One-pan Italian chicken in tomato sauce is a dinner saviour. Tender golden chicken in a rich creamy tomato sauce baked under a blanket of bubbling golden cheese.
This one-pan chicken is the ultimate speedy comfort food. Let me fill you in on all the details. It's a barley creamy, rich tomato sauce with crispy salty bacon, sweet golden onions and red peppers with a little bit of heat from the chilli in the pasta spice mix. This sauce is kept thick and chunky rather than a thin pasta sauce. It's all about the heartiness here. The chicken is simply seasoned and pan-fried until golden. Finished off in the oven with a blanket of cheese.
For most people, pasta is a once a week meal (at least). It can be tough to keep it fresh and exciting. Here are a few of my most popular pasta recipes. Creamy chicken and bacon pasta, easy homemade pasta sauce, baked mushroom pasta and a collection of 10 pasta recipes you can make all week long.
I've included a snapshot of everything that you'll need to make chicken in tomato sauce. It may look like there's a lot of ingredients required, but as you can see lots of them are pantry ingredients that you more than likely already have.
- chicken breast fillets - you can use full chicken breasts here, I just sometimes prefer the size of fillets being on the smaller side.
- smoked pancetta - unsmoked will work here too, if you prefer, or you can skip it altogether, just be aware that you may need to add extra seasoning.
- tinned tomatoes (chunky chopped) - I got the chopped tomatoes with the herbs, but you can use plain chopped tomatoes if that's what you have.
- tomato puree - this tomato sauce doesn't use a lot of tomato puree but it does really help to bring a rich flavour and heartiness to the sauce.
- sun-dried tomatoes - again, the sauce only uses a couple of sun-dried tomatoes, but they really add to the sweet richness of the sauce. And it's just always great to have a jar in the fridge for topping pizzas or adding to so many different dishes.
- pasta spice mix and Italian style herbs - both of these seasonigs are in the spice ailse at Aldi. You can get the Italian herbs from other shops, but I've only ever seen the pasta spice mix in Aldi.
- garlic and onion
- red pepper
- fresh herbs - rosemary, thyme, parsley: you can use dried varieties of these herbs, just be sure to use less because they're flavour is stronger.
- double cream - you can skip the cream for this sauce and just go with a rich tomato sauce.
- shredded mozzarella
See the recipe card for quantities.
This recipe is so straight forward but I'm including all of the step by step and visual cues just you can feel confident that you know exactly what to expect with each step of the process so you're chicken in tomato sauce will be the best it can possibly be.
Step 1 & 2 - Building flavour
Start by gently frying the pancetta in a cast iron pan or a skillet. Fry until the pancetta is golden, crispy and has rendered all of its fat. Remove it to a bowl lined with kitchen paper to absorb any extra grease.
Saute the diced onion and garlic in the bacon fat until the onion is soft, and starting to turn golden and the garlic is fragrant. Add in the fresh herbs here and saute for about 5 minutes. Remove the onions from the pan and place them in the bowl with the bacon.
*Note- I forgot to photograph the chicken searing in the pan. But you would do it here. Season the chicken well with salt and sear on each side until golden. The chicken doesn't need to be cooked all the way through because we're finishing it off in the oven. Once the chicken is golden on both sides place it on a plate and set aside while you continue with the sauce.
Step 3 & 4 - Making the sauce
- Add the red pepper into the onions and garlic and continue to saute for a further 3-5 minutes, until the pepper has softened.
- Pour the tinned tomatoes into the pan, add in the tomato puree and add the onions and bacon back in. Mix it all well.
Step 5 & 6 - Finishing the sauce
- Pour the cream into the sauce and whisk. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
- Place the chicken in the sauce and top with mozzarella. I didn't weigh it but I put enough to cover the chicken but not so much that the chicken gets lost. Bake for about 15 minutes, until the cheese is golden and bubbling and the chicken is cooked through.
Hint: The chicken will cook faster than you think because the sauce is already simmering so you get the benefit of the moist cooking from the sauce and the dry heat from the oven during baking, so be sure to not overcook the chicken. I use this thermometer to make sure it's perfect every time.
Listed below are a couple of ways to can make this chicken in tomato sauce more suitable to your tastes or you can play around with the flavours.
- Bacon - You can skip the bacon if you don't like it or can't have it. Just be sure to adjust the seasoning that will be missing.
- Cream - The beauty of this recipe is that it's amazing with or without the cream. But I only used about 2 tablespoons for the whole pan so it isn't overly creamy saving you some fat and calories. You can also use single cream if need be.
