One-Skillet Pepperoni Pizza Chicken

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When George was in business school, we spent a summer living in New York City. We rented the funkiest apartment you’ve ever seen down in TriBeCa, and had the absolute best two months reconnecting with our east coast friends.

I wound up with a gig food styling for Andrew Scrivani, one of the New York Times’ food photographers. Andrew is an incredible guy, patient mentor, and I was so lucky to learn under him for a summer.

He shoots Melissa Clark’s “A Good Appetite” column in the Times, so I got to cook and style most of her recipes that summer. Here’s a recipe I styled that I remember falling in love with. Highly recommend it with summer cherries!

I fell in love with Melissa’s simple, impactful recipes that summer. So as soon as her cookbook, Dinner, came out, I ordered a copy for myself and all of my favorite food-loving friends. My friend Lexie and I tackled Melissa’s version of Pizza Chicken one night and, though we absolutely loved it, we found it to just be a very lengthy recipe, with a few too many steps for our liking.

This is my pared down, simplified, weeknight version of pizza chicken. Melissa’s version definitely does not have peppersonis on top, that addition is all thanks to George. They’re delicious on top.

Is this a pizza substitute? No! It’s a chicken dish for crying out loud! But it takes some of my favorite parts of a good margherita pizza – the delicious tomato sauce, the gooey mozzarella, the basil – and pairs them with perfectly cooked, juicy chicken breasts. We love this recipe at our house.

One-Skillet Pepperoni Pizza Chicken

Servings 4 people

Equipment

  • Chef’s knife
  • Large cutting board
  • Tongs
  • 10 or 12 inch ovenproof skillet (preferably cast iron)  My favorite inexpensive cast iron: https://amzn.to/2A0mPzs My favorite cast iron: https://amzn.to/2TOC9X1
  • Meat thermometer
  • Vegetable peeler (optional – if serving with zoodles)

Ingredients

  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts (2 pounds)
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 ½ tsp dried oregano
  • 2 tbsp olive oil, divided
  • 4 garlic cloves, diced
  • tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 (14 ounce) can tomato puree (or tomato sauce)
  • 1 (14 ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 16 ounces cherry tomatoes, halved, divided
  • 1 large basil sprig, plus ¼ cup thinly sliced basil for serving
  • Optional: 2 bay leaves
  • 4 to 6 ounces fresh mozzarella (omit for Whole30)
  • 1 10 pepperoni (about 1 ounce)
  • 2 medium zucchini (buy the straightest ones you can find)

Instructions

  • Season 2 pounds of chicken breasts with 1 teaspoon kosher salt, ¼ teaspoon black pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano. 
  • Preheat a 12-inch ovenproof skillet (preferably cast iron) skillet over medium-high heat for 3 minutes, then warm 1 tablespoon olive oil for 30 seconds. Sear chicken for 3 to 4 minutes per side, until golden brown. Transfer to a cutting board. 
  • Reduce skillet heat to medium-low and add the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil. Cook 4 diced garlic cloves, ⅛ teaspoon red pepper flakes and remaining 1 teaspoon dried oregano for 30 seconds, until fragrant.
  • Carefully pour 14 ounces tomato sauce and 14 ounces diced tomatoes into the skillet (it may splatter, beware!). Stir in half (8 ounces) of the halved cherry tomatoes, 1 large basil spring, 2 bay leaves (if you have them sitting in your cabinet), and ½ teaspoon kosher salt.
  • Preheat oven to 400°F. 
  • Cook over medium-low heat for 10 minutes or until sauce is thickened. 
  • Nestle chicken breasts down into the tomato sauce and transfer skillet to oven.
  • Cook for 10 to 12 minutes. Use an internal thermometer to check the chicken temperature at the 10 minute mark. Pull it out when it reaches 155°F (we aren’t finished cooking it yet!).
  • Change the oven temperature to broil (on high if your oven has broil settings). 
  • Transfer skillet to stove top and evenly distribute 4 to 6 ounces mozzarella and about 10 pepperoni over top. Add whatever other pizza toppings you love!
  • Broil for 2 to 3 minutes, until the pepperonis are lightly crispy and the cheese is melted. 
  • Meanwhile, make the zoodles by slicing the zucchini in half vertically, but leaving it attached at the stem. Holding the zucchini by the stem, use a vegetable peeler to peel the zucchini into wide zoodles. Divide zoodles between 4 bowls.
  • Once the cheese is melted and pepperonis are a bit crispy, remove the skillet from the oven and scatter the remaining 8 ounces cherry tomatoes and ¼ cup thinly sliced basil leaves over top of the pizza chicken.
  • Fish out the basil sprig and bay leaves to discard them as you serve!
  • Serve pizza chicken and sauce over the zoodles.

Substitutions

  • Chicken—> chicken thighs are also great, and bone-in chicken also works! Just be sure to get the skin super crispy, and don’t let it get soggy in the sauce – make sure the skin stays above the sauce when baking. It will need to bake for 20 minutes versus 10-15, be sure to use a meat thermometer!
  • Vegetarian option—> chickpeas! Start by making the tomato sauce, and add the chickpeas immediately. Braise over low heat for 30 minutes, then add the cheese and pepperonis if using over top and broil.
  • Dried oregano—> 1 tbsp fresh oregano leaves! or use any Italian-ish spice in your spice cabinet – thyme, parsley, Italian seasoning, etc.
  • Olive oil—> whatever your fave cooking oil is.
  • Garlic cloves—> 1 large shallot or 1 small yellow onion.
  • Red pepper flakes—> omit if your fam isn’t into a tiny bit of spice. If your fam LOVES spice, bump up the red pepper! You could also dice up a fresh jalapeno and use that!
  • Tomato puree and diced tomatoes—> we just need 28 ounces of canned tomato product, it doesn’t really matter how you get there! I love canned “chunky tomato sauce”, but it can be tricky to find, so I sort of created my own here by using 1 can of puree and 1 can of diced. 1 can of whole, peeled tomatoes also works, just crush them by hand as you add them to the skillet. You may need to simmer your sauce for longer depending on what you use, so just make sure the sauce looks thick, not watery, when you add the chicken breasts in.
  • Cherry tomatoes—> any fresh tomato, diced.
  • Fresh basil—> ooooh, you need basil! But if you can’t find it, swap in parsley.
  • Bay leaves—> optional, but definitely add some great flavor to the sauce!
  • Fresh Mozzarella—> you can also use shredded mozzarella (1 to 1/2 cups), or parmesan, or goat cheese. My sister used burrata when making this, which was a genius move.
  • Pepperoni—> cooked bacon or pancetta.
  • Other toppings—> dress your pizza chicken up however you please! Artichokes, olives, sundried tomatoes… the world is your oyster!
  • Zucchini—> I love serving my Pizza Chicken over zoodles. The hot sauce wilts the zucchini into the most delicious, tender, fresh veggie noodle. But if you’re in a pasta mood, serve it over pasta! If you’re in a dipping mood, just serve it with really good bread! Rice would definitely also work! 
Author: Caroline Chambers
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