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Chicken Marsala is a classic Italian dish that’s easy to fall in love with, and surprisingly easy to make. It’s savory, sweet and rich, with a bit of spice. But there are a few things to keep in mind when deciding what to serve in addition to your chicken marsala so that it is fully enjoyed by everyone.
Here are some tips on what kinds of side dishes go best with this classic meal.
Chicken Marsala is not Just Chicken and Marsala
It’s a deliciously elegant Italian entrée that combines tender chicken breasts with mushrooms and sweet wine (marsala) to create a unique and distinctive flavor.
It is not a delicate dish like chicken piccata where heavy sides would detract from the main dish. Instead, we’ve got a chicken recipe in a heavier sauce based on mushrooms and marsala that go well with simple side dishes, with an occasional exception as long as everything is in balance.
Chicken Marsala Goes Best with Simple Sides
Chicken Marsala is a bold dish that doesn’t need too many sides to stand out. It’s best with simple, complementary sides and veggies like roasted potatoes or braised greens. If you’re serving pasta, it should also be on the side as opposed to being cooked in the sauce.
If using pasta, don’t use thick pasta shapes or noodles such as penne, rigatoni, or fettuccini. I prefer spaghetti which can be used as a bed to the chicken and marsala sauce. This of course is optional, and you don’t need to use a lot of spaghetti by any means. Never serve the pasta with a tomato sauce, trust me the tomato sauce mixed with the marsala should they overlap won’t taste good!
Sides should balance but not overpower the flavor of chicken marsala. The side dishes should have enough flavor to stand on their own, but not overpower the main dish.
A good example of this would be a salad that’s too acidic for chicken marsala; it would put all the focus on the greens, rather than letting you enjoy both dishes together. Use a simple olive oil and vinegar dressing. Avoid anything with too many herbs. Even a fig infused balsamic vinegar would work well, as long as it isn’t overdone.
Chicken marsala is typically not a summer recipe, so avoid serving side dishes that are overtly ‘summery’, such as bruchetta or caprese salads. Instead, go with warmer sides that won’t overpower the flavor of the marsala.
Serve Vegetables That Won’t Get Lost Beside the Chicken
To complement the rich, savory flavors of chicken marsala, you’ll want to serve vegetables that are a good match such as brussels sprouts, broccoli or potatoes would be a great choice. These vegetables also pair well with Marsala wine because they’re hearty and have enough flavor to stand up against it while still not overshadowing the distinct flavors.
Keep in mind, it’s not so much the side dish main ingredient but the herbs and spices used to add flavor. Since this dish is Italian cuisine, it’s important to use Italian themed herbs, not other cuisines like Thai, Chinese, etc. That may seem obvious but mixing cuisines too much can honestly take away from the flavor and enjoyment of the main dish.
Here’s a list of vegetables that would serve well with Chicken Marsala:
- Asparagus and Balsamic Vinaigrette
- Mashed potatoes with Garlic
- Roasted potatoes
- Stuffed mushrooms
- Sauteed zucchini with garlic
Types of Bread that Pair Well with Marsala Dishes
An Italian chicken dish without bread? No way! The good news is you don’t have to be very particular when choosing what kind of bread you should use with this chicken recipe. I would recommend a soft artisan bread that can easily absorb the sauce, making it great for dipping!
French or Italian would work just fine. Avoid any breads such as focaccia that have distinctive flavors that might be too strong and clash with the mushrooms or marsala.
In terms of crusty breads or not, that’s up to you, just make sure the inside is soft and there’s no need to toast the bread unless you like it that way.
Serve with butter.
Wine That Goes Well with Chicken Marsala
Wine is a must when serving Chicken Marsala, but it’s important to choose the right wine. In general, you want a dry wine with a light body and low alcohol content. White wines with too much tannin or spice will clash with the flavors of your chicken marsala sauce.
Common wines used are Pinot Grigio or Pinot Noir, which are both soft and fruity wines. I’m a firm believer that it’s important to use a wine that you enjoy, regardless of what the experts say. Use what works for you and what fits within your budget.
Chicken Marsala is an easy-to-make meal that will please any palate. The key to making this dish great is serving it with the right sides. I hope these tips above will help you create a delicious and satisfying meal. Let me know in the comments what side dishes you choose!
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