Roast Chicken with Pancetta and Olives

This simple, savory chicken is roasted with pancetta, garlic, and olives but stays moist in a shallow bath of white wine. (It’s traditionally made with rabbit, which is lovely, too.) Because a whole chicken tends to be less expensive than chicken parts, you may wish to cut the chicken into pieces yourself. This recipe requires the chicken be hacked into 10 to 12 pieces rather than the usual 8. Use a sharp, heavy knife to first remove the wings. Then separate the drumsticks from the thighs. Halve the breast portion of the hen along the backbone, then use a sharp, heavy knife to cut each half crosswise through the bone into 2 relatively equal pieces or, if your chicken breasts are exceptionally large, into 3 pieces. Yes, you can instead ask the butcher to do this for you, but don’t forget to ask for the backbone, which can be stashed in the freezer for a rainy day chicken stock. If this is all just too much for you to process, this recipe works just as well with those 6 pounds of prepackaged, bone-in, skin-on thighs or breasts–though you will still have to cut those chicken breasts down to size.–The Editors of Gourmet

LC What to Pour Note

Pondering whether to uncork a bottle of red or white? We’d just as soon follow the lead of the editors at the late, great Gourmet and open a bottle of each. Gourmet’s recommended pours include, for the white, a Fattoria le Pupille Poggio Argentato ($15), “a blend of traminer and sauvignon blanc, a zippy bright, minderal-laden white that hails from the Tuscan region.” As for the red, they opted for a budget-friendly, less-complex Sangiovese produced by a top-flight brunello producer but made from the vineyard’s younger vines and labeled Talenti Rosso di Montalcino ($14). Don’t forget to take a sniff and a sip of each and tell us which you prefer with this dish.

Roast Chicken with Pancetta and Olives Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 25 M
  • 1 H, 30 M
  • Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 2 chickens or rabbits (about 3 1/2 pounds each), cut into 10 to 12 pieces (see note above)
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons fine sea salt (or less if using particularly salty olives)
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 10 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 2 thick slices pancetta or bacon, cut into 1/2- to 1-inch pieces (about 1/4-inch-thick slices or 4 ounces total)
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 24 black olives, pitted if desired

Directions

  • 1. Preheat the oven to 450°F (232°C) and adjust the oven rack to the center position.
  • 2. In a large bowl, toss the chicken with the oil, thyme, rosemary, sea salt, red pepper flakes, if using, and black pepper, rubbing the mixture all over the chicken.
  • 3. Arrange the chicken pieces, skin side up, in a single layer on a large rimmed baking sheet. Scatter the garlic and pancetta or bacon around the chicken on the baking sheet. Roast until the chicken begins to brown, about 20 minutes. Dribble the wine over the chicken and roast for 8 minutes more. Scatter the olives around the chicken and roast until the skin is golden brown and crisp and the meat is cooked and tender, 15 to 20 minutes more. (If the chicken pieces are particularly large, allow a few extra minutes.) Let the chicken rest on the baking sheet for 10 minutes before serving. If desired, spoon some of the pan juices over the chicken. And if using unpitted olives, you may wish to offer a word of warning to guests.
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Kristen Kennedy

Oct 22, 2012

This dish is superb! It positively explodes with flavor—the briny olives, crisp pancetta, soft roasted garlic, crunchy chicken, and the white wine and drippings pan sauce that makes itself. Oh, it’s heavenly! I had to cook the chicken a bit longer for the skin to brown (I ended up moving it up a bit in my oven to be closer to the top heat source). I’m looking for an excuse to have company over so I can wow them with this dish!

Testers Choice
Natalie Reebel

Oct 22, 2012

This is one of the best chicken recipes ever! It’s so simple and beautifully rustic when it comes out of the oven. It was great to be able to pick up the olives and garlic at the olive bar in my grocery store. This made the recipe a snap to put together. The chicken came out tender and juicy with a rich, salty flavor. It reminded me of a brined chicken without the work of brining overnight. I served this with spaghetti squash sautéed with tomatoes and basil. It was delicious.

