Lemon Chicken (a.k.a Chicken Cutlets Italienne)

oh how i love lemon chicken. that is the name that my family has known this recipe by although the technical name written on the card is “chicken cutlets italienne”. this is a dish that is close to my heart. it is something my mom used to make when we had company coming over but also something for a casual summer evening demanding a lighter kind of pasta dish. it utilizes seasonal produce such as zucchini, tomatoes and basil and also the freshness of lemon, as our name for it implies, to really liven and lighten up this dish. it may be served with or without angel hair pasta but i remember always having it with pasta so that’s how i will proceed with the recipe below.  this recipe has been passed to me from my mom who got it from my aunt judy. aunt judy is a wonderful cook and was a caterer for a good chunk of time so has a lot of tricks and yummy recipes up her sleeve (i’m sure we will get to more of them- such as sweet dough for coffee cake! yum!). i have kept the recipe the same for the most part; i won’t mess too much with a good thing lol. i hope you try this one- it is something that i crave and i’m sure you will to!

lemon chicken with grilled ciabatta

lemon chicken with grilled ciabatta

lemon chicken with angel hair pasta


  • 3/4 lb chicken breast
  • 2 medium zucchini
  • 2 medium plum tomatoes
  • 1 medium onion (yellow or sweet)
  • 1 medium lemon
  • 2 tbsp unbleached, all-purpose flour
  • kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • olive oil
  • 2 cubes instant chicken bullion dissolved in 1/2 cup warm water
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil (or 1/2 tsp dried)
  • 1/4 cup iodized salt + 1/4 cup granulated sugar if brining your chicken (which i like to do)
  • 1/2 lb angel hair (capellini) pasta
  • salt for seasoning pasta water


  • slice chicken breasts into cutlets by cutting crosswise in half
start by slicing into the side and fold open as you cut deeper into the chicken and finish slicing open on cutting board

start by slicing into the side and fold open as you cut deeper into the chicken and finish slicing open on cutting board

  • optional (but recommended): brine the chicken. in a large bowl dissolve 1/4 cup salt and 1/4 cup granulated sugar in at least 6 cups of cold water. submerge chicken cutlets in the solution and refrigerate while you prepare the other ingredients for cooking (approx. 10 to 15 minutes but no more than 20). brining tenderizes, seasons and helps to keep meat moist. it is well suited for poultry and pork chops (especially boneless cuts) which tend to dry out when cooking. i try to make it a habit to brine these meats, time permitting.
  • cut zucchini into bite-sized chunks, dice tomatoes and dice onions
  • zest and juice the lemon (you will need at least 2 tsp of juice- i use as much as 1 lemon will yield- the more lemony the better!)
  • in a shallow bowl, mix flour, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper and oregano
  • in a large skillet, heat 2 tbsp olive oil over medium-high heat
  • remove chicken from the brine and rinse with cold water. pat dry with paper towels
  • dredge the cutlets in the flour mixture one at a time
dredge chicken

dredge chicken

  • cook chicken, half at a time, until browned on both sides. remove cutlets and keep warm while preparing the other half of the chicken: do this by covering a plate with foil or placing in a  200 degree F oven
don't overcook the chicken! it will only need about 5 minutes (or less) per side depending on the size of your pieces

don’t overcook the chicken! it will only need about 5 minutes (or less) per side depending on the size of your pieces

  • add one more tbsp oil to the pan drippings over medium-high heat and cook onion until golden (about 5 minutes) stirring occasionally
  • get your pasta water going at this point: you want to LIBERALLY salt your cooking water for dried pasta. this is your only chance to season it and it really makes a big difference! add at least 2 heaping tbsp of salt to your pasta water. once the water is boiling, add your angel hair pasta and cook 3-4 minutes, stirring very frequently. if you neglect to stir your pasta while it cooks, strands will clump together and cooking will be uneven.
  • add zucchini and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender-crisp. season with a sprinkle of kosher salt
zucchini and onion cooking in pan drippings

zucchini and onion cooking in pan drippings

  • stir in tomatoes, lemon juice, lemon zest and chicken bullion/water
  • over high heat, heat to boiling
  • boil for 1 minute, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan to loosen browned bits
  • chiffonade the basil
  • remove pan from heat and add the 1 tbsp of butter, stirring to dissolve
  • stir in the basil and taste sauce for seasoning. adjust with salt and pepper as necessary
  • mix in your cooked angel hair (if using) until thoroughly coated and mixed with the sauce. it is worth noting that if you plan to have leftovers, you may want to put aside some of the pasta and sauce separately as angel hair tends to rapidly absorb sauce and you will be left with a dry bowl of leftovers if you store them all together
pasta with sauce

pasta with sauce

  • you may choose to serve this with the chicken sliced on the bias and placed ontop the pasta or with the cutlets whole. you may also prepare this dish with chicken tenderloins or chunks of chicken breast instead of whole cutlets, if desired.

i like to serve my pasta dishes with bread and there is nothing quite like a good piece of grilled baguette or ciabatta (two of my most favorite breads!)

grilled ciabatta or baguette


  • cut desired number of pieces from your loaf (cut on a bias to maximize surface area)
  • drizzle slices with olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt
  • heat a grill or grill pan on high until just smoking
  • grill bread, oil side down for approximately 2 minutes, checking for grill marks.
  • drizzle the other side of the bread with oil and season with salt while the first side is face-down cooking
  • flip and cook another two minutes. don’t be afraid of a little bit of char, just don’t overdo it
  • remove from heat.
  • if desired, rub bread with a clove of peeled garlic. the warmth of the bread with allow the garlic to lightly season it
grilled ciabatta

grilled ciabatta

feel free to double this recipe when you make it: i normally do!  🙂


One response to “Lemon Chicken (a.k.a Chicken Cutlets Italienne)

  1. Pingback: Spicy Chicken Ranch Panini on Ciabatta | therapy bread·

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