Marcella Hazans Sauteed Lemon Chicken Fillets

Marcella Hazan’s Sauteed Lemon Chicken Fillets


Hearty Fall Cookery


I was wanting a quick easy meal last evening and one of my all time favorite recipes popped into my head, Marcella Hazan’s sauteed fillets of garlicky lemon chicken breasts. I no longer have Marcella’s Classic Italian Cookbook, but her recipe has resonated over the years and inspired a whole other approach to cooking simple, succulent, tender, and flavorful chicken breasts!

Sadly, I awoke to the news in an article in the New York Times this morning that Marcella Hazan is no longer with us.

The article proclaimed, and rightly so, that Marcella Hazan was the Julia Child of Italian cooking in America. A no nonsense cook with the hands and heart for the simplicity of good home cooked Italian food that she knew from her earlier years in Cesenatico, Emilia Romagna, Thankfully her gift for taste remains for all to share from her illustrious cookbooks.

The recipe that follows is my recollection of Marcella’s recipe, if not exactly, but certainly in spirit!

Serves 4

  • 4 chicken breasts, skin on or off
  • 1 large lemon, zest and juice
  • 6 large cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt freshly
  • ground white pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup Italian parsley, chopped (optional)
  • olive oil + 1 tablespoon unsalted butter for sauteing
  • 1 cup chicken stock + more as needed
  • 1 lemon, sliced into thin rounds

Place a chicken breast on a cutting board, flattening the breast against the board with the palm of your hand covering the entire breast. Using a very sharp knife, slice the breast horizontally lengthwise into 3 thin fillets. Repeat with the remaining breasts and place them in a non-reactive bowl.

Zest the lemon over the chicken and squeeze the lemon juice into the bowl. Add half the sliced garlic, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Mix together and knead the ingredients into the fillets. Cover with cling film and set aside for 1 or 2 hours at room temperature.

Preheat oven to 175F/80C

Heat a large saute pan over medium heat. When hot, add several tablespoons of olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter. When the oil and butter begins to bubble add the remaining garlic and cook briefly to flavor the oil. Remove the garlic promptly and set aside.

Shake excess marinade off the fillets as well as any sliced garlic. Slide several fillets into the pan without crowding. Saute for 2-3 minutes or until the underside of the fillets are lightly browned. Turn the fillets and cook an additional 2 minutes. Remove the fillets and place in an oven proof dish and continue sauteing the remaining fillets, adding them to the oven proof dish as you finish each batch. Cover with foil and place in the oven to keep warm while you deglaze the saute pan.

Once all the fillets have been  sauteed and removed from the pan , turn the heat up to medium high, add the remaining marinade and reserved garlic to the pan and saute briefly. Then add the stock to the pan and deglaze, scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon while the stock reduces by about half. Add the lemon rounds and saute, turning once they begin to brown on the underside, until soft and lightly browned; 2-3 minutes. 

Remove the fillets from the oven and return them to the saute pan and toss with the sauce to glaze the fillets. Add additional stock as needed. You want to have plenty of pan juices to sauce over the chicken fillets when serving. Stir in the parsley (if using).


Place 3 fillets on each individual serving plate. Top each serving with several lemon rounds and spoon pan sauce over the fillets and serve.

Suggested accompaniments: couscous tossed with butter and chopped parsley and a simple salad of crisp greens tossed with olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt, pepper, and dried tarragon.

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