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Jackie B.-P.

Oct 22, 2012

This was absolutely delicious! The aroma of the chicken, fresh herbs, pancetta, wine, and garlic filled the kitchen. I served this for dinner with friends over the weekend and everyone loved the way the salty pancetta and olives complemented the chicken and herbs. The roasting time was just perfect and basting the chicken with white wine ensured that each piece of chicken stayed moist. If you’re squeamish about cutting up a chicken, you can always ask your butcher to do this for you. Also, I only cut the breast into 4 pieces rather than 6, as the chickens I get from my meat farm share aren’t as huge as the ones found in conventional supermarkets.

Testers Choice
Kim M.

Oct 22, 2012

This dish belongs on a glossy color photo. It’s a rustic dish. The colors from the herbs, flecks of pepper flakes and olives, along with the browned chicken skin are beautiful. The fragrance of the roasting chicken was wonderful. Small potatoes roasted to a crisp would be a nice side dish. My prep time was only 15 minutes, including cutting up the chicken, preparing the oil rub, and coating the chicken with the mixture in a large stainless bowl. I’d consider preparing the chicken with the oil rub up to a day in advance, as I think it’d enhance the flavor. For my personal taste, I’d cut the garlic amount in half, smash the cloves, and add them to the oil rub.

Testers Choice
Vicki Lionberger

Oct 22, 2012

I don’t know how this site does it but you have the best chicken recipes! This one is no exception. I used two 4-pound chickens as the store seemed to have larger ones than normal. The prep time at 25 minutes was right on target, but then I do cut up whole chickens all the time. The only change I made was to cut the pancetta a bit smaller—maybe 1/2-inch cubes. They got very crisp and were perfect. I had to cook this dish about 15 minutes longer than the recipe stated but I used larger chickens. I urge all readers to use the red pepper flakes. This amount didn’t make the dish too hot but added a nice spicy component. This is a great dish; try it!

Testers Choice
Kara Vitek

Oct 22, 2012

This could very well be my next go-to roasted chicken recipe. The ingredients came together quickly and the majority of them I regularly have on hand. I added the full amount of red pepper flakes and this gave the chicken just a little zing. I like the briny flavor imparted by the olives and the pancetta. The recipe was easy to cut in half. I used chicken breasts with skin and bone and asked my butcher to cut each into 3 pieces. Because the breast pieces weren’t terribly large, I think the final 15–20-minute roasting time was too long and next time will check 10 minutes after the olives are added. And I’ll make a gravy with the juices. I loved the smell my whole house had while this was roasting. I served this with sweet potatoes but the gravy that I’ll make next time would go nicely with polenta. Also, this recipe will serve over 8 people, more like 10. I’m thoroughly excited by this chicken!

Testers Choice
Sofia Reino

Oct 22, 2012

This was a very simple recipe filled with aroma and taste. The chicken came out juicy and tender. The two things I’d adjust next time are to add less salt (I believe half the amount would be perfect) and allow the chicken more time in the oven so that the skin gets a better color. I ended up leaving it in 7 more minutes prior to adding the wine. Apart from those adjustments, this is a very nice chicken.

Testers Choice
Kim Venglar

Oct 22, 2012

I halved this recipe and used bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts. The recipe is easy to prep and cook, and I lined my baking sheet with foil so there was very little cleanup. I placed the pancetta on the chicken, but it ended up in the pan and simmered with the wine. The olives wouldn’t stay on the chicken either. The results were a great-tasting chicken with crisp skin. I used an inexpensive white wine (Nobilis Vinho Verde, $5.99, recommended by my wine guy) that was surprisingly very nice. I poured a little of the pan juices over rice as a side dish. A cheesy polenta would be fantastic with this along with asparagus.

