Skillet Chicken Swimming in Spicy Pizza Sauce

June 3, 2017
Skillet Chicken Swimming in Spicy Pizza Sauce - With a topping of tomato sauce and fresh mozzarella, I think of this easy skillet dish as pizza chicken

Nearly everything you need to know about my childhood can be summed up

Photo Credit – Instagram – @madeleinelumley

(This post may contain affiliate links)

in a John Mellencamp song

(Well, not quite everything)

Jump to Recipe

Iowa is quiet and simple.  In the summer, it bursts with ripe tomatoes and happiness.  In the winter, the sprawling cornfields rest under blankets of snow.  There is space here, plenty of it.

Room to grow

— —

At different times in life, I've often thought about moving to one of my favorite places I've visited.  Key West with the beach only a bike ride's distance away?  Incredible sunsets every evening.  Or maybe San Francisco with all it's hills, endless cafés, and farmers markets

It would be as lovely as it sounds, yes.

But I know it wouldn't be mine

Skillet Chicken Swimming in Spicy Pizza Sauce - With a topping of tomato sauce and fresh mozzarella, I think of this easy skillet dish as pizza chicken

Have you ever eaten a homegrown tomato fresh from the vine?  Plump with time, love, and rich midwest soil?  Have you ever taken a bite out of it, letting the red juice run down your chin?  Brought it home and turned it into a BLT for dinner?

— — —

This week as I worked in the garden, I couldn't help but think.  We grow where we're planted, and I'm thankful I was

planted here

— — —

My husband and I will always have roots in Iowa.  A place whose rhythm is announced by the arrival of its seasons.

Not to mention road trips, church potlucks, and RAGBRAI.  State fairs with funnel cakes, sledding down hills on trash can lids. Rhubarb season.  Sitting on bleachers with wool blankets on our knees, cheering for our hometown team.  Cicadas singing on summer evenings

We can't see how deep our roots are buried

Skillet Chicken Swimming in Spicy Pizza Sauce - With a topping of tomato sauce and fresh mozzarella, I think of this easy skillet dish as pizza chicken

But we can feel them

When the season shifts, ever so slightly, as it's shifting now.  We know summer has just begun.

The skies are bright later and later, the birds chirp outside the kitchen window, and the first hints of humidity are in the air.  With farmers markets, bare legs, neighborhood BBQs, night walks, summer dresses, garage sales, and lemonade stands

The first tomato harvest will be here before we know it

But not quite yet

Skillet Chicken Swimming in Spicy Pizza Sauce - With a topping of tomato sauce and fresh mozzarella, I think of this easy skillet dish as pizza chicken

Weeknight dinners

As ironic as it may seem given what I love to do, they're often a challenge at our house.  I have a feeling they may be your occasional problem as well.  The never-ending question of, “What can I make for dinner that’s wholesome and quick-ish?”

I’m not in the camp that sells quick cooking.  I hope the recipes featured here are fairly straightforward, but I'd be remiss to sell them as such because I think the process is part of eating well.  Great, or even good food, simply doesn’t come without putting in some effort

We have to eat, and whole foods keep us feeling our best.  Certainly, everyone is short on time for one reason or another, but it’s real food that sustains us.  It’s wellness and community and conversation and necessity, and none of them come fast

Maybe they don't include a homemade sourdough whose process spans a few days, or a beautiful Buddha bowl with lots of different recipes tucked inside a recipe.  Those are the things that feed creativity and help us enjoy the art of cooking, but they’re not people’s every day (regardless of what our Instagram feed leads us to believe)

So what if we made it our goal to have dinner on the table, something that's fresh with at least one veggie?  It’s a responsibility, and it’s not always beautiful, but we’re doing the work, and that process truly matters

Skillet Chicken Swimming in Spicy Pizza Sauce - With a topping of tomato sauce and fresh mozzarella, I think of this easy skillet dish as pizza chicken

This skillet chicken is a wonderful weeknight dinner.

