All the best flavors of your favorite pizza pie layered over seared chicken, Pizza Chicken is a weeknight meal that’s made in a skillet on the stovetop. Your family will ask you to make it over and over again!
As a food blogger, my goal is to create recipes that I think you’ll enjoy, that you can make successfully at home, and that your friends and loved ones will be happy to dig into. My recipe archives are definitely messier than all that, but I’m in a groove now that I love, and find a lot of joy in testing and tweaking the recipes you find here.
But, I’m also just like you: there are a lot of meals to prepare in a typical week, and not endless time to do them all. I have a full-time job outside of the blog, and a house to run.
When the week’s been long, and I want to both wallow in the day’s shortcomings, but also be uplifted by the deep love of cooking, there’s Nigella Lawson. Her dreamy PBS series, At My Table, is running right now on my local affiliate station, and every Friday night, I get lost in that beautiful fiction.
I can’t help but imagine flowing confidently around such a gourmet kitchen, like diaphanous sheers on a breeze, effortlessly creating one elegant meal masterpiece after another, all day long, breakfast, lunch, dinner. Complete with saucy head-tilts and witty quips.
But then I wake up Saturday morning to my kitchen, lol. With another week of quick meals to plan and shopping to do for them.
Testing recipes on the weekend creates a wonderfully varied meal menu. But, weeknight cooking is something else. I need tried and true recipes that are muscle memory. Recipes that are ingredient-flexible, and hard to screw up. It doesn’t always occur to me to share these simple, rustic recipes on the blog, for whatever reason. But when it finally does, it’s like [forehead-slap].
One of those recipes is Pizza Chicken.
Pizza Chicken is a popular recipe from Melissa Clark of the NYT. That’s her nickname for it, by the way, Pizza Chicken. Aptly so, I think, because it’s basically your favorite pizza toppings draped over chicken in a skillet, sans pizza crust.
Her Pizza Chicken recipe starts on the stovetop, building layers of flavor by searing pancetta, chicken, garlic, and anchovies, and then topping it all with savory tomatoes and more seasonings. The whole thing gets chucked into the oven for a braise, and then finished with melty pools of mozzarella. It’s truly brilliant.
But, over the years, I’ve tweaked this recipe to suit my sitch, and I think it’s worth sharing as well. I have a couple of issues with Melissa’s recipe (not faults, just isshues, lol). The first is her call for bone-in, skin-on chicken.
This is actually quite wise and necessary if you’re going to do the oven braise from her recipe, because chicken that’s braised in the oven means Dry Chicken City. A bone-in, skin-on cut will help keep the chicken meat tender and moist.
But, I’m also one of those people who gets a bone-in chicken on their plate and sighs heavily, because who wants to take a knife and fork and wrestle meat and cartilage off a bone on a Tuesday night? No bones, please.
Which brings me to the oven braise. I cook this meal year round, and in the heart of summer, the very last thing I want to do is turn on the oven, for any reason. Also, I often substitute the chicken for eggplant or cauliflower, neither of which needs an oven braise.
This led me to tweak the process completely to eliminate the oven requirement, and the result is the Pizza Chicken you see here.
The advantage of stovetop pizza chicken over an oven braise
- First, there’s the psychological advantage of a recipe just having fewer moving parts: whether all on the stove, or all in the oven, or all in the Instant Pot — a one-cooking-method recipe just makes for less of a weeknight dinner hassle.
- Now that you don’t have to compensate for dried-out, braised chicken, you can use whatever cut you prefer: easy-peasy boneless/skinless thighs, breasts, tenders, pre-trimmed and packaged, whatever works for you. And, of course, there’s nothing saying that you can’t break down a whole chicken yourself.
- This recipe also cuts out a chunk of cooking time, since the dish does not have to spend 30 minutes in the oven. Instead, you spend a little time prepping the chicken, and then pan saute it to doneness.
- What about rotisserie chicken from the store? Sure – just break it up into bite-sized pieces and add it to the sauce at the end to warm. You’ll lose a bit of the flavor layering by using pre-cooked chicken, but really, the dish itself is so flavorful that it will all work out just fine.
And so, my version of Pizza Chicken occurs in one skillet, on the stovetop: Done and yum!
I especially love the thick, savory spiced sauce that envelopes this dish. It’s already the perfect meal to serve with a hearty loaf of crusty bread (because of the no-pizza-crust situation), but even more so because you can use thick slices to sop up all of that extra sauce that slips through your fork … and mmmmmm.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 3 ounces pancetta chopped
- 1 1/2 pounds boneless chicken fillets or thighs sliced in half across the equator
- 4 anchovy filets oil-packed
- 1 tablespoon capers drained
- 6 green olives sliced
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 12 cherry tomatoes halved (or quartered, if large)
- 14 ounce can diced tomatoes
- 14 ounce can crushed tomatoes
- 1 large sprig fresh basil plus chopped leaves for serving
- 8 ounces fresh mozzarella balls sliced in half
- salt and pepper
- In a large skillet* or sauteuse, heat the oil over medium until shimmering.
- Add the pancetta and cook until crispy. Transfer the pancetta to a paper-towel-lined plate.
- Season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper, and then add them to the pan with the pancetta drippings. Brown on one side, and then flip to finish the cooking the chicken through (to test, slice through a thick piece and inspect the insides for doneness). Transfer the chicken to a plate to rest.
- Add the anchovies, capers, olives and crushed red pepper to the pan. Stir until sizzling and fragrant.
- Mix in the garlic and continue cooking for 30 seconds more. Pour in both cans of tomatoes, the sprig of basil, plus a big pinch of salt. Give everything a good stir, and reduce the heat slightly to maintain a gentle simmer. Let the tomato mixture cook for 15 minutes. If splattering is a problem, partially cover the skillet with a lid or piece of foil.
- Remove the basil sprig, reduce heat to low, and return the chicken to the sauce and let rewarm. Arrange the mozzarella ball halves among the chicken. Top the skillet with the crispy pancetta and chopped basil leaves.
- Serve the Pizza Chicken with a salad or crusty bread.
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