Bubbly melted bocconcini swimming in a warm and succulent tomato sauce that’ll taste like it’s been simmering on the stove for hours. There’s only one rule when it comes to this Cheesy Chicken Skillet and that is make sure you don’t forget the bread!
As this easy Italian Style Cheesy Chicken Skillet was baking in my oven, childhood memories at Nonna’s house came flooding back to me. The homemade tomato sauce that occupied every single shelf in the cantina, for instance! Likewise, the pure joy, satisfaction and deliciousness in every single bite of absolutely anything it touched! This combination of juicy and perfectly seasoned chicken breasts, tomato basil sauce, freshly grated parmesan cheese and ooey, gooey melted bocconcini is just outta this world good. Long story short…You gotta.
Let’s be real, even as a kid I just knew that the single best part of a nice home cooked plate of Nonna’s pasta (or literally anything involving tomato sauce for that matter), for me, was alllllways the end – dunking a perfect piece of Italian Crusty Bread (aka my all time fav bread) in the sauce that remained at the bottom of the plate. Similarly, our family nevvvver plated a plate of pasta or lasagna without adding an additional scoop of sugo right on top. It has a distinct smell – that fresh bread & tomato sauce combo. Am I right?
And I swear to you, the smell of this Cheesy Chicken Skillet is exactly like it!!! I’m pretty sure Nonna would be extra proud of this one!
WHAT YOU’LL NEED TO BRING THIS CHEESY CHICKEN & BOCCONCINI SKILLET TO LIFE
Get ready for some Italian flair with this deliciously Cheesy Chicken Skillet with simple spices and herbs and two kinds of cheeses. It’s super flavourful and a one skillet meal that is sure to impress the entire crowd. Let’s discuss the ingredients in a little bit more detail down below:
- Chicken: Use fairly large chicken breasts as you want enough of it to soak up all the melted cheese and bubbly tomato sauce. I prefer using boneless skinless chicken breasts for this recipe. However, you can use bone in, skin on, if you prefer (add an additional 5 or so minutes to the cooking time). Alternatively, you can also use chicken thighs but cooking times may vary.
- Bocconcini: A true star of the show here! Bocconcini are just small balls of fresh mozzarella cheese. They add an ooey, gooey melty and delicious element to the dish. Mini bocconcini are best in this recipe. That way, you can spread them out more evenly throughout the dish which will simply result in more melted deliciousness. However, if for some reason you can’t find bocconcini, you can use chunks of mozzarella cheese instead.
- Canned Whole Tomatoes: The base of our quick and easy tomato sauce which is one of the stars of this Cheesy Chicken Skillet. Adds acidity and balance to the dish. Be sure to use the tomatoes with all of their juices for best results.
- Parmesan: Adds a sharp richness to the dish. Besides, who can say no to extra cheese?! Freshly grated works best in this recipe.
- Onion: Adds texture, flavour and depth to our homemade “tomato sauce”. White or yellow onion works best in this recipe. However, if all you have on hand is onion powder, use 1 tablespoon instead of one small fresh.
- Garlic: Cause I can’t call this an Italian style dish without adding a little bit of garlic. Adds flavour and freshness to the dish. Am I right? Freshly minced garlic works best in this recipe. However, if all you have on hand is garlic powder, use 1/2 a teaspoon instead of the 2 cloves.
- Basil & Oregano: Adds a herby freshness, extra layer of flavour and real Italian flair to the dish. Also adds a nice pop of colour to an otherwise bland looking dish. Therefore, fresh is best in this recipe.
- Italian Seasoning: Keeping up with the Italian theme, Italian seasoning is an easy way to add a burst of flavour to any dish by just adding a single spice. It’s normally some type of combination of dried basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary, parsely, etc., etc., which are all flavours that work exceptionally well in this dish.
- Tomato Paste: Adds some thickness, richness and extra tomato flavour to the sauce. Also helps in turning it a nice deep red colour.
- Olive Oil: Adds flavour and used to sautée. A different oil (such as avocado) or butter may be used instead, if you prefer.
- Chili Flakes: Adds a bit of heat and spicy kick to the dish. Add more for extra spicy or omit completely for none at all.
- Salt/Pepper: Of course! Adds flavour and balances out the rest of the ingredients.
- Bread: Seriously, don’t forget the bread! You need it to soak up all that delicious tomato and basil sauce infused with bubbly balls of bocconcini cheese! I like using Italian crusty bread or sliced french baguette but you can use whatever kind of bread you have on hand.
HOW TO MAKE THIS ITALIAN STYLE CHEESY CHICKEN SKILLET (KEY TIPS)
- Sear the chicken breasts for a few minutes per side first. This will give them a nice golden brown coating or “crust” on either side making them extra flavourful and delicious.
