Chicken Francesca

While researching some Italian pasta-based chicken dishes, I came across a dish called Chicken Francesca more than once. I loved the name, and all it implies: the Italian word Francesca literally means “from France”, so to me the name Chicken Francesca means it’s an Italian dish that is cooked using French culinary methods. The problem is that the recipes I found that carried the name were vastly different from my initial impression: some were baked using breadcrumbs and cream, others were mushroom-intensive and served over rice, and still more were linked to a restaurant in Boston known for breasts sautéed in a skillet with artichokes and parsley.

So I decided to take my favorite elements of some of those recipes to make something even more unique: an Italian pasta dish that borrows heavily from French culinary methods! Namely, I focused on creating a heavily-browned skillet in order to deglaze it to serve as the base for my pasta sauce. I also used a milder shallot instead of the traditional onion found in many Italian pasta dishes, and added fresh parsley right at the end of the dish, which is so often found in French cuisine.

Serves four

chicken marinade:
4-6 chicken breasts, sliced or pounded to 1/2″ thickness
2 tbsp olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp balsamic vinegar (red wine or apple cider vinegars okay)
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tsp salt

pasta and other stuff:
4 tbsp butter
1 tsp olive oil
1 medium shallot, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
10 oz mushrooms, sliced
1 tbsp dry white wine
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 tsp each salt and ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp black pepper
9 oz fettucine-style pasta: Cappello’s, rice pasta, or zucchini pasta
6 oz bacon, pre-cooked, chopped coarsely
1 can/jar (14oz) artichoke hearts, drained, cut in half length-wise
2 cups broccoli, pre-cooked cut into bite-size pieces
1/2 cup hard cheese (Romano, Parmesan, or a mix of the two), shredded or grated
1/4 cup Italian parsley, chopped

I think it’s prudent to mention that this recipe is not for the faint of heart – this definitely isn’t a “set and forget” kind of dish, as it requires you to constantly be doing something and thinking one step ahead. That being said, I’ve added a lot of pics and explicit directions, so I think you’ll have fun whipping this up. Just don’t make it while watching your favorite soap opera or something!

Slice or gently pound your chicken breast pieces to 1/2″ thickness. Combine with the olive oil, vinegar, garlic, salt and pepper, then marinate for at least two hours, but up to four hours.

Heat the 1 tsp olive oil and 2 tbsp of butter in a large skillet on medium/high heat until shimmering, about two minutes. Add the chicken pieces and sauté 3-4 minutes per side, until browned and cooked through. You’ll want to cook the chicken in batches so as to not overcrowd the pan. It took me three batches to cook six breasts. You’ll know the chicken is cooked through by pressing it with your finger; when it’s firm to the touch it’s probably ready.

As your pieces cook, the rest of the pan will start to brown and stick to the pan, that’s fine! We’re going to use that browned stuff to deglaze the pan and get some seriously delicious flavors for our sauce. Pay attention to the smell and color of the browned pan – if it starts to turn from “browned” to “burnt”, adjust the heat. Also, feel free to add butter and olive oil to the pan if the chicken starts to get too dried out.

As the chicken is cooking, it’s a good time to prep your other ingredients, especially your pasta. Our friends over at Cappello’s recently sent us another batch of their incredible grain-free, gluten-free pasta so that’s what we used. You can read a review I wrote of their pastas last year right here.

Similarly, you could use rice pasta or zucchini pasta.

For rice pasta or Cappello’s pasta, cook the noodles according to their directions, then drain, and rinse in cold water. Drizzle with a little olive oil to keep the pasta from sticking together, and set aside. For zucchini noodles, just cut them using a spiral vegetable slicer and set aside – it will soften when you add it near the end.

As the chicken finishes cooking, cover it in tin foil to help retain its heat. I like to put dishes that I want to keep warm in the microwave to further help keep heat from escaping.

Turn your heat down to medium, and place the artichoke hearts in the pan, cut-side down, and brown for about two minutes.

Carefully remove the artichoke hearts with some tongs and set aside.

Add the remaining 2 tbsp butter and the chopped shallot, and sauté for about two minutes, until translucent and aromatic. Add the minced garlic and sauté for another 30 seconds.

Add the mushrooms, 1 tbsp white wine, and any juices that have accumulated from the bottom of your plate of cooked chicken.

