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Chicken Marsala with Pasta?

Stupid question here but I am making a Chicken Marsala for some foodie dinner guests tomorrow night and I am not sure about the side.

I know pasta is very traditional with this dish but been unable to decide this question. That is, nice pics always show the chicken and sauce on a clean bead of pasta, but from my experience cooking other Italian dishes, its more authentic and flavorful if you cook the pasta in the sauce for a few minutes.

With tomato sauce this is fine, but with a delicate sauce like Marsala there will be none left to spoon over the chicken or it may not look good.

What do you think?

My foodie friends have talked about cooking the pasta in the sauce trick so they will notice, but sure they are polite enough not to say anything.

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  1. If you're talking about Italian tradition, the pasta and chicken never meet. The pasta is served as a first course with its own sauce, and the meat as a second course. If any sopping up of the meat's sauce is done, it's done with bread. Whatever pictures you have seen were not shot in Italy. Pasta is not a side dish. (It is sometimes finished in the sauce but after being boiled first.)
    You could serve tagliatelle with butter and parmigiano or some other delicate sauce, which wouldn't overpower the Marsala sauce in the next course. And, as long as we're talking tradition, veal would be more traditional than chicken.

    1 Reply
    1. re: mbfant

      Thanks, I forgot, you are correct on all of that from what I know.

      That being said, I was thinking about a local Italian restaurant which is quite popular with the local Italians that dose this. So yes it is Americanized.

      I do want to stick to chicken, (I know veal is traditional) but maybe I will take your suggestion and separate out the courses. That would also solve my sauce problem.

    2. Actually, although I've seen veal or chicken marsala in Italian-American restuarants served over pasta, I wouldn't say it's really traditional. In Italy, you would traditionally start with your primo (soup, risotto, pasta, etc.) then follow with your secondo as a separate course. If you want to serve 2 courses like that, risotto would make a fine first course. If, however, you want a side with the chicken marsala, why not rice or orzo?

      1. I can't claim to be an Italian food expert, but we enjoyed the chicken Marsala I made a couple of weeks ago, with pasta that was simply boiled in salted water. That pasta served as a very nice base for the chicken & sauce. First night it was rotini, second night I made thin spaghetti.

        Vegetables ideas for you -- asparagus or sweet peas or diced mixed. Steamed and finished with a bit of butter & lemon (optional) to not clash with the marsala sauce.

        1. I agree with the OP that the chicken marsala sauce looks beautiful over the pasta and once you start to cut up the chicken, the sauce will be dispersed.
          Perhaps not traditional, but I love presentation. Eat with your eyes first and all that!

          1. I usually serve it with mashed yukon gold potatoes, and another side, such as asparagus or harit coverts (the thin green beans).

            I wouldn't suggest trying to cook the pasta in the sauce only because with the chicken and mushrooms in there already, and the pan will be pretty crowded. The sauce is more like a gravy anyway.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Atomic76

              I made rib-eye Marsala one time with mashed potatoes and the sauce went very well with them.

            2. I always prepare Fettucine Alfredo as an accompaniment to chicken or veal Marsala. It is a very mild flavoured pasta with just a hint of nutmeg. The two dishes are great together.

              4 Replies
                1. re: Archie1954

                  This. I don't like plain pasta with marsala sauce. The sauce is too...sweet. It doesn't appeal to me.

                  I always serve it with alfredo or vegetables instead.

                  1. re: Jerseygirl111

                    Hmmm...I've never thought of Marsala as sweet. May be a regional thing. You may know better being from jersey/NE.

                    1. re: rudeboy

                      Well, I make my own because I love it and it's so simple. Marsala always seems like a sweet wine to me, even if dry.

                2. Just came across this, I would suggest something totally different, orzo! I make marsala my own way, adding cream and pancetta. Serving it over orzo pilaf. Saute onions and orzo and cook in chicken broth. A nice fresh loaf of ciabatta is delish to dip in the sauce. And maybe some ceasar salad!

                  1. Probably received a reply similar but despite what some say, you should finish the pasta off in the sauce. Remove the chicken once its been cooked, cover and then add your almost al dente pasta to the sauce and give it a couple of minutes to finish off and absorb some flavor. Makes no sense not to finish it off in there. Your obviously not going to cook the pasta the entire time in there. But on any pasta dish, you should finish it off in the sauce.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: SanFranChef

                      I was going to say the same thing. Maybe it is Americanized, but this is 'Merica gosh dawg it. I prefer a good linguini with marsala. Just gotta do it quick and use warm plates so the chicken stays warm.

                      1. re: rudeboy

                        Exactly. I was also going to suggest as you toss the sauce and pasta together before plating, add some freshly graded Parmesan cheese or even Pecorino would work. Toss until melted then serve. Obviously everyone has different tastes. The problem is, American restaurant chains such as Olive Garden ruin classics but you know this.

                        1. re: JTPhilly

                          Yes, always finish in sauce! No matter the pasta dish!

                      2. My personal preference is to NOT have chicken marsala over pasta. I don't care for the marsala sauce as a pasta sauce. I'm in the camp of serving the pasta first, as it's own separate course, as is traditional in Italy, and serving a vegetable as a side dish, or "contorni," with the chicken marsala.

                        5 Replies
                        1. re: CindyJ

                          Agreed. The surest why to end up with a 'gloopy' mess is to finish cooking the pasta in a Marcella sauce with pieces of chicken.
                          Serve the pasta with some good olive oil/fresh ground pepper/maybe a few dried chile flakes sprinkled with some good pecorino or GP. Then serve the chicken marcella as the next course.
                          IMO marcella and pasta do not mix well.

                          1. re: Puffin3

                            It only ends being a mess by not cooking properly. When you finish off the chicken you remove it from the sauce and cover it on a plate before adding the pasta. As far as "gloppy" mess just sounds like bad cooking with improper technique. The sauce should be creamy and sweet. Plate the pasta then add chicken on top. As far as Marsala, I prefer it with veal any day over chicken.

                            1. re: SanFranChef

                              I've been using pork tenderloin medallions pounded thin for years. Good flavor, texture, and price.