Testers Choice
Sandy Hill

Oct 22, 2012

All the flavors of Italy were blended together in this Roast Chicken with Pancetta and Olives recipe, which was delicious. It’s a rustic dish, perfectly suited for company. We served a 2008 Nipozzano Riserva (Chianti Rufina) and lots of Tuscan bread to soak up the pan juices. I used all thighs in the recipe. We liked the juiciness of the thighs and we adored the crisp pancetta and chicken skin and tried to include some with each bite. The mellow cooked garlic and olives just added to the delight. I didn’t have a side dish, other than a salad with oranges—just lots of that bread to wipe our plates clean. I think I may add more white wine next time (maybe 1 1/2 cups total) so as to have more pan juices.

Testers Choice
Brenda Carleton

Oct 22, 2012

This delightful roast chicken really was a hit with our family. Rather than using 2 chickens, we used just 1. Tossing the pieces with oil, fresh herbs, sea salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes really harkened me back to the flavors of Tuscany and reminded me of the wondrous yet simple ingredients we so much enjoy there. Just imagine the chicken roasting with those flavors and the addition of garlic cloves, pancetta, white wine, and olives! The skin became and remained crisp, thankfully, as I’m known as the chicken skin fiend in our house. It took only about 20 minutes to prepare and after 1 1/2 hours in the oven the chicken was tender, juicy, flavorful, and gorgeous. I didn’t even need to make a pan sauce—we just drizzled the chicken juices that had melded with the wine over the chicken (after we ate the skin, of course!) and baby garden potatoes and carrots we served with it. The pancetta and olives added salty umami. The red pepper flakes, though optional, added a bit of a kick that didn’t overwhelm but helped bring the dish together in its lovely entirety. Want to impress someone with a simple dinner? Make this.

Testers Choice
Karen Lynch

Oct 22, 2012

If you need a recipe to impress but are short on time, this fits the bill. An easy recipe to put together and get in the oven while you tackle other evening shenanigans. I served it with a side dish of couscous but rice and a green salad would also be nice. I used chicken thighs, herbs from my garden, and a cooking wine from the grocer. I had to use pancetta that was thinly sliced so I tucked it in between the thighs so it was sticking out. It worked well and the flavors were wonderful. I added the black olives at the same time I added the wine and eliminated one of the steps. This worked out well, as the olives tasted great. When I make this again, I’ll serve French bread to slather the soft garlic on. Great for a special dinner or a casual sit-down dinner with family and friends.

Testers Choice
Anne Petito

Oct 22, 2012

This is an easy, interesting twist on the classic roast chicken. The use of olives and pancetta provide an unexpected balance. Two birds felt like a lot (even for 8 people), especially when serving it alongside other dishes. I like that this recipe uses a lot of ingredients that might already be in your pantry (salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, garlic, wine) and it does come together fairly quickly. Breaking down the chicken before cooking made serving so much easier. The pancetta did get a little dark while cooking but there was no burnt flavor so it was fine. Would definitely recommend using the red pepper flakes; the little bit of heat is quite nice in the chicken. The olives add a great tangy, rich saltiness that I enjoyed way more than expected.

Testers Choice
M.K. Morgan

Oct 22, 2012

This is a winner! I used 6 pounds of skin-on, bone-in thighs. I used only a 1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes, as my husband isn’t a fan of too spicy! That was perfect. The prep time was a little longer for me, about 35 minutes, and the cooking time was what the recipe indicated, about 50 minutes. The skin was crisp, the meat juicy. The leftover chicken was delicious in a chicken salad. The only thing I’d change is the size of the pancetta pieces—I’d dice them smaller.

Testers Choice
Jackie G.

