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. 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.

    2. 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.

      1. 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…

    3. 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.

      1. 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. 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 ?


      1. 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.

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