Pollo alla panna (Chicken in Cream)

Pollo alla panna-3

One of the hallmarks of Italian cooking is its utter simplicity, and few dishes exemplify this quality as well as this one. Essentially just chicken simmered in cream, the other ingredients do nothing more than provide a subtle enhancement for this heavenly marriage of flavors. Just reading the recipe, the dish might seem ordinary, but as soon as you take your first bite, you realize it’s a true masterpiece. Nothing is lacking, nothing superfluous. As Leonardo said, simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.


Serves enough for 3 or more as a second course, depending on the size of the chicken and appetites

  • One young chicken, cut into parts
  • 50g (2 oz, 1/2 stick) of butter
  • 500ml (1 pint) heavy cream
  • 1 shallot, peeled but left whole
  • Salt
  • A sprig or two of fresh parsley, finely chopped (optional)


Cut the chicken up into serving pieces, making sure that the leg is separated from the thigh, and that the breast is cut in half crosswise.

Pollo alla panna-1

Melt the butter is a braising pan large enough to contain all the chicken pieces in a single layer. Add the pieces and whole shallot, and sauté over moderate heat until the chicken is very lightly browned, salting as you go. Be careful to regulate the heat so as not to allow the butter or chicken to darken too much.

Pollo alla panna-2

Add cream, which should cover the chicken by about 2/3. Cover (leaving the lid slightly ‘ajar’ to allow for evaporation and avoid spillage) and let the chicken simmer in the cream for 30-45 minutes, or until the chicken is fully cooked through and the cream reduced to a thick, saucy consistency. The cream will probably have separated, which is perfectly fine. Taste and adjust for seasoning. You can remove the shallot, which by now will be very soft or, if you like, just mash up it into the sauce.

Pollo alla panna-4

Serve immediately. If you like, you can top the chicken with some chopped parsley, or add it to the sauce just before serving.


With its extravagant use of cream, the dish may not seem very Italian, but it is featured, among other places, in Artusi’s classic cookbook, La scienza in cucina e l’arte di mangiar bene. Artusi has a slightly different take, however; he tells you to roast a whole chicken, then cut it up and simmer it in cream to cover. The recipe given here follows more ‘normal’ modern Italian technique.

There is another dish that goes by the same name, made with boneless chicken breasts, sautéed in butter then quickly pan roasted with a bit of white wine. The breasts are removed when done and the cream added to the skillet and reduced into a sauce that is poured over the breasts. It’s a pleasant enough every day dish but, if you ask me, has none of the genius of this one.

While the pure flavors are the real appeal of this for me, you could dress the dish up with some sautéed mushrooms or peas or braised baby onions, added towards the end of the braise. Any of these would make for a fine contorno as well. Another, modern adulteration—but a nice one—would be to add a dash of curry powder or turmeric to the chicken pieces during the initial sauté.

Needless to say, with such simplicity, you need best quality ingredients, especially the chicken, which should have lots of flavor. That’s easier said than done these days, but try to find a free-range, organic chicken. If you’re using an ‘industrial’ chicken, you might just add a little bit of chicken bouillon to the cream. Heresy, I know, but desperate times and all that…

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32 Responses to “Pollo alla panna (Chicken in Cream)”

  1. 1 May 2014 at 13:08 #

    So dinner is now figured out for this eve. Grazie!

  2. Bonnie N
    8 March 2014 at 14:07 #

    Somehow I missed this first time around. I clicked in when I got your email today about problems with the browsers. I’m on Chrome. I get to the home page okay but got an Error 404 when I tried to come via the email.

    • Bonnie N
      8 March 2014 at 14:12 #

      Oops! Forgot to say that I love this recipe. I’ve been looking for a creamy chicken and noodle recipe for the past few days. This didn’t come up via Bing or Google. I’ll be putting this together today right after I go to the grocer. Will use legs and/or thighs though. I think the dark meat is so much more flavorful than the white. Thank you for the recipe.

      • 9 March 2014 at 14:30 #

        Thanks, Bonnie! Let us know how you like it! Can’t agree more about dark vs white meat, by the way.

        The issue the other day was resolved quickly, so we took down the post. Sorry for the confusion!

  3. Jacinto
    6 March 2014 at 10:23 #

    Sounds fantastic! On my way to the market to get the ingredients. My little girls will love it. Muchas Gracias! Last night I cooked your Amatriciana recipe, and it was simply fabulous. have followed your blog for years and never posted a comment to thank you for your fantastic work. have a nice day!

    • 10 March 2014 at 12:23 #

      So very kind of you to say, Jacinto. And thank you so much for your readership, it means a lot!

      Happy cooking!

  4. 3 March 2014 at 04:30 #

    I have not made anything “alla panna” in so long! It somehow reminds me of the eighties, yet it is so delicious! Time for a comeback?

  5. 23 February 2014 at 18:56 #

    I made a variation on this the day it posted, (with peas, mushrooms, broccoli, and rice)… Thank you, it was outstanding. Love reading your recipes. Look forward to trying this with our home raised chicken sometime also.

    • 23 February 2014 at 23:12 #

      That’s fantastic, Nicole! I can only imagine the taste of this made with home raised chicken… :=)

  6. 18 February 2014 at 11:30 #

    A friend of mine served me “petti di pollo con Philadelphia”, basically chicken breasts cooked in cream cheese, a while ago and I was a little taken aback. When I tasted it, it made perfect sense: delicate, creamy… really good! Come to think of it, maybe I should post it ;o) So I imagine how good this must be.

    • 20 February 2014 at 16:53 #

      Sounds nice! Do post that recipe when you have the chance, I’d like to try it!

    • Michelle
      29 May 2014 at 16:37 #

      Can ypu please post the “petti di pollo con Philadelphia”, basically chicken breasts cooked in cream cheese recipe when you get the chance? I would love to make this for my family.


      • 1 June 2014 at 14:18 #

        I’ll put it on my list, Michelle, for an upcoming post!

  7. 17 February 2014 at 17:56 #

    lo faccio spesso e compero il pane adatto per fare delle scarpette memorabili ! Buona settimana Frank

    • 20 February 2014 at 16:55 #

      Fare la scarpetta è la parte più bella!

  8. 17 February 2014 at 15:36 #

    Beautiful and simple. Oh, this just sounds like a dinner at home with my mom and dad. Thanks, Frank!

    • 20 February 2014 at 16:55 #

      You’re welcome, Adri! Thanks for stopping by.

  9. 17 February 2014 at 13:45 #

    When I want non-tomato based braised short ribs, I will braise them in cream and right before serving, throw in a handful of blue cheese. My mom always made flounder baked in milk. We knew it was from the ages but right now it’s all the rage. Goes to show…what’s old is new again. Great post.

    • 20 February 2014 at 16:56 #

      So true, Sue!

    • Michelle
      29 May 2014 at 14:46 #

      Susan M,

      Is there any chance you can post your recipe for short ribs braised in cream wwith blue cheese? I simply must try making this.

      Thank you in advance.


      • 1 June 2014 at 14:21 #

        Sounds delicious, Michelle. I’ll put on my list.

  10. 16 February 2014 at 21:21 #

    What a perfect, hearty winter dish! The use of cream in this dish makes us think of northern Italian regions.

    • 20 February 2014 at 16:56 #

      Yes indeed! Perfect winter food for colder climes.

  11. mary
    16 February 2014 at 19:20 #

    What would you serve with this? Pasta, rice, or???

    • 20 February 2014 at 16:58 #

      If you’re eating Italian-style, this would be its own course, following a pasta, rice or soup dish. The accompaniment (in Italian, “contorno”) would be a vegetable. But if you’re not eating Italian style, then you can really suit yourself. Personally, I’d go with buttered noodles.

  12. 16 February 2014 at 18:32 #

    I love simplicity in cooking and this recipe looks wonderful. I think I know what I will make for lunch today :) I am a new follower via BlogLovin and hope that you will follow my blog Notably Wonderful as well http://www.EnzieShahmiri.com/blog

    • 20 February 2014 at 16:59 #

      Thanks for stopping by, Enzie! Look forward to checking out your blog.

  13. 16 February 2014 at 18:32 #

    What a beautiful dish, Frank! If I didn’t already have Red Beans and Rice in the slow cooker I might have made it tonight. Can’t wait to try it.

    • 20 February 2014 at 17:00 #

      Thanks, Kath! If you do try it, let us know how it turns out.

  14. 16 February 2014 at 16:43 #

    This sounds divine and for sure it’ll be on this week’s dinner menu. Thanks, Frank!

    • 20 February 2014 at 17:00 #

      And thank you Martha, for stopping by. :=)

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