Sauté the mushrooms for about five minutes, until softened. As it cooks, use a wooden spoon to gently scrape up the browned stuff on the bottom of the skillet. If it dries out, add water to the mushrooms, one tbsp at a time.

Stir in the cream, ground nutmeg, and remaining salt and pepper to the mushrooms, and bring to a simmer.

Once the cream starts to simmer, add the remaining ingredients: pasta, bacon, broccoli, chopped parsley, and artichoke hearts.

Carefully toss your ingredients using some tongs, wait a few seconds, and stir in the cheese and continue to carefully toss everything until the cheese melts and thickens the sauce. Should only take a minute or two.

Plate your pasta, topping it with sliced chicken.

So there you have it, an original creation from yours truly, that carries the name Chicken Francesca both figuratively and literally.

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47 thoughts on “Chicken Francesca

  1. There’s a fine line between browning and blackening. It’s all about controlling heat and moisture. If you have a gas range, it’s pretty easy. When you have electric like I do, you learn to raise the pan off the heat at the right times. This looks like a great recipe, I love the combo of artichoke hearts and pasta.


  2. My mouth is totally watering, but this is going to have to wait for a day that I have all those ingredients. Hopefully, I’ll survive on other foods till then. :)


  3. This looks amazing! I am going to give this a try using cashew or macadamia milk instead of the cream to make a dairy free version….am loving the artichokes….thanks for sharing :)


  4. This looks AMAZING! Well, I mean, it looks like it would be extremely delicious, AND the photos are awesome too. Excellent work!!
    Seriously though, why do I look at your blog when I’m super hungry? That’s just asking for trouble! : P


  5. Hiya Domestic Man! I had a question. :) Would me using something other than the dry white wine be a problem? I don’t do alcohol and have no idea what’s a good brand to buy. Do you think it would make a HUGE difference?


    1. Hey Betty, you could use broth or water instead of the wine, it won’t be a huge difference in taste. It’s mostly to help the mushrooms to release their moisture in order to de-glaze the pan. Regular white cooking wine (sold in grocery stores by the oils or salad dressings) would work fine as well.


      1. Hi! My hubby explained that as long the wine was fully cooked, the alcohol would burn out of it. So I ended up using something called a Chardonnay. (It was white and the store clerk lady said it had a kick.) Also, I didn’t use nutmeg because they were out. Since I have a short attention span and in turn, a propensity to burn things, I prepared everything while the chicken was marinating including the brown rice pasta I used. I took my time with the recipe by using lower heats (only bc my family says my specialty is ala charcoal). I have to say if you love the smell of food cooking, this dish really fills your house with the nicest aromas (garlic, onions, mushrooms YUM). My hubby who really dislikes Italian dishes and my picky toddler both LOVED this. It is really a flavorful dish. Thank you for a great recipe! :) Also, thank you for posting the pics as they made making this, so much easier. :)


  6. I made this last night and it was delicious. I only had time to marinate for about half an hour, but I beat the chicken within an inch of it’s life so it was still plenty tender. The flavors remind me of my favorite Italian dish from a place in my home town called pasta picelli, it was similar but had peas and pancetta instead of bacon and all the other veggies and had way more cream. This was just as good without making me feel horribly guilty. Thanks!


  7. Didn’t read thru all the posts but how much nutmeg isn’t listed, I used 1/4 tsp and also, remember to temper the cream otherwise it will curdle. It is amazing. Love it.


    1. Hi Karen, the line reads “1/4 tsp each salt and ground nutmeg” – I’m glad to see that you still used the right amount! :)

      In my experience I haven’t had an issue with cream at medium heat or lower – I usually recommend tempering only with sour cream. But it doesn’t hurt to be safe! Thanks for the feedback.


  8. I made this dish last night. It is absolutely amazing and delicious. I’ve since pinned it and e-mailed the recipe to some friends for them to try. I didn’t have nutmeg, so I used allspice. A++


  9. Just made and devoured this. It turned out great! My partner does not like broccoli so we split it half and used peas for his. We were going to make it yesterday but got busy so ended up with chicken marinating overnight and it was fantastic. The warning is true – it is time consuming but made a fun weekend cooking project. I hope I will make it again because it was really good. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

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