Classic Chicken Marsala

Image of plated chicken Marsala
Styling by Lisa Homa, Photo by Julie Benedetto

Marsala deserves a reappraisal as a drinking wine—great Marsala is an unbeatable aperitif—but it can also do some heavy lifting in your cooking. The wine is produced from overripe Grillo, Inzolia and/or Catarratto grapes. The base wine is fortified during or after fermentation, and aged at least one year in oak. The aging gives it complex notes of apricot and caramel.

Despite the cooking wines labeled “marsala” in U.S. supermarkets, true Marsala is an appellation-designated wine from Western Sicily, so look for Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) on the label. Marsala is categorized by color (oro, ambra, and the rarer rubino), sweetness (secco, semisecco, and dolce), and aging time (ranging from one to 10 years; anything beyond one year is best saved for sipping). For cooking savory dishes like this one, use a secco (dry), fine (aged one year) ambra or oro Marsala.

This impressive dish leans on the wine’s flavor profile, giving it a deep and nutty richness. Even better, it comes together quickly, which makes it just as suitable for busy weeknights as weekend entertaining.

A Beginner's Guide to the Wines of Sicily
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1½ pounds total), pounded approximately ¼-inch thick
  • ¼ cup minced shallot
  • 10 ounces sliced mushrooms
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • Salt, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • ⅔ cup, plus 2 tablespoons dry Marsala
  • ⅔ cup chicken broth
  • Fresh thyme leaves, for garnish

In large skillet over medium-high heat, melt 2 tablespoons butter. Add chicken breasts in single layer. Cook just until no longer pink in middle, about 2 minutes per side. Set aside.

Wipe skillet clean, and return to medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons butter, then add shallots and cook 1 minute. Add mushrooms, pepper and salt, to taste. Cook 4 minutes, or until mushrooms are golden brown. Add flour and stir for 30 seconds.

Pour in ⅔ cup Marsala and chicken broth, and bring to boil. Stir to scrape brown bits from bottom of pan. Cook until very thick, about 3 minutes. Add chicken and cook until just heated through. Stir in remaining Marsala, followed by remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Continue to stir until butter melts. Season with salt, to taste.

Divide among 4 plates. Garnish each with thyme leaves.

Serves 4.

Wine Pairing

Occhipinti 2017 Il Frappato (Terre Siciliane). Stay true to Sicily by choosing Frappato, a light-bodied wine that won’t overwhelm Marsala’s character. Arianna Occhipinti’s bottlings are bright and floral, with an earthy, even gamy quality that can stand up to this rich dish.

Published on November 30, 2019