Chicken marsala is one of those dishes that has been around forever — we’re talking about at least 50 years if not more.
It’s a simple dish made up of tender chicken pieces cooked in a creamy and flavorful sauce.
This delicious dish is often paired with a hearty red wine like a Zinfandel, Chianti or even a Cabernet Sauvignon.
But since we all know that pairing food with wine isn’t always an easy task, we reached out to some of our favorite chefs and sommeliers for tips on how to pair one of America’s most popular comfort foods.
Chicken marsala is best served with a side of mashed potatoes
Dinner is officially over once you serve yourself a big plate of Chicken Marsala and a pile of mashed potatoes.
I don’t know who first came up with the idea of serving these two together, but I know they were right.
The combination of the salty and savory chicken and sweet and creamy potatoes is just perfect.
So, next time you’re thinking about making your own version of this classic comfort meal, make sure to add a side of mashed potatoes.
They’ll help bring everything together and will enhance every bite.
I love to use a potato masher to mash my potatoes because it makes them fluffy and light while still maintaining their integrity.
If you want to go traditional though, feel free to use a fork to mash your potatoes.
Chicken marsala pairs well with a variety of vegetables
Chicken marsala is a great dish for people who don’t enjoy meaty flavors.
The sweet, savory and creamy flavors of the sauce are the perfect complement to other dishes like vegetables, pasta, rice, fish or seafood.
You can also pair it with a hearty white or rosé wine, such as a Pinot Grigio or Prosecco.
“I think you have to work with whatever vegetable you have available,” says Chef Nick Anderer of Mina Restaurant in New York City.
“If you’ve got broccoli rabe, I would go with a light red wine like a pinot grigio or a sauvignon blanc. If you’ve got green beans, you could go with a chardonnay.”
Chef James Oseland, owner of the Michelin-starred restaurant Lespinasse in San Francisco agrees with Anderer.
He suggests using a lighter red wine, such as a merlot or a cabernet franc, when serving this classic dish with veggies.
“When you make it with vegetables, you want something lighter,” Oseland explains.
“So, I would say go with a Merlot or a Cabernet Franc. That way the flavors will still come through, but you won’t overpower the vegetable.”
Anderer adds that you should never use anything too strong because it will mask the flavor of the vegetables.
Instead, he recommends using a very mild white wine for the base.
“A really good white wine will do the trick,” Anderer says.
“You don’t need to go super heavy on the alcohol. A nice dry white wine will actually balance the dish out.”
However, if you prefer to cook with meatier flavors, Anderer recommends going with a full-bodied bottle of red wine, like a Zinfandel, which will bring out the depth and richness of the sauce.
You can also try a medium bodied red, like a Bordeaux blend, or a Cabernet Sauvignon.
“With chicken marsala, a lot of times people just throw back a big red wine,” Anderer says.
“That’s fine, but if you’re cooking with meat, you want to get into the meatier side. So, I would suggest a Zinfandel or a Cabernet Sauvignon.”
For a lighter option, serve chicken marsala over a bed of couscous or quinoa
Molly Yeh, Executive Chef of The Spotted Pig
I love serving my “marsala” over a bed of couscous or quinoa because they both have a similar texture and flavor profile.
I also think they go really well together as the sweetness from the chicken and the creaminess of the marsala balance each other out.
If you do use quinoa, I would recommend using the whole grain version so that its nutty flavor shines through.
If you want to add a little spice, try serving the chicken marsala with roasted peppers, olives, and capers.
Also, don’t forget to garnish your plate with parsley!
Cecilia Leung, Pastry Chef at Bar Tartine
I love serving my “marsala” over a bed of couscous or quinoa.
The flavors work really well together and the textures complement each other nicely.
I usually use a light white wine like a Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, or Moscato d’Asti, which has a nice acidity and softness.
I also like to include some herbs like thyme, rosemary, and bay leaves when I make my marsala.
I also love serving this dish with roasted peppers, olives, and capers.
And lastly, don’t forget to garnish your plate with parsley!
For a heartier dish, add some mushrooms to the chicken marsala
“I love adding mushrooms to any pasta dish, especially when they are sautéed in butter and olive oil,” says Chef Adam Rapoport, Executive Sous Chef at The Bowery Hotel.
“They work really well with the creaminess of the sauce and bring just enough moisture to keep everything from drying out.”
To prep your mushrooms, Rapoport recommends grabbing a handful of white button mushrooms, then using scissors to cut them into quarters.
Next, he suggests chopping up three or four portobello mushroom caps (or cremini if you prefer).
Then, heat up two tablespoons of butter and one tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat until the butter melts and starts to bubble.
