Roast Chicken with Pancetta and Olives

This roast chicken with pancetta and olives and garlic from Gourmet magazine is braised in white wine to keep the chicken tender. A LOT of folks are calling it the best chicken recipe they’ve ever made.

Tray of roast chicken pieces with pancetta, olives, and garlic cloves.

This simple chicken recipe with pancetta and olives and garlic is what folks are calling “One of the best chicken recipes ever!” and “crisp-skinned” and “juicy” and “aromatic” and “easy” and “heavenly.” (It’s traditionally made with rabbit, which is lovely, too.) You can use a whole chicken cut into pieces or you could use all thighs or drumsticks if you prefer.–Renee Schettler

What Wine Do I Serve With Roast Chicken?

Pondering whether to uncork a bottle of red or white? We’d just as soon open a bottle of each. Gourmet Magazine’s recommended pours for this chicken recipe include, for the white, a Fattoria le Pupille Poggio Argentato ($20), “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 ($19). Don’t forget to take a sip of each and tell us which you prefer with this dish.

Roast Chicken With Pancetta and Olives

  • Quick Glance
  • (14)
  • 25 M
  • 1 H, 30 M
  • Serves 8
4.9/5 - 14 reviews
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Preheat the oven to 450°F (232°C). Adjust the oven rack to the center position.

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.

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. Originally published October 22, 2012.

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    • Most of the time when you buy a package of bone-in, skin-on chicken, you get 8 pieces. But for this recipe, you need the chicken cut into 10 to 12 pieces. So once you get home, you’ll need to grab a cleaver or very sturdy knife and cut each chicken breast half crosswise through the bone into 2 equal pieces or, if your chicken breasts are exceptionally large, into 3 pieces. This makes the chicken breast pieces closer in size to the thighs and drumsticks to ensure even cooking. Or you can buy a whole chicken and chop it entirely up yourself, which tends to be less expensive than buying an already may wish to cut the chicken into pieces. To do this, 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 with a sweet smile. If your store even has a butcher. Don’t forget to ask him to keep the backbone and neck for you, which can be stashed in the freezer for a future batch of chicken stock.

    Recipe Testers' Reviews

    This roast chicken with pancetta and olives 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’m looking for an excuse to have company over so I can wow them with this dish.

    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).

    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.



    1. 5 stars
      I’ve made this many many times. I use whatever spice mixture I have in the pantry. I’ve made it for company, for pot lucks, and to give to neighbors in need. It’s in our rotation and should be in yours.

    2. Wow, this was one of the best dishes I’ve made in a while. Hubby even said just the right amount of spicy too. Coming from an Italian family it was very reminiscent of the old style flavors from my youth. And so easy. 😋

      1. Thanks, Lisa! We’re delighted that you enjoyed it and that it brought back some special memories.

    3. This definitely lived up to its many 5 star reviews It’s excellent! The meat was fall-off-the-bone juicy, tender, and flavorful. I used 2 chicken leg quarters that I kept whole, as well as 3 drumsticks, and despite the fact that it was less chicken than the recipe called for, I made a full recipe of the oil rub and used it all. I made the oil rub the night before, massaged it into the chicken, then marinaded it in a ziploc bag for 24 hours. Many reviewers commented on the salt level so I only used 1/4 tsp salt in the rub, then seasoned the chicken pieces were more salt and pepper when they went into the oven. The only other change I made to the recipe was to grate 6 large cloves of garlic into the oil rub. I also tucked 10 cloves under and around the chicken pieces. I didn’t have any issue with the pancetta getting too crisp or brown. I let the marinated chicken sit at room temperature for about 45 minutes before putting it in the oven. It tested done at 43 minutes. Instead of a sheet pan, I used a shallow granite-ware roasting pan. There was no need to turn on the broiler to brown the skin – it was a beautiful golden brown by the time the chicken was done!

      1. Sadie, you should be a food writer! When I was done reading your comment, I felt like ditching our plans for a simple Friday dinner (a creamy pesto and chicken on pasta) for this. Brava!

    4. I need to serve a crowd for my son’s graduation party. This dish looks economical and very tasty. Could I scale it up for about 30-40 people, use only chicken thighs and legs, and make it the morning of the party? Could it be served at room temp or simply reheated in large trays? Any suggestions would be helpful. Thanks!

      1. Hi Kristen, I think this dish would be great for a party and easily scalable. I would assemble it in the morning then pop it in the oven and serve it piping hot at the party. I worry that the chicken skin might become a little soft if made too far in advance.

    5. I made these roasted chicken legs with pancetta and black olives for Sunday night dinner! I’m the cook of the house and very rarely does my reserved brother say anything at dinner but he was raving about these! Rustic, succulent, juicy, crispy, they have it all. The only thing I would do differently next time is ensuring the pancetta pieces are scattered on the pan, not resting on the chicken. A few of the pieces turned too crunchy because they weren’t cooked in any of the drippings. I also enjoyed that the chicken doesn’t need to brine or rest for long which saves you from the responsibility of having to plan dinner 12 or 24 hours in advance.

      A platter of roast chicken with pancetta and olives

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