- Use fresh herbs. They really make a difference in flavour for a dish like this compared to dry herbs. Plus they add a lovely pop of colour that the dish undeniably needs.
- Use mini bocconcini. The little wells of melted, ooey, gooey deliciousness really make the dish. Therefore, the more of ’em, the better! With the mini ones, you’ll have more chances to get a piece of perfectly melted cheese with every bite.
- Don’t skip the simmering process of this dish. It won’t take too long and it’s totally necessary in order to let the flavours develop as much as possible. EXTRA TIP: Allow the whole tomatoes to simmer for a bit before attempting to break them up with the back of a spoon. They’ll soften up the longer they cook making this task easier the longer you wait.
- Don’t forget the bread. Seriously, don’t. It’s literally mandatory to soak up all the deliciousness from both the melted cheese and the chunky herby tomato sauce.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Ah, I’m glad you asked! Bocconcini is delicious both straight out of the container and/or melted in the oven, as we do in this recipe. Ultimately, they’re just small balls of fresh mozzarella cheese. They’re soft to the touch but can be somewhat flavourless if you don’t season them up nicely. That being said though, there’s so much you can do with them and they’re truly delicious on their own or as part of many recipes.
For this recipe, you can use olive oil or avocado oil to sear the chicken breasts in the skillet beforehand. Typically, avocado oil is better since it has a higher smoke point. But, since we’re only really searing the chicken for a few minutes per side, the olive oil won’t burn and will add a bit of extra flavour to the dish. You can also use butter instead of oil, if you prefer.
This Cheesy Chicken Skillet with tomato sauce and bocconcini cheese is best eaten fresh since the cheese should be melted and the tomato sauce bubbly. However, should you have some leftover, store it in an airtight container and keep it in the fridge. The leftovers will be best consumed within a day or two. Simply reheat it in the oven or a microwave until the cheese is back to it’s melted and bubbly state and serve with sliced bread.
ITALIAN STYLE CHEESY CHICKEN SKILLET
Serve it with salad, pasta or whatever your heart desires...just don't forget the bread!
- 2 large Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts
- 1 28 fl oz. can Whole Plum Tomatoes
- 1 tbsp Tomato Paste
- 1 small White Onion, diced
- 2 Garlic Cloves, minced
- 1 200g container Mini Bocconcini
- 3 sprigs Fresh Basil, shredded
- 2 sprigs Fresh Oregano
- 2 tbsp Grated Parmesan Cheese
- 1.5 tbsp Italian Seasoning
- 1/4 tsp Chilli Flakes, optional
- 2 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Salt and Pepper, to taste
- Preheat the oven to 400°. Pat the chicken dry and season generously with salt and pepper.
- In a large ovenproof skillet (I use a cast iron), heat half the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the chicken breasts and sear, turning once, to ensure that both sides are lightly browned and golden. This should take about 10-15 mins, depending on how big your breasts are (or what kind of chicken you're using). Once both sides have a nice sear, transfer the chicken to a paper towel lined plate until ready to use.
- Reduce the heat to medium. Toss the onions in the skillet and sautée a few minutes, stirring frequently, until soft and beginning to turn translucent. Add garlic and stir until fragrant, an additional 30 seconds.
- Add the canned tomatoes, Italian seasoning, chilli flakes (if using) and more salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer.
- Stir in tomato paste and allow the flavours to come together. Using the back of a wooden spoon or spatula, break up the whole tomatoes into smaller bite sized chunks. Leave it simmering, uncovered, for 10-15 minutes.
- Stir in a few tbsp of fresh shredded basil.
- Make two wells in the tomato sauce and return the chicken to the skillet. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and put the 2 fresh sprigs of Oregano in the sauce - one on each side of the breasts. Bake, uncovered, for 25-30 mins, until the chicken is no longer pink and fully cooked through.
- Remove the skillet from the oven and add the mini bocconcini around the chicken breasts (I lightly press each one into the sauce). Throw it back in the oven for 5 minutes and broil for an additional 3, keeping a close eye to ensure they don't burn. Everything should be nicccce and bubbly at this point.
- Top with more grated parmesan, fresh basil and a few cracks of salt and pepper. DO NOT forget the bread for dipping!!!
The chicken is done when it reaches an internal temperature of 165°F. However, keep in mind that you have an additional 8 minutes of oven time after the initial 25-30 minutes.
Do NOT forget the bread for dipping!
Nutrition Information:Yield: 2 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 482Total Fat: 23gSaturated Fat: 6gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 16gCholesterol: 116mgSodium: 430mgCarbohydrates: 25gFiber: 7gSugar: 13gProtein: 46g
Nutrition is only an estimate and calculated using Nutritionix.
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