Once the butter stops foaming, toss in the mushrooms along with salt and pepper to taste.
Saute the mushrooms until they start to turn golden brown, approximately five minutes.
Remove the mushrooms from the pan and set aside.
Next, pour off all but 1/4 cup of the fat from the pan.
Add in the chopped shallots and garlic and cook until soft and fragrant, approximately 2 to 3 minutes.
Then, add in the crushed tomatoes and stir to combine.
Reduce the heat to low and let simmer for 5 to 10 minutes.
Now, add the chicken stock and reduce by half.
Finally, add the heavy cream, parsley and thyme and stir to combine.
Once everything is combined, return the mushrooms back to the pan and warm through for another minute or so before serving.
Serve over pasta or rice.
Chicken marsala can also be served over pasta, such as angel hair or linguine
Readers may have noticed that the original recipe calls for using “butter, flour, and milk” (or cream) instead of olive oil.
This is to keep the chicken moist during cooking.
The other main difference between this version and the original is that the original recipe uses chicken thighs while the modern version is typically made with boneless chicken breasts.
The key to pairing chicken marsala with wine is finding one that has strong notes of chocolate, coffee, and cocoa.
These flavors complement the richness of the chicken nicely.
Chef Jason Atherton from Lettuce Entertain You recommends choosing a wine that has aromas of dark fruits like blackcurrants, raspberries, cherries, or plums.
He suggests a Pinot Noir or Syrah would work well.
Another good idea is to choose a white wine that has a high acidity.
This will cut through any residual sweetness and bring out the flavors of the wine.
Chef Atherton also suggests serving the dish with a side of garlic bread or mashed potatoes to soak up the sauce.
For those who want to go the extra mile, Chef Atherton says you should consider making your own homemade sauce.
While a lot of restaurants use store-bought sauces, he prefers to make his own which he describes as “the perfect marriage of butter and cheese.”
If you’re looking to take your chicken marsala game to the next level, Chef Atherton suggests you add some fresh herbs like rosemary or thyme to give the dish a little zing.
He also adds that it’s important to season the chicken well before adding it to the pan so that the chicken doesn’t get overdone.
Lastly, he advises letting the chicken marinate for at least an hour before cooking so that the meat gets nice and juicy.
Chef Atherton also shares that the same rules apply when pairing a chicken marsala with pasta.
He says to look for a wine with a medium body and low alcohol content.
For example, a Pinot Grigio or Riesling would both be great choices.
Finally, Chef Atherton suggests finishing the meal with a dessert wine because they tend to have a lighter flavor profile than the savory dishes that came before them.
Some of his favorites include Moscato d’Asti, Sauternes, or Lambrusco.
Top chicken marsala with a sprinkle of freshly shredded Parmesan cheese
Shrimp de Jonghe is a fantastic way to use up leftover shrimp from your last night’s dinner party.
Just make sure you have enough garlic bread to go along with it!
Garnish chicken marsala with fresh parsley or basil leaves
For Chef Justin Severino, the secret to making the perfect chicken marsala is in the preparation.
“To me, the key to a great chicken marsala is to use a very high quality white wine as the base,” he says.
“I love cooking with dry wines because they have depth, and you get a lot from them. The best example would be a Chardonnay.”
Severino also advises using a good brand of chicken stock.
“The trick to getting the right amount of flavor into your dish is to cook the chicken in the stock for several hours, then remove the meat and set aside. You can then add the stock back to the pan and reduce it down by half before adding the cream and butter and finishing it off with the wine,” he explains.
When it comes to garnishing the finished dish, Severino recommends using either fresh herbs or a citrus zest – depending on what part of Italy you’re eating in.
For instance, if you’re dining in Rome, you’d probably want to go with a citrusy herb such as chopped rosemary.
If you’re dining in Naples, however, you’ll want to go with a more robust herb like basil or flat-leaf parsley.
“I think fresh herbs and citrus are the best way to finish any dish, especially one that is so rich and complex,” he adds.
Chef Justin Severino has been preparing food since age 15, when he was first employed at his grandmother’s restaurant.
He worked alongside some of the most renowned chefs in America, including Mario Batali, Jacques Torres and Thomas Keller.
His experience working with these culinary legends helped him develop his own signature style, which includes using only the freshest ingredients available.
Justin recommends serving chicken marsala with a side of mashed potatoes, but if you’d prefer something lighter, try serving it over a bed of couscous or quinoa.
For a heartier dish, add some mushrooms to the chicken marsala, and top it off with a sprinkle of freshly shredded Parmesan cheese.
And don’t forget to garnish it with fresh parsley or basil leaves.