Northern Italian Peasant Fare: Tuscan Rosemary Lemon Chicken

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This is a quintessential example of vintage Northern Italian Peasant fare. Since we have fountains of fresh rosemary flourishing in our Arizona garden and are always searching for ways to put this pungent, woody, citrusy herb to good use, I decided to showcase a Mama Carmela classic.

This luscious, lemony, herb-packed delight was my mama’s “go to” Sunday chicken dish and remains mine to this day. I can still smell the herbs permeating mama’s kitchen as the chicken, lemons, spices and herbs roasted in the oven–warming every sense of my being.

Back then it seemed as if it would be hours until we all sat down to the much-awaited feast. My siblings and I used to battle over the golden, garlicky, lemony bits at the bottom of the roasting pan…there were never enough. Served with pasta aglio olio, a side salad and crusty bread, this is one simple, flavor packed recipe that still spells H-O-M-E. True comfort food for this Italian gal…

photo source: abitofbeesknees


2 tbsp. lemon zest

1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

7 cloves garlic, crushed

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 tsp. fresh thyme leaves

1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves, finely minced, plus a few sprigs if available

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. black pepper

2-4 lbs. of bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs, breasts or drumsticks or a combination

2-3 tbsp. melted butter

Thinly sliced lemons and rosemary sprigs for garnish

Citrus from my Neighbor’s Trees


Combine lemon zest, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, thyme, rosemary, salt and pepper in a large zipper-lock plastic bag. Seal the bag and shake well to blend. Place the chicken pieces in the bag with the marinade, pressing out excess air and sealing once more. Refrigerate and let marinate for at least 2 hours preferably overnight.

Preheat oven to 425˚ F. Remove chicken pieces from marinade and transfer to a baking dish, skin-side up, reserving leftover marinade—do not crowd chicken. Brush the top of each piece of chicken with melted butter.

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Bake for 50-55 minutes (check the breasts after about 40 mins so they don’t dry out), until the skins are crispy and well-browned. Halfway through baking, pour the remaining marinade over the chicken pieces in the baking dish. Once fully baked, cover loosely with foil and let rest 10 minutes before serving. Transfer to a serving platter, garnish with lemon slices and rosemary sprigs.

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41 Comments Add yours

  1. Looks yummy!!! Very nice combination of ingredients

    1. Thank you so much! Just as you mentioned the ingredients work so well together!

  2. I loveeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee chicken! I use citrus a lot and grow it on our land. I have made lemon-rosemary potatoes in the oven that are scrumptious! Woo-Hoo nice!

    1. Oh me too, Cheryl! Adding potatoes to this dish would be a pleasant change! Thanks for the idea & thanks so much for your valued comment!

      1. My pleasure Bella-Have a great Day!

      2. 🙂 You too, Cheryl!

  3. It looks absolutely delicious 🙂

    1. Thank you so much, Tanushree!

  4. So delicious! Lemon-rosemary is always my go-to with chicken and chicken wings. The best there is! 🙂

    1. Thank you so much, Ronit! I agree! I will definitely add wings in the next batch–they are highly underrated at times 🙂

  5. Anna says:

    This is such a beautiful dish, Lana! And I know the flavor combinations would be absolutely amazing! Definitely want to make this! 😀 Bellissima!

    1. Thank you, Anna! It makes one feel just a little bit pretty while eating it too! I would love to see photos if you make this! Thanks again, Sweet Girl! ♥

  6. koolaidmoms says:

    My family loves Lemon Chicken. I bet they would love this with the rosemary! Thank you for such a great dish!

    1. Thank you, Marci! My pleasure! A friend suggested potatoes, lemons and rosemary…I think I’ll need to add some redskins during my next go. An all in one! Thanks, hon ♥

  7. mopana says:

    Lynz says you’re amazing. Now I think you really are 🙂

    1. Awww! Thank you for the warm compliment & follow, Mopana! I look forward to browsing your blog as well! Lynn’s the best!

      1. mopana says:

        Yes she is 🙂 And your blog is amazing.

      2. Thank you so much! We work so hard on our blogs, don’t we?? And it’s such a pleasure to be noticed 🙂

      3. mopana says:

        Yes, you’re right. When you feel that your work is appreciated, you work with more pleasure 🙂

  8. Yummy lemony chicken! Such fresh bright flavors on a cold night! I really enjoyed your memories of growing up with this dish… and have to admit to being a little green with envy over the thought of having herbs year round! 😉 I’ve tried to keep our rosemary going through the winter, but it really just gets too cold here in New England.

    1. Thank you, Jean! I would be happy to share! The rosemary fountains are so fragrant & I love when they pop their gorgeous purple buds. But you have New England! A dream of mine is to live there! I can only imagine the colors in fall 🙂

      1. The fall colors are stunning! I love experiencing 4 distinct seasons here… and after going through our winters, I think we appreciate even more the warm lazy days of summer! 🙂

      2. Oh, I can just imagine! 4 seasons are simply the best! And New England is magical 🙂

  9. This sounds amazing and I want to make this tomorrow with my friend lynne’s amazing bread! yummm

    1. Oh wonderful, Lynn! What type of bread? Please let me know what you think after you make it if you have the chance? We love it…reminds me of my mama every time 🙂

      1. I am sure! I can smell it Lana! A special garlic bread that sounds so yummy! lynne makes it and I just saw it!

      2. Oh yum! This is perfect!

  10. Osyth says:

    I never feel at home without rosemary growing in my garden …. and chicken is so much happier with lemon and herbs, I think 🙂

    1. I agree! It’so interesting that you mention feeling at home with rosemary nearby. Did you know it’s considered a protective herb?

      1. Osyth says:

        I did not know that – how fascinating! Thank you for that lovely nugget that makes total sense to me 🙂

      2. You’re so welcome!

  11. This is absolutely scrumptious!

    1. Thank you, Freda! Full of intense flavors just like your cooking 🙂

      1. Aww thanks dear 🙂

  12. Absolutely delicious-looking dish! My rosemary plant died with the frost but I dried the leaves. I will have to try this sometime!

    1. Thanks, Kathryn! I’ve tried this with dried, but cut back on the rosemary because I wanted to taste the chicken lol! It worked really well!

  13. Love the flavour combinations Lana…delicious 😊

    1. This is right up our Italian ally, Marisa! You’re so right–the flavors work perfectly together. Thanks so much!

  14. I love your story and that it holds memories for you. 🙂 This can only be delicious. Chicken herbs and lemons are all a match made in heaven. I make a dish quite similar, but doubt it is as good as yours. Thank you for sharing this lovely recipe Lana.

    1. Thank you, Lynne 🙂 I agree! Food comes with such wonderful memories as you know. I’m sure your dish is amazing! My pleasure!

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