Healthy oven baked chicken marinara is an easy recipe you will make again and again. The baked chicken stays tender and juicy with a coating of savory marinara sauce. Only 5 ingredients and 10 minutes to prepare!
- Easy baked chicken marinara with less than 10 minutes of hands-on time.
- How to make an easy vegetable-packed marinara sauce even picky eaters will love.
- A high-protein, low-carb recipe, fits into a healthy meal plan.
Even on days when I have more time than energy to put a meal on the table, it is tempting to call Mike and have him bring home some fast food for dinner. However, I can help overcome those, “I just don’t want to,” days with a few easy recipes made from key ingredients on hand in my pantry and freezer. This baked chicken recipe is barely even a recipe but it has saved my tired butt on many occasions. With that in mind, I want to make sure you also have this idea in your back pocket for your too-tired to cook days.
Weight Loss Tips: I prefer bone-in and skin-on for baked chicken with marinara, it keeps the meat moist and creates a bolder flavor when they combine with the marinara sauce. However, substituting boneless-skinless chicken thighs reduces the calories and shaves ⅔ of the total fat from every 4oz serving. They also cook faster. You choose the option that is best for you. The onions and the chicken trade flavor with each other while they cook. In theory, you might consider discarding the onion after cooking to remove some of the fat that will melt away from the chicken onto the onions. I don’t have numbers to back up the theory, and I like the flavor, so I keep the onions.
If you don’t have an onion just spray the bottom of the pan with a bit of non-stick spray or brush with some cooking oil.
The important part is to season the meat generously with cracked black pepper and a light sprinkle of Kosher salt.
“Why Kosher salt?” Frankly, because iodized table salt tastes like old pool water, and I don’t want that flavor in my food. But, don’t take my word for it! If you have never done a side-by-side tasting of different salts I strongly encourage you to give several a try. Just a grain or two on your tongue will be enough to get the full extent of the flavors. Let your taste buds tell you which seasoning you prefer.
“Which marinara sauce should I choose?” Use your favorite thick pasta or marinara sauce, select the best flavor not the size of the jar. I usually use about a cup for the entire pan of chicken, which is less than most jars leaving enough to make pizza later in the week. If you have seriously picky eaters to contend with, leave a piece or two plain.
There are several options for the marinara sauce in this recipe. If you have fresh tomatoes try this ridiculously easy no-fail oven roasted tomato sauce, with garlic, onions, bell peppers, celery, basil, and a touch of olive oil. Your house will smell like you have an Italian grandma in your kitchen.
How to make easy marinara sauce with hidden vegetables
Homemade marinara sauce is easy. Vegetable-packed marinara sauce still looks like a simple tomato sauce but the flavor and nutrition is boosted by adding extra secret vegetables.
To make a simple marinara sauce – Simmer a 28-oz. can of crushed tomatoes with 1-2 teaspoons minced garlic, 2-stalks of celery, diced, 1-2 grated carrots, and a chopped green bell pepper. Let the sauce cook, without boiling, until the vegetables are soft, about 20-30 minutes, then puree the marinara sauce smooth. This stovetop method is a terrific way to sneak new vegetable flavors into your picky eaters. You can make extra and freeze it to make future meals quick and easy.
When you are feeling fancy serve baked chicken marinara on a platter, but let’s be real, straight from the baking pan is fine. Invest in a few nice baking dishes then you’ll be all set to go from oven to the table and cut down on the dishes.
What is worth the effort, however, is a sprinkle of fresh herbs to offset the rich flavor of this baked chicken marinara. Choose a few leaves parsley, basil, chives, or even a bit of mint. It gives the chicken a pop of healthy color and fresh aroma that really gets mouths watering.
Serve baked chicken marinara over brown rice, whole wheat pasta, or roasted vegetables then mix in the extra sauce and sweet onions. Rice is my favorite side for a can’t-deal dinner. Simply start the rice cooker before you start the chicken and let it do its thing. Add a side of steamed vegetables, a salad (from a bag tossed in 30 seconds!), and (if you are feeling sassy) a glass of red wine. Now, sit back, take the compliments, and enjoy the product of your minimal effort.
- 1 medium onion, red or yellow, sliced into ¼ inch rings
- 1½ pounds chicken thighs or legs, bone-in, skin-on
- ¾ tsp black pepper
- ⅛ tsp Kosher salt
- 1 cup (8 oz) marinara pasta sauce
- optional: fresh herbs for garnish
- Pre-heat the oven to 375F. Cover the bottom of a 13x9 glass or ceramic baking pan with a layer of onion slices. Place the chicken over the onions and sprinkle generously with pepper followed by a few small pinches of salt. Spoon a dollop of marinara over each piece of chicken.
- Bake chicken in the preheated oven for 30-50 minutes until the thickest portions have reached an internal temperature of 165F. Remove from the oven to rest for 10 minutes before serving.
Originally published 5/8/15, updated 11/23/16