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Chicken Pizzaiola

Chicken Pizzaiola is a rich, cheesy and incredibly tasty Italian dish popular with adults and children alike!

This chicken recipe uses just a few basic ingredients and is easy to prepare and cooks in less than 30 minutes. It’s the answer to your midweek dinner conundrum!

Chicken Pizzaiola in a red skillet with one piece being lifted out with a spoon.
Comforting and delicious

Chicken pizzaiola consist of tender chicken breast simmered in a fragrant tomato sauce and topped with gooey cheese. Just like my quick and easy-to-make Italian Sausage Meatballs, this is an ideal midweek meal for the family. It’s also impressive enough to serve guests and for special occasions.

Pizzaiola is one of my childhood favorites and still appears regularly on our dinner table. My dad made a variation of this chicken pizzaiola recipe using thin slices of beef and usually added potatoes as well. The rich tomato sauce is very similar to my San Marzano Tomato Sauce but even more simple.

The meaning of pizzaiola is to be made in the style of pizza or in the style of the pizza maker which is why the base is tomato with the classic pizza herbs of basil and oregano. Of course, a little mozzarella cheese adds to the pizza-like flavors!

Why you’ll love this recipe

  • Quick and easy – Chicken pizzaiola is relatively easy to make, even for less experienced cooks. There are only a few main ingredients and basic cooking techniques so you can create a delicious meal to impress your family and friends
  • Crowd pleaser – What’s not to love? Tender chicken, lots of sauce and gooey cheese are popular with almost everyone. If you’re looking for a chicken recipe for a family gathering or special occasion, then this chicken pizzaiola will be perfect!
  • Comfort food – There’s nothing like a warm, hearty plate of chicken in a rich tomato sauce and lots of melted cheese on top to make you feel comforted and cozy. It’s great on chilly days or days when you just feel like you need a hug and some comfort.

For complete ingredient quantities and full instructions, please scroll to the printable recipe card at the bottom of the page.


Ingredients for this recipe as in the recipe card.
  • Chicken breast – Supermarkets usually have packs of boneless and skinless chicken breasts. Chicken breast can be dry so purchasing the best quality will make all the difference. Your butcher or specialty food store may have better choices.
  • Extra virgin olive oil – A good commercial variety is all you need.
  • Garlic – I use one large garlic clove or two smaller ones. If there is a green shoot in the middle, remove it with the tip of your knife.
  • Tomato puree – Pure thick tomato puree or tomato passata is what we’re looking for. Avoid additives.
  • Oregano – Dried oregano is perfectly fine for chicken pizzaiola. In fact, this is one herb that has a more intense flavor dried than fresh.
  • Basil – With basil, fresh is always best!
  • Mozzarella Cheese – Use your favorite mozzarella. I like the fresh mozzarella ball that you get packed in water.

See recipe card for quantities.


Cut the chicken breast in half horizontally and pound with tenderize. Peel and finely chop the garlic and slice or chop the mozzarella cheese.

Four chicken cutlets being seared in a pan.

Fry the chicken breast in extra virgin olive oil over medium heat until lightly golden on each side.

Tomato puree being poured into a pan with containing oil and some chopped garlic.

Reduce the heat, add the remaining oil and chopped garlic followed by the tomato puree, oregano, basil, salt and pepper.

Lightly cooked chicken cutlets on tomato puree.

Return the chicken to the pizzaiola sauce, cover and simmer for 5 minutes.

Slices of cheese on chicken breasts in a pan of tomato puree.

Arrange the mozzarella cheese over the chicken. Then cover again and simmer until the cheese is melted.

Optional: Chicken can be lightly floured on each side with seasoned flour before frying just like in my chicken pomodoro recipe. Season the flour with salt and pepper. Be sure to dust off the excess flour. I find that this locks the juiciness into the chicken making it more tender.

Hint: When pounding the chicken, cover it with plastic wrap to avoid splashing chicken juices when you pound. Start in the center and work out to the edges. Be gentle. Don’t pound too heavily or it will break up the chicken. The aim is just thin, tenderized chicken. You can read even more about pounding chicken cutlets here.


  • Chicken breast– use boneless and skinless chicken thighs. Increase the cooking time in the sauce to 15 minutes instead of 5.
  • Tomato puree – an alternative is canned tomatoes, either whole or crushed. If using whole tomatoes, crush them with the back of a wooden spoon after adding to the pan. Cook the tomatoes with the herbs for 5-10 minutes before adding the chicken. You can also use fresh tomatoes, either chopped Roma or halved cherry tomatoes. Fresh tomatoes can be included with the puree or instead of the puree. Just like canned tomatoes, fresh tomatoes must be cooked longer to create a sauce.
  • Extra virgin olive oil – regular olive oil or light flavored olive oil can be used if that’s what you have.


  • Lighter – Leave off the cheese for a lighter version. This is the version I grew up with and still enjoy!
  • Spicy – Add 1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes or chopped hot red pepper to the chicken pizzaiola sauce.
  • Deluxe – Include one or more of the following -1/3 cup of deseeded and chopped black olives, a tablespoon or two of capers or a couple of fillets of anchovies.


Aside from the usual spoons, knives and measuring cups and spoons, you’ll need a large skillet or frying pan with a lid for this chicken pizzaiola recipe. If you don’t have a lid, cover the pan with foil.

Alternatively, you could sear the chicken in a pan and make the sauce in the same pan. When the sauce is ready, transfer it to a large baking pan, add the chicken and proceed with the recipe in the oven heated to 350ºF/180ºC covering the baking pan with foil.


Chicken Pizzaiola can be made a day in advance. To do this, make the recipe up until adding the cheese. Leave the cheese off and transfer the sauce and chicken to a sealed container. Refrigerate. On the day of serving, transfer the sauce and chicken to a skillet or frying pan, heat until hot then top with mozzarella cheese and proceed with the recipe.

Store leftovers in a sealed container in the fridge and reheat until just heated through in a microwave oven.

Top tip

Overhead view of cheese topped chicken breasts in a tomato puree in a red pan.

The key to this recipe is thin chicken cutlets that are free of sinew or other tough membranes. Remove all of these before cutting the chicken breast into thin slices. Alternatively, purchase thin chicken cutlets.

To cut the chicken breast in half horizontally, place the chicken breast on a cutting board and put one hand on top of the chicken. Using a sharp knife and starting at the thicker end, begin cutting horizontally while pressing down lightly on the chicken with your hand. Continue all the way through.

The chicken doesn’t need to be cooked all the way through in the initial searing. Overcooking will toughen and dry out the chicken breast. Just sear it on the outside, it will cook further in the sauce.

Slice the mozzarella cheese thinly so that it melts easily. Alternatively, chop it into small pieces.

Taste and adjust the seasoning in the pizzaiola sauce to your liking. You might enjoy a little more salt to bring out all the exquisite flavors.


What is pizzaiola sauce made of?

Pizzaiola sauce is made of tomatoes together with typical pizza herbs like basil and oregano. Authentic Italian pizzaiola sauce doesn’t contain bell peppers or mushrooms but it can contain capers, olives and sometimes anchovies. My Italian dad always made it very simply using homemade tomato puree from our garden tomatoes.

What is chicken alla pizzaiola

Chicken alla pizzaiola means chicken in the pizzaiola style. The name of this recipe is often shortened to chicken pizzaiola. Or as it often is in our home, just pizzaiola.

Do Italians really eat chicken without pasta?

Do Italians Yes, chicken pizzaiola is never eaten with pasta in Italy. If there was a lot of sauce, the chicken is removed to a serving plate and the sauce is combined with pasta. The pasta is eaten as a first course or “primo” followed by the chicken as a second course or a “secondo”. Of course, you can eat chicken pizzaiola whichever way you like!

Serving Suggestions

Cheese topped chicken in tomato puree on a white plate.

You might be wondering what to serve with chicken pizzaiola seeing as the Italian way is not with pasta. Actually, bread of any type is excellent with this chicken pizzaiola recipe. My Garlic Ciabatta Bread is a crowd pleaser but you could make my Semolina Bread to really impress! Try Italian Fried Peppers and Roasted Zucchini for delicious vegetable sides.

Made this recipe?
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Chicken Pizzaiola in a red skillet with one piece being lifted out with a spoon.

Chicken Pizzaiola Recipe

Chicken pizzaiola consists of tender chicken breast which is simmered in a fragrant tomato sauce and topped with gooey cheese. It's an ideal midweek meal for the family but also impressive enough to serve guests and for special occasions
5 from 73 votes
Print Pin Rate
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes
Servings:4 people
Author: Marcellina


  • 1 large skillet with a lid or frying pan


  • 2 large boneless and skinless chicken breasts approximately 1 pound 5 ounces/600 grams
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic or two small cloves of garlic
  • 2 cups tomato puree
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 10 basil leaves or as much as you like
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 7 ounces (200 grams) mozzarella cheese


  • Cut each chicken breast horizontally to make 4 or 5 cutlets in total. Pound lightly with a meat mallet to thin and tenderize. Peel and chop the garlic finely. Thinly slice or chop the mozzarella. Set aside.
  • Heat 1/2 of the extra virgin olive oil in a large skillet or frying pan over medium heat.
  • Add the chicken breasts to the heated oil and fry on each side until just a little browned. It’ll be about 2 minutes on each side.
  • Remove the chicken to a plate and cover with foil to keep warm.
  • Reduce the heat and add the remaining extra virgin olive oil and chopped garlic to the same skillet or pan that the chicken was cooked in. Cook until the garlic is becoming lightly golden and fragrant. Don’t let it brown.
  • Add the tomato puree, oregano, torn basil leaves, salt and pepper. Stir well. If the tomato puree is thick add 1/4 cup water to thin.
  • Bring the pizzaiola sauce to a simmer. Stir well, scraping the bottom of the skillet to remove any caramelized bits.
  • Reduce the heat to low and add the chicken breasts to the sauce. Let the sauce cover the chicken. Cover with a lid and simmer gently for 5 minutes.
  • Remove the lid. Turn the chicken over in the sauce and arrange some sliced or chopped mozzarella over each piece of chicken.
  • Put the lid back on and continue to simmer gently for another 5 minutes or until the cheese is melted.
  • Serve hot.


Tips for Success
  • Remove any sinew or other tough membranes from the chicken breast.
  • Cut the chicken in lengthwise into thin cutlets.
  • Pound to thin and tenderize but be gentle so as not to tear the meat.
  • Slice or grate the mozzarella cheese so that it melts easily.
  • Taste and adjust the seasoning in the pizzaiola sauce to your liking.
Tried this recipe? Give it a star rating and leave a comment below!

Nutritional Estimate Per Serving

Calories: 434kcal | Carbohydrates: 13g | Protein: 45g | Fat: 22g | Saturated Fat: 8g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 10g | Trans Fat: 0.02g | Cholesterol: 135mg | Sodium: 522mg | Potassium: 1180mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 7g | Vitamin A: 1110IU | Vitamin C: 16mg | Calcium: 293mg | Iron: 3mg

Nutritional Disclaimer

Nutritional information is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. For accurate results, it is recommended that the nutritional information be calculated based on the ingredients and brands you use.

Food safety

  • 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

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