Oct 22, 2012

This recipe produced very moist chicken with a nice pan gravy to pour over it. I divided the recipe in half, making it with 3 pounds of chicken thighs, which amounted to 9 thighs. I spent about 20 minutes prepping the chicken thighs, getting rid of things like excess fat. I think that it’s important for the chicken not to be too spread out, so that the wine and chicken juices don’t get cooked off. We had a lot of pan juices, which were wonderful spooned over the chicken as well as the rice pilaf that we served alongside it. I placed most of the garlic and pancetta on the top of the thighs, as well as throwing some between the pieces of chicken. The pancetta and garlic cloves that were on top of the chicken got too dried out. Those that were down between the chicken pieces were great. The cooking time was spot-on accurate. We had some Caprese salad left to eat with the chicken, as well as the rice pilaf made with whole garlic cloves and pine nuts. We also had some fresh haricot verts that were mixed with corn fresh off the cob. We paired this dish with a beautiful medium-bodied 2008 Anderson Valley Pinot Noir. That was one of those “match made in heaven” pairings.

Testers Choice
Sita Krishnaswamy

Oct 22, 2012

Oh, such a simple recipe to make. It lends itself to being a crowd-pleaser. The flavors of the rub (herbs and spices) came through very well. The sweetness of the roasted garlic along within the saltiness of the black olives was a perfect accompaniment for the chicken, and with the addition of the wine it made the chicken very moist. I used 12 bone-in, skin-on chicken thigh pieces. Worked well for me. I did, however, transfer the chicken pieces after cooking to a tray layered with paper towel, to drain off the excess fat.

Testers Choice
Karen Depp

Oct 22, 2012

This recipe for roasted chicken is a definite winner. I changed the recipe to serve 4 rather than 8, using half of the ingredients, and this worked well. I also used chicken thighs rather than a whole chicken. The cooking time was accurate. The only thing that is a danger zone is the choice of olives. If you use ones that are very salty, as mine were, I’d only use 1/3 of the amount called for in the ingredient list, as they added quite a salty taste. This is on the menu for this week too!

Testers Choice
Chiyo Ueyama

Oct 22, 2012

What an easy and rewarding meal this is! A perfectly fine herby roast chicken with crisp skin and gorgeous pan juices, taken to a higher level by the pancetta and whole garlic cloves. Not wanting to take anything away from the chicken, I just put together a green salad on the side and toasted semolina bread slices. We slathered the bread with the sweet roasted garlic and dunked it in the rich pan juices—oh my! I used chicken thighs only—preferred to breast meat in my household. It eliminated the need to cut up whole chickens, making this dish a speedier weeknight dinner.

Testers Choice
Steve Dunn

Oct 22, 2012

Looking for a dish that’s a breeze to pull together, can feed a horde, and is packed with boatloads of great flavor? This is just such a dish. I made this for the gang using bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs rather than the 2 broken-down chickens called for, as no one in my family is a fan of breast meat (I’ve trained them well). I had my dish in the oven in about 20 minutes time. If you have to break down the chickens and pit your olives, you’ll want to add at least 10 to 15 minutes. Once in the oven, this dish couldn’t be easier to complete. I used a timer to manage the different phases of cooking, adding the wine after 20 minutes, and the olives 8 minutes after that. As written, the recipe yields perfectly cooked and crisp chicken, meltingly sweet garlic cloves, and a delightful pan jus that keeps everything moist and succulent. The rosemary and thyme that I pulled from our garden added a lovely herbal note, and the pancetta and olives some salty chewiness. The one warning I’d give with regard to this dish is the amount of salt called for in the recipe. Given the use of cured olives and pancetta, I found the amount of salt to be a bit heavy-handed—and I like salt. I’d recommend tossing the chicken with the herbs, red pepper flakes (yes, you should use these), and black pepper, then sprinkling each side with a moderate amount of salt when placing it on the rimmed baking sheet. For me, about 1/2 a tablespoon of salt was perfect. Aside from this caveat, this dish is a total winner. Pretty on the plate and loaded with bold flavors that make your taste buds stand up and take notice—a definite candidate for the TC pantheon.

Testers Choice
Patton C.

Oct 22, 2012

This is a very easy recipe to pull together and much of the prep can be done ahead. I used 8 pounds of bone-in, skin-on thighs and breasts and increased the other ingredients accordingly—and used more pancetta, olives, and garlic given my personal taste. The final result was very flavorful and cooked perfectly. We served this with couscous with pine nuts and grilled asparagus. I’d definitely make it again.

Comments
Comments
  1. 9:21am…and I’m ready to make this right now!!!

  2. Zanne says:

    For all of us (in the boonies) who don’t have access to a real deli, what type of black olives should be used? Should they be Kalamata or ?

    Thanks

    • Beth Price, LC Director of Recipe Testing says:

      Hi Zanne, any full flavored black olives such as Kalamata should be fine. I would steer clear of the common canned black ones that are ubiquitous in grocery stores as they don’t have enough character for this dish.

  3. Grace says:

    This is FANTASTIC. We pretty much made it as-is, although we used canned black olives. I felt they were perfect, with just the right touch of olive flavor that didn’t overpower the dish but complemented it quite nicely. Normally, we would have tried a different variety, but that was what we had on hand. The only other changes were that we halved the recipe and instead of olive oil we used duck fat. Very simple, rustic, and beautiful. This one will officially be in rotation in our home from now on.

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      We love when pantry staples work perfectly in a new recipe, Grace. It’s the best sort of serendipity. And duck fat makes everything better. Many thanks for letting us know.

  4. Joey says:

    This was awesome. Totally easy and you can prep ahead of time so on the day of a dinner party you just have to toss the pan into the oven. I pretty much followed the recipe except that I followed one of the tester’s advice and did the rub the day before. I also tossed in extra olives and garlic because I love them. I was hoping for leftovers, but my guests ate everything—even the small kids were asking for seconds. It’s only been three weeks since my dinner party, and I’ve already made it again, and one of my guests asked for the receipe and has already made it, too. She reports that the results were perfect.

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      Joey, I can think of no higher praise for a recipe than what you just wrote. Many thanks for sharing, and many thanks for your trust and interest in our recipes. I look forward to hearing what you try next from the site…

  5. ruthie says:

    I did this with my usual butterflied chicken, instead of cut up. It’s just easier and, I think, keeps it more moist. I used a big ol’ roasting pan so I could still have real estate for the pancetta, olives and garlic. I deviated from the recipe by using a light red wine — probably a merlot or pinot noir, whatever was leftover — and I threw in some capers. We had it with a nice polenta made with chicken broth and thyme and some grated dry Monterey Jack stirred in at the end. I think a simple risotto would have gone equally well but probably better with the white wine.

    This was really great, especially the red pepper flakes, which were something I wouldn’t have thought to add. I liked the hearty flavor of the red wine “sauce”, but next time I try this I’ll either make sure I have some white opened or get an early start on dinner by opening a new bottle. ;) May still add the capers, though. Really love capers.

  6. ruthie says:

    Good lord, woman! You’ll give me whiplash! LOL!

  7. Mary Alice says:

    This was insanely good. Seriously. I made 24 thighs for 9 adults, 3 kids and 3 toddlers. Every single person was oohing and aahing…even the little ones. And there wasn’t a single bite left in the pans after dinner. I doubled the recipe and cooked 6 thighs per each of 4 disposable pans. I used Kalamatas and replaced the fresh thyme with fresh sage since that’s what I had (and sage is my favorite herb). I served it with tons of fresh bread, including an olive bread, which was perfect for those mega olive lovers! And a simple salad with arugula, Boston lettuce and shaved pears with a dressing of pear-infused white balsamic (a splurge to be sure!) and some good olive oil. (The salad was a variation of a salad recipe I found here at LC). To say dinner was a hit is an understatement…my guests were still talking about the dinner the next day! Delish! Thanks LC!

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      Mary Alice, thank you for taking the time to let us know what a smashing success this dinner was! Everything—including that salad—sounds inspired. I’m so glad that we could contribute to such a lovely event. Can’t wait to hear the next recipe you try from the site…

  8. P says:

    So good, and so easy. Adding some sliced fennel and very thinly sliced orange transforms this dish into something else.

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