- Gluten-free - I've served this chicken in tomato sauce over pasta, but the sauce is hearty and chunky enough that you could just serve it with a side salad to keep it gluten free and keto. Or use gluten free pasta.
Feel free to really make this recipe your own. I've listed a few ways you can customise it. If there's anything you try leave a comment and let me know!
- Spicy - If you want the sauce spicier, feel free to add in chilli flakes or substitute the bacon with some chorizo for an extra kick.
- Deluxe - Add olives and capers for a true Mediterranean flavour.
- Kid friendly - This recipe already is pretty kid friendly, but you can serve it with extra cheese and short noodles to make it really kid friendly!
Like most of the recipes on Savvy Bites, you really don't need much equipment at all to make this one-pan chicken. So with every recipe, I'm sharing my tried and true favourites so you know exactly what you need to get the same results.
Cast iron skillet or enamelled casserole dish - I would not be without my cast iron skillets. They come in a set of three and I use them ALL. THE. TIME! They're amazing!
Good sharp knife - No kitchen is complete without a sharp cooks knife to get the job done. They are so much safer than cheap dull knives and will speed up your prep time. Not to mention they're just really lovely to use.
Garlic/cheese grater - Another kitchen tool I wouldn't / couldn't live without. Use it for ginger, garlic, cheese, cinnamon sticks all kinds of great uses for this little gem.
You more than likely won't have enough leftovers to freeze but chicken in tomato sauce is great for leftovers. Keep in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
I prefer to reheat chicken in the oven because I find it goes a little rubbery in the microwave. To reheat it, preheat your oven for about 10 minutes and wrap the chicken in foil and place on a baking tray. Place in the oven for about 10 minutes, then remove the foil and bake for another 5 minutes until hot all the way through.
I really can't stress enough that you won't need to cook the chicken for as long as you think. With raw meat, we always have to be cautious, but it's really important to invest in a meat thermometer so that you don't end up with rubbery chicken.
Rich and Comforting Italian Chicken In Tomato Sauce (one pan)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 600 g chicken breast mini fillets or chicken breast
- 85 g pack smoked pancetta
- 1 yellow onion diced
- 2-3 cloves garlic minced
- 1 sprig fresh rosemary finely chopped
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme leaves picked
- 1 red pepper finely chopped
- 2 sun-dried tomatoes chopped
- 1 400 g tin chopped tomatoes
- 1 teaspoon tomato puree
- ½ teaspoon pasta seasoning mix
- ½ teaspoon Italian herb mix
- 2-3 tablespoons double cream *see notes
- 75 ml vegetable stock made with a stock cube optional *see notes
- 30-50 g shredded mozzarella
- 2 tablespoons chopped parsley for serving
- Preheat the oven to 180ºc.
- Heat the olive oil in a cast-iron skillet or oven-safe frying pan with high sides. Gently fry the pancetta until it’s golden, crispy and has rendered all of its fat. Remove it to a bowl lined with kitchen paper to absorb any extra grease.
- Sauté the diced onion and garlic in the bacon fat until the onion is soft, and starting to turn golden and the garlic is fragrant. Add in the fresh rosemary and thyme here and sauté for about 5 minutes. Remove the onions from the pan and place them in the bowl with the bacon.
- Season the chicken on both sides with salt and pepper and place them into the skillet and sear on both sides until the chicken is golden. Remove the chicken to a plate and set aside.
- Place the red pepper into the pan and saute for a further 3-5 minutes, until the pepper has softened. Add the onions and pancetta back in. Pour the tinned tomatoes into the pan, add in the tomato puree. Mix in the pasta seasoning mix and the Italian herb mix.
- Pour the cream into the sauce and whisk. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
- Place the chicken in the sauce and top with mozzarella. Bake for about 15 minutes, until the cheese is golden and bubbling and the chicken is cooked through.
- I’ve suggested a range for the cream depending on how creamy you like your sauce. I only used 2 tablespoons and that was plenty for me, you may want it creamier.
- The vegetable stock is optional depending on how thick you like your sauce. If you prefer a thinner sauce you can add the vegetable stock or just add some water.
Here are a few safety tips that can never be repeated too many times.
- Cook to a minimum temperature of 165 °F (74 °C)
- Do not use the same utensils on cooked food, that previously touched raw meat
- Wash hands after touching raw meat
- Don't leave food sitting out at room temperature for extended periods
- Never leave cooking food unattended
- Use oils with high smoking point to avoid harmful compounds
- Always have good ventilation when using a gas stove