Lemony Sicilian Roast Chicken

January 8, 2010

This sunny isle bursts with lemons. They roll around the streets with abandon, and nobody even bothers to pick them up (except me, that is—I perfume my house with big bowlfuls of  ’em).

So it’s no surprise that Sicilian kitchens are redolent of lemon. Islanders are either marinating fish in lemon, squeezing a big fat lemon over a salad or just-roasted pork, or whipping up a batch of  lemon gelo or granita.

I’ve slightly adapted this recipe for lemon chicken from Giovanna Bellia La Marca’s Sicilian Feasts (Felice’s Lemon Chicken), full of great old Sicilian recipes. This one’s easy, but you have to think ahead for the salt-water soaking and the marinade.


1 chicken, cut into pieces (free-range/organic is best)

1/8 cup coarse salt

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/8 cup lemon juice

1 tsp dried oregano

2 cloves garlic, crushed and skin removed

salt and pepper to taste

1 lemon, thinly sliced



1. Pre-soak the chicken in water to cover and the coarse salt for 30 minutes. Rinse well, dry with paper towels, and set aside.

2. Meanwhile, make the marinade: place the olive oil, lemon juice, oregano, garlic, salt and pepper in a jar or bowl with a tight-fitting lid. Shake vigorously to blend.

3. Place a layer of the chicken pieces in a glass bowl, spoon the marinade on top, and continue until all the chicken is used up. Pour leftover marinade on top, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

Sicilian Lemon Chicken, copyright Jann Huizenga

4. Preheat the oven to 375 Fahrenheit. Remