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.


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    1. This was a fabulous dish which could easily work for weeknight dinners yet elevated enough to serve guests. In all, the prep time took about 15 minutes with the majority of time spent peeling garlic. I used chicken thighs and bacon rather than pancetta because I had it on hand. After adding the olives, I reduced the cooking time to about 10 minutes as the thighs appeared to be cooked at that point.

      We couldn’t resist the flavor combinations of the briny olives, roasted garlic and the wonderful smokiness of the bacon. The skin crisped up beautifully which made it worth breaking my self-imposed diet rules about not eating the chicken skin (some rules are meant to be broken).

      I served this with a simple butter lettuce salad with blood orange segments, thinly sliced fennel and onions drizzled with an orange vinegar, grapeseed oil dressing, herb-y roasted new potatoes and asparagus and chunks of thick bread to mop up those pan juices. This is a superb recipe which I will be making again and again.

      1. CherieDe, I love all of what you wrote. Love it. And yes, for the love of all things good and decent, chicken skin was intended to be savored, not relegated to the trash! When crisp, it is a beautiful, beautiful thing. Thank you so much for taking the time to let us know.

        1. quick question — Do you think using a roasting pan would change the end result of the chicken as far as crispy skin and color? I made this chicken again last night for 8 people and, although I cleaned the chicken and removed fat, there were a lot of pan juices. It was difficult to remove the baking sheet from my oven worrying about spilling and burning myself. Also, I’m considering using split fresh Cornish game hens for a more elaborate dinner party presentation – are there any adjustments I should consider or would game hens become too dry?

          1. CherieDe, a roasting pan would absolutely work. As for Cornish game hens, like you, I love the rather elegant appearance. However, I have to confess, I have made them at countless different oven temperatures and I have never been able to get them to be as moist as chicken. Of course, you have lovely pan juices with this recipe that you can spoon over the chicken, so perhaps any marginal dryness won’t be of concern…

    2. Tasty and easy. I love cooking things that I can freeze into individual portions so that I can simply heat them up after work. Unfortunately, I couldn’t use garlic tonight due to client meetings tomorrow. Next time! Would love to make this for a friend, but he’s a rosemary AND thyme hater. Grrrrrr. Any suggestions for other herbs?

      1. JT, your clients will appreciate it! As for other herbs, the rosemary and thyme are classics, but what would you think of tarragon? The sorta anise-y, licorice-y thing going on may work wight the olives…? I worry sage may be a little too overwhelming…

        1. Agreed on the sage. Tarragon might do it. And yes, believe me, I was in a conference room in meetings from 11 am to 6 pm. I would have blown those clients away with garlic. Why does it always have to stay with us a 2nd day? LOL.

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

    4. 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!

      1. 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…

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