Chicken marsala is a dish where chicken, wine, and a few flavorful ingredients are combined to create a dish that is decadent and rich, yet feels like your mother’s home cooking at the same time.
It’s hard to imagine improving upon a dish like this, but the sides that you choose to pair with your chicken marsala can made all the difference.
So, what should you serve with chicken marsala? The best pairings for chicken marsala are foods with a high moisture content. These include dishes like mashed potatoes, rice, pasta, salads, and steamed vegetables.
All these options can easily be seasoned with ingredients that pair well with the semi-sweet flavors of the marsala wine. But keep in mind that your side shouldn’t overpower your main dish.
In today’s article, we will be looking at what chicken marsala is, how to make it more unique, and how to choose the best sides.
Before diving deep into sides and how to pair this with that, let us first have a look at what exactly chicken marsala is. In the most basic of descriptions, chicken marsala is made from chicken escalopes and a marsala wine sauce.
Marsala wine is a fortified Italian wine from Marsala, Sicily. It can be either dry, sweet, or a balance of both, depending on the winemakers’ methods. This means that the type of marsala wine you are using will be directly translated into the sauce.
Let’s have a look at different ways this dish can be made.
First things first, an escalope is a boneless piece of meat that has been flattened using a mallet, rolling pin, or various other methods to break down the tough fibers.
Because the meat is much thinner, there is a higher possibility that it will cook too quickly and become dry. This is very important to take into consideration when choosing a side dish.
After the meat has been processed, it gets coated and cooked. The coating method and cooking method depend on the recipe you are making. In most cases, the chicken gets coated in flour and sautéed in butter.
Once the chicken has been cooked, the remaining butter that is left in the pan forms part of the sauce. Alternatively, a new clean pan can be used.
Either way, the marsala wine is placed into the pan and allowed to simmer on low heat until it is reduced to an almost syrup-like consistency.
The chicken can also be cooked in butter and wine afterward. No matter what method you choose, all of them will be equally delicious.
Having an almost blank canvas to work with, it is pretty easy to pair food with chicken marsala. However, if you want a more intricate dish with simpler pairings, here are a few ideas.
How To Make The Recipe Unique
As we have just mentioned, chicken marsala is a very basic and versatile recipe when it comes to choosing sides.
Often, garlic is the key ingredient for flavoring chicken marsala, but why not try using some rosemary, sage, or thyme? Herbs make subtle changes to chicken that can make a huge difference in the end result.
You can also try adding some additional nuts and dried fruits. This is by no means traditional, but aren’t rules meant to be broken? Our personal favorites are toasted almond flakes and dried sultanas (golden raisins).
These are both very basic additions that add some texture and flavor, especially the sultanas.
If you don’t have access to marsala wine, you can try any other fortified wine like a port or sherry – both will work just fine. Just keep in mind that the flavor of the wine directly affects the flavors you can pair with your chicken marsala.
For this article, we’ll be using the traditional chicken marsala recipe for flavor pairings.
What To Serve With Chicken Marsala
Here is where the fun part comes in. Now that you have spent time on your chicken marsala, it is time to choose a side dish. Chicken has always been a very easy ingredient to pair with other flavors.
It’s the addition of ingredients and spices that usually make it more difficult. The biggest consideration, however, will be based on texture.
Because chicken can dry out very easily, you want to choose sides that are moist or juicy. That means no breads and definitely no dry roasted vegetables.
Just be mindful of the seasoning ingredients you choose with the sides, as you don’t want it to overpower the rich marsala flavors.
Our number one choice for a side dish is pasta. Being an Italian dish itself, it only makes sense that we would pair these two.
Pasta should not be dry at all and can be easily served as-is (with maybe some parmesan over it) or as a fully flavored dish.
With chicken marsala specifically, we would opt for one of the following choices:
- Penne pasta drizzled with olive oil with roasted baby tomatoes or sun-dried tomatoes and sprinkled parmesan
- Basic macaroni and cheese with authentic Italian cheeses
- Cut the chicken marsala into pieces and mix it with cooked pasta, then drizzle with the sauce
- Garlic butter broccoli and cauliflower spaghetti
These are just some of our personal favorites, but you can mix and match just as you like. Just keep the flavors in mind. You don’t want an overcomplicated side that outshines the main dish, or a side that mixes badly with the chicken marsala.
This, in our opinion, is a very clever and unique accompaniment. Noodles are becoming an increasingly popular side dish. You can try serving some plain, buttery ramen with your chicken marsala.
You can also use egg noodles, vermicelli noodles, or really any kind you can find. These noodles serve more as a serving vessel and to add interest and moisture to the dish.
Rice might seem very forgettable, but trust us when we say that it matches perfectly with chicken marsala. Rice doesn’t always have to be plain.
Why not opt for a seasoned turmeric and cumin rice? Both of these spices are easily paired with most ingredients and make the rice a lot more apetizing.
Another favorite in our household is to make risotto. Now before you say no, hear us out. The risotto will probably take longer to cook than the main dish, but it is definitely worth the wait.
If you decide to make mushroom risotto, for instance, the texture will be irresistibly smooth and creamy – the two main things that a side dish for chicken marsala should be.
You can, of course, choose many different risotto flavors, and virtually all of them will work – just don’t forget the cheese!
No meal would be complete without some potatoes, and what makes them even better is their versatility.
Potatoes can be adapted to fit any dish. If you have something very dry like chicken can sometimes be, try making smooth and cheesy mashed potatoes.
These are always the best option to try if you have dry or bland food. You can flavor the mashed potatoes in many ways with spices, herbs, and other ingredients.
Another form of potatoes you can try are twice-baked. This basically means the potatoes are first boiled in water, and then deep-fried. This method creates a very soft and fluffy inside while the outside layer is nice and crispy.
You can cut these potatoes in any form, from skinny fries to wedges to quarters – whatever suits the meal and occasion best.
If you’re not the biggest fan of potatoes, try using sweet potatoes instead. They can be used in virtually all the same ways potatoes can, but have a sweeter and less starchy flavor.
Vegetables are incredibly diverse ingredients. Each type has a very unique flavor, and most vegetables can easily be mixed and matched.
Vegetables also are very easy to flavor in different ways to suit your main dish. For chicken marsala, we would recommend flavoring vegetables with herbs and non-pungent spices.
Stay away from chili, curry powders, cloves, and other spices with intense flavors unless you know how to use and incorporate them well.
Your goal at the end of the day is to have a well-balanced meal. You do not want a vegetable side dish to overpower your chicken.
We know we just said to not use roasted vegetables, but this rule can be broken with chicken if you have some form of liquid with it.
You can marinate the veggies before roasting them to create a nice juicy sauce, or you can make a light dressing for them. No matter how you choose to incorporate moisture, just make sure the veggies aren’t dry.
We love steamed vegetables, as they retain their beautiful color and nutrients, and have a pure, fresh flavor.
This might be a bit boring for your taste though, so why not try something similar, but different? Try steaming the vegetables with a method called “en papillote.”
Place the vegetables and other aromatics like garlic, herbs, and spices into a parchment packet, seal, and bake. Steam will form inside and cook the veggies. This way, they are basically infused and steamed vegetables, instead of plain.
A baked vegetable casserole is also a good idea. Mix some pasta, sauce, and veggies and bake with some cheese on top. Simple, straight-forward, and very versatile.
You can mix and match however you feel and also use what’s already available in your kitchen.
Salads just truly go with everything. Because they have become such a versatile category of food, and side dishes specifically, gone are the days where they just have to be Greek.
A nice refreshing garden salad isn’t a bad idea with chicken marsala. However, there is so much more you can do. Sticking with fresh ingredients, why not mix and match to create a more interesting salad?
For example, mix some arugula, red onion, mozzarella, a four-seed mix, baby Mediterranean tomatoes, and some pickled carrots.
Another one of our favorites is a peach salad with grilled peaches, gem lettuce, halloumi cheese, and sunflower seeds.
For a more wintery salad, you can try a roast vegetable salad with butternut, carrots, zucchini, couscous, and feta.
There is an endless amount of possibilities, and what makes salads great is their versatility. You can customize them to fit exactly the ambiance you want to create.
Salad dressings can also be added to enhance the flavor, but again, keep in mind that it shouldn’t clash with the marsala sauce that is already sweet.
Stick to more vinegar-based salad dressings to help cut through the sweetness, not add more to the overall meal.
How To Incorporate Chicken Marsala Into Other Dishes
Serving chicken Marsala on its own and with accompanying dishes isn’t the only way to serve it. Today, fusion cuisine is taking the world by storm.
Although this is an Italian dish, try being more creative and give it some Mexican influence.
For example, making burritos, tacos, and quesadillas are extremely easy, as the filling is the flavor. You can simply cut up your chicken marsala and add it to a starch base (inside a taco, on a wrap, etc.).
With this kind of recipe, you will have to use a lot less sauce, because it will just run everywhere in a burrito and simply be too much. You can marinate your chicken in it before cooking, or make a very thick reduction to drizzle over it.
This is a fun way to make something delicious and decadent a bit more casual.
As we’ve already mentioned, you can also make a mouth-watering pasta with your chicken marsala. The process is the same as with the tacos.
The beautiful marsala sauce substitutes normal pasta sauce and serves to add a flavor-punch and extra dash of moisture.
Our last idea to make chicken marsala into a different meal is to make a gourmet sandwich. Simply toast a slice of sourdough or ciabatta and add some arugala and feta.
You can also make a toasted cheese sandwich with the shredded chicken marsala in the filling. This meal can be served for breakfast, lunch, or dinner and is also the perfect picnic snack.
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