Slightly more involved than the usual, but the payoff is definitely worth it.  The chicken and tomato sauce are started on the stovetop.  While they’re baking in the oven, it's just enough time to toss a salad, slice some bread, and open a bottle of wine.

It’s a straightforward meal that’s ready from start to finish in about an hour.  A recipe with a big personality, although the number of ingredients is rather small.

To make the most of them, everything is cooked in stages, allowing the flavors to build in the skillet.

Pancetta goes in first, sautéed until golden and crisp.  Next, the chicken is seared in the rendered fat.  Tomatoes, garlic, anchovies, and capers follow; cooked down into a sauce in the very same pan, awash in a mix of chicken drippings, pancetta fat, and olive oil.  All of these flavors season the chicken as it bakes.  As a final touch, chunks of fresh mozzarella are melted on top, dissolving into milky

gooey puddles

Warm, well spiced, just creamy enough, ready in an hour, and wholesome.  Dinner is served



~ Adapted from Dinner by Melissa Clark 

Skillet Chicken Swimming in Spicy Pizza Sauce


  • 3 ½ lbs bone-in chicken thighs, or an assortment of chicken pieces
  • 2 tsp fine grain sea salt + more to taste
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 5 oz pancetta, diced (or bacon)
  • 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 4 oil-packed anchovy fillets, chopped fine
  • 1 Tbsp capers, drained
  • ¼ tsp red chili flakes (more or less depending on your tolerance for heat)
  • 1 pint ripe cherry tomatoes
  • 3 ½ cups ripe tomatoes diced (or two 13.5 oz cans diced)
  • 1 large sprig fresh basil + chopped basil leaves for serving
  • 8 oz fresh mozzarella, torn into 1" cubes


  • Pat the chicken dry and season with a pinch of fine grain sea salt and a grind of black pepper
  • Over medium-high heat, add a glug of olive oil and give it a minute or so to heat up
  • Add the pancetta
  • Cook, stirring frequently until it's well browned and crisp (~ 3 minutes)
  • Using a slotted spoon to transfer the pancetta to a paper-towel-lined plate
  • Add the chicken to the skillet and sear, turning the pieces only occasionally, until it's well browned on all sides (~ 10 minutes)
  • Transfer them to a large plate
  • Pour off all but 1 Tbsp of the oil in the skillet. Add the garlic, anchovies, capers, and chili flakes to the skillet; sauté for 1 minute.
  • Stir in all the diced tomatoes, the basil sprig, and a pinch of fine grain sea salt, along with a grind or two of fresh black pepper
  • Cook, breaking up the tomatoes with a spatula until the sauce has thickened somewhat (~ 10 minutes)
  • While the sauce is cooking, heat the oven to 400° deg F
  • On a baking sheet, add the cherry tomatoes and drizzle with olive oil
  • Return the chicken to the skillet, transfer the skillet to the oven, and cook, uncovered until the chicken is no longer pink (~ 30 minutes)
  • On a separate rack in the oven, add the cherry tomatoes
  • Remove the cherry tomatoes from the oven and set aside
  • Remove the skillet from the oven and scatter the mozzarella over the chicken.
  • Turn on the broiler, place the skillet under the heat source, and broil until the cheese is bubbling (~ 1 to 3 minutes) ** Note: watch it carefully
  • Garnish the chicken with the roasted tomatoes, browned pancetta, and basil before serving
Serves: 8
Nutrition + Show
Calories 422
Total Fat 26.4g
Saturated Fat 6.5g
Carbohydrates 14.3g
Fiber 2.3g
Sugars 4.1g
Protein 25.5g
Print This Recipe

You Might Also Like


  • Reply Tomi C June 3, 2017 at 5:49 am

    Thanks for sharing this delicious recipe. Chicken is such a versatile dish and garden fresh tomatoes are available year round so what a perfect combination.

