce. So I ended up using bone-in/skin on chicken breast.
I thought for a minute, I might cut it off the bone and just leave the skin, but decided to leave it as is. It turned out to be a great choice. It was so beautifully moist and I’m sure the bones added some nice flavour to the sauce. The nice thing about chicken breasts as well, is that it is easy to just cut away the bone after cooking, if you like, or for serving kids who aren’t keen on bones with their chicken.
I think this would still be a good dish if you want to use skinless/boneless chicken breasts or thighs. You won’t get the lovely crisp skin or flavour for the bones, but the generous sauce will ensure that they don’t dry out.
- 3 lbs. bone-in/skin-on chicken pieces (breasts, thighs, legs or drumsticks or combination)
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1 Tbsp. olive oil
- 5 oz. pancetta, diced
- 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 2 anchovy fillets (optional)
- 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
- 1 28 oz. can whole plum tomatoes
- 1 large sprig of basil, plus more chopped basil for serving
- 8 oz. bocconcini, halved (or use mozzarella cut into 3/4-inch pieces)
- Heat oven to 400° F. Pat chicken dry and season generously with salt and pepper.
- In a large oven-proof skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the pancetta and cook, stirring frequently, until browned. Remove pancetta to a paper-towel-lined plate.
- Add chicken to skillet. Sear, turning only occasionally, until well browned on all sides, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a large plate. Pour off all but 1 Tbsp. of the oil.
- Add garlic, anchovy (if using) and red pepper flakes to the skillet. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Stir in tomatoes and basil. Cook, breaking up tomatoes with a spoon, until sauce thickens somewhat, about 10 minutes.
- Return chicken to skillet. Transfer skillet to oven and cook, uncovered, until chicken is no longer pink, about 30 minutes for thighs/drumsticks and up to 45 minutes for large breasts/legs.
- (*Note: if using large chicken breasts, you may want to remove them from the pan before broiling. As they sit quite high up in the pan, they are likely to burn on top before the bocconcini are browned/melted.)
- Scatter bocconcini (or mozzarella) and pancetta pieces over skillet. Adjust oven to broil. Return skillet to oven and broil until cheese is melted and bubbling, 2 to 3 minutes (watch carefully to see that it does not burn). Garnish with chopped basil before serving.
I used cherry-sized bocconcini, but generous chunks of mozzarella would also work nicely (either fresh mozzarella or pizza-style).
This dish re-heats really well. I made mine ahead and re-heated in a 350° F. oven just until warm. The sauce thickened a bit, but the chicken didn’t dry out at all. For boneless/skinless chicken, I would consider covering with foil for some or all of the re-heating to keep the moisture in the chicken.
Melissa Clark’s original recipe doesn’t call for removing the chicken at the end of the cooking. I chose to do so, since the chicken breasts I used sat so much higher in the pan, I knew that chicken skin would burn before the bocconcini would brown. I also chose to return the pancetta to the dish before broiling, rather than using it as a garnish as Clark suggested.
You could use regular bacon in this dish, in place of the pancetta.
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