  • Reply Kenzie June 3, 2017 at 6:10 am

    Lady, why do you do this too me. This looks so freaking good and I was stuck on what to cook for dinner tomorrow, now thanks to you, I know what my hips will be having haha!

  • Reply Kira June 3, 2017 at 6:53 am

    5 stars
    I was salivating whilst reading this! I enjoyed reading this post. I like the sound of Iowa and I also like the idea of “we grow where we are planted”. Very profound. And for us to be planted, the environment needs to be conducive enough to promote growth. The skillet chicken in pizza sauce looks great. I have bookmarked this page and will implement this next time I have a girl’s night in!!!!

  • Reply Tina Butler June 3, 2017 at 9:10 am

    It sounds like our life in Texas minus the snow. We do get snow but not as often as I would like. I have to agree there is nothing better than home grown tomatoes green (fried green tomatoes) or red I love them both. We have 5 different varieties growing in our garden this year and I am so excited!!!! I pinned your chicken recipe so I can add it to my dinner menu. Thank you for sharing the recipe and your photos are gorgeous as always.

  • Reply Danik June 3, 2017 at 10:55 am

    4 stars
    Never thought about doing a dish like this and now I am really interested in trying this sauce. This has got my lips wet!

  • Reply shannon June 3, 2017 at 2:09 pm

    This looks delicious!! And seems easy enough. I think I could convert this to a slow cooker recipe:-) Thank you for sharing I can’t wait to make this!

  • Reply Ainsley June 3, 2017 at 2:15 pm

    5 stars
    This looks so so amazing and yummy and delicious! I am so going to try it! But not tonight coz I have none of the ingredients! But I’ll keep it in mind! xx corinne

  • Reply Gemma June 3, 2017 at 2:37 pm

    My mouth is literally watering reading this post. I need to try this, it looks amazing!

  • Reply Maddisson June 3, 2017 at 9:08 pm

    5 stars
    Yum! This dish looked so good. The ripe tomatoes are bright and colorful. I love biting into these refreshing and juicy stuff. Chicken and tomato is always a great combination that’s close to home.

  • Reply Gwendolyn June 3, 2017 at 10:44 pm

    5 stars
    Oh my word, this dish looks amazing and is making me hungry. The combination of flavors is spot on and I am going to have to try it.

  • Reply Lauren June 3, 2017 at 11:13 pm

    5 stars
    Wow this sounds soooo good and I can’t wait to try it out. I love Melissa Clark’s recipes and have been following her column in the New York Times for years

  • Reply Hannah June 4, 2017 at 3:20 am

    My grandparents live in the midwest, and I can remember tomatoes from their garden in the summer. You’re right, they’re the best. This looks like a great recipe. Can’t wait to make it for my husband for dinner next week!

  • Reply Yonca June 4, 2017 at 7:38 am

    Looks so delicious! There’s nothing better than a home-grown tomato. It makes cooking more enjoyable!

  • Reply Jona June 4, 2017 at 8:49 am

    This looks so delicious. I’d love to try this recipe. I guess I will just lessen the chili flakes as I am not into spicy food.

  • Reply Jenni June 4, 2017 at 11:02 am

    This looks so yummy! Pinning it for later 🙂

  • Reply Nadia June 4, 2017 at 11:17 am

    OMG This looks and sounds absolutely INCREDIBLE!! Definitely bookmarking this page and making it when I get home from Bali xxx

  • Reply Tina Gleisner June 4, 2017 at 12:41 pm

    Looks like a delicious recipe & of course I love chicken so want to try it out. Thanks for sharing, along with all your stories about where you grew up & some of the customers … fun reading about them.

  • Reply Jenni June 4, 2017 at 1:10 pm

    I love how easy the method is! The ingredients are very simple and Slimming World friendly so I can easily do this on my plan 🙂

  • Reply Ana De- Jesus June 4, 2017 at 1:59 pm

    So beautifully put. Even though I am from the countryside, London is my home despite the ups and downs I have faced in it. I like that you feel so connected to Iowa, as you know I am a big fan of your recipes and having just done a massive food shop the spicy pizza sauce is one that I simply have to try out!

  • Reply Monica June 4, 2017 at 2:23 pm

    5 stars
    I have been looking for new chicken recipes and this is perfect. I just started eating low carb and the recipe is just what I need. It is like a pizza without the crust. Easy to prepare perfect for a working mom like me. Ingredients everyone at home likes. Win-Win. Making this for dinner tonigh

  • Reply Stephanie June 4, 2017 at 3:08 pm

    Now this is my kind of dish, can’t wait to try and make it this week x

  • Reply Pam June 4, 2017 at 6:03 pm

    Chicken can be so bland, so I am always looking for exciting new recipes to try with it. This might just fit the bill.

  • Reply Melanie Frost June 4, 2017 at 6:52 pm

    That looks so delicious. Chicken really is my favorite protein. There are so many ways to cook it and have it taste different each time. Thanks for the recipe!

  • Reply LaToyia Dennis June 4, 2017 at 8:16 pm

    This is amazing! I will have to pin this and try this later. I’m going to try it with boneless chicken breast.

  • Reply Erin June 4, 2017 at 8:25 pm

    5 stars
    This looks so cheesy and delicious. I’ll be trying this recipe in the near future.

  • Reply Natasha June 4, 2017 at 9:18 pm

    First of all, the first picture TOTALLY made me drool. I’m a sucker for one skillet meals. Second, as a Midwest girl myself (Chicago ALL DAY LONG) I totally know what you mean about growing where you’re planted. A LOT of people think that Chicago is always ALL hustle and bustle, while I’m farming a quarter acre of land on the south side. I love it. And tomatoes straight from the vine?! YES! We planted 36 varieties last year, but I’ve slowed down a LOT this year. However, my sungolds and sunsugars stayed, because nothing beats popping those in your mouth right outside!

  • Reply Agnes Dela Cruz June 5, 2017 at 12:00 am

    I love tomato sauce dishes, the rich and delicate taste of it that I really enjoy a lot. You can do so much with tomatoes and your dish looks delish!

  • Reply Carmen June 5, 2017 at 12:26 am

    Loving this recipe. You describe everything so well. Tomatoes off the vine that are fresh are the best!

  • Reply Lily June 5, 2017 at 1:18 am

    Oh this looks so delicious! I would love to try this. My kids will love it!

  • Reply David Elliott June 5, 2017 at 1:51 am

    This looks absolutely fabulous. I am always looking for good chicken recipes. I know it’s something my daughter loves. Wouldn’t have jumped to using pizza sauce with chicken but this looks amazing.

  • Reply Elizabeth O. June 5, 2017 at 2:30 am

    That’s so beautiful. A place that has so many pieces of you, your memories and the love that you shared with the people in it. Thanks for this lovely recipe. My kids will enjoy it so much.

  • Reply Jenni June 5, 2017 at 3:46 am

    Oh my goodness, my mouth is watering, this looks and sounds incredible

  • Reply Amy June 5, 2017 at 4:41 am

    It looks delicious and so simple to make! I’d have to take out the cheese though.

  • Reply Ava June 5, 2017 at 5:18 am

    This sounds amazing, we love chicken and I am always looking for new easy recipes my family will love this x

  • Reply Rebecca Swenor June 5, 2017 at 5:39 am

    5 stars
    This recipe for the skillet chicken in spicy pizza sauce sounds so good. We love both chicken and pizza so this is perfect recipe for us. I would leave the anchovy out though. Thanks for sharing the recipe.

  • Reply John Lopez June 5, 2017 at 6:39 am

    This dish looks so good. I love two things, chicken and pizza. I would love to try this.

  • Reply MaryAnne June 5, 2017 at 7:13 am

    OMG I am so hungry now! I need to try this out ASAP, looks very tasty and healthy

  • Reply Hayley Warren June 5, 2017 at 7:24 am

    This sounds delicious! Thanks for sharing, I’ll have to try it out.

  • Reply Brandy June 5, 2017 at 7:36 am

    I love spicy food, so this would be a great dish to make up for dinner one night. My middle and eldest love spicy right along with me, so this will be a total win for most of the home. Thanks for sharing this skillet chicken swimming in spicy pizza sauce recipe!

  • Reply Heather June 5, 2017 at 9:21 am

    OMG this looks ah-may-zing!! I have gotta try this, I get in such a rut with boring easy dinner meals that I don’t have to think about. It’s no fun for me or the family!

  • Reply Rebecca June 5, 2017 at 12:17 pm

    5 stars
    This looks absolutely delicious! My partner and I are always looking for new recipes to try as we love to mix things up in the kitchen so this will be perfect to add to the list!

  • Reply Helen June 5, 2017 at 12:45 pm

    This sounds so good. I agree good, wholesome food is worth the little bit of extra time and work. I’m with you on the “what shall I cook for dinner” struggle too.

  • Reply Wendy Polisi June 5, 2017 at 1:19 pm

    You had me at “swimming.” haha! But seriously, this looks delicious and I would definitely try it!

  • Reply Leo T. Ly June 5, 2017 at 2:13 pm

    Thanks for sharing this great recipe. My daughter loves pizza. Though she is not that much of a spicy fan, we might have to tone down on the spice a bit.

  • Reply Jenny June 5, 2017 at 5:07 pm

    This looks so good. I love how many different flavors this recipe has.

  • Reply Stacy T June 5, 2017 at 5:54 pm

    That looks delicious. I can see my whole family loving this dish for sure we are big chicken fans.

  • Reply Lisa Marie Heath June 5, 2017 at 9:37 pm

    5 stars
    Everyone in my house would LOVE this! Saving for dinner this coming weekend!

  • Reply Elizabeth June 6, 2017 at 12:14 am

    Oh my goodness, this recipe sounds delicious! Just my sort of comfort mood meal!

  • Reply Hali June 6, 2017 at 2:10 am

    This looks delicious. We’re huge fans of both spice and pizza flavors at our house and can’t wait to give it a try. Love that it’s easy enough for weeknights as well!

  • Reply Angie June 6, 2017 at 2:58 am

    That is really looks delicious looks like I want to try this for our dinner and I bet my hubby would surely love this too

  • Reply Neha Saini June 6, 2017 at 11:00 am

    5 stars
    This is amazing! I want to try this for sure during snacks time. I liked the different flavors this recipe have.

  • Reply Celerhina Aubrey June 7, 2017 at 12:23 am

    This post made me hungry! 🙂 I bet my family would love it.

  • Reply Lillian June 7, 2017 at 2:24 pm

    Oh this looks delicious and something my eldest daughter would love. Well, she loves anything pizza!

  • Reply Penelope June 7, 2017 at 2:25 pm

    This really looks delicious and something eldest daughter would love. Well, she loves pizza!

  • Reply Claire June 7, 2017 at 9:31 pm

    What a great recipe! Looks so delicious! I can eat them all right now.

  • Reply Melanie June 8, 2017 at 5:48 am

    5 stars
    It must have been lovely having snow in winter. In London we are lucky to get snow in the winter which is a shame as the kids love playing in it. I am loving the vibrant colours of the dish the ingredients combined make for a super tasty recipe.

  • Reply Laura June 14, 2017 at 3:58 pm

    This looks SO good, and not just looks good but I’m pretty sure that it tastes delicious!! I am definitely going to give this a try, I think that my kids would love it too, they love spicy food!

  • Reply Sarah Bailey June 29, 2017 at 9:22 am

    There is something extra delicious about anything home grown, it has this rich taste that you don’t get from shop brought items.

  • Leave a Reply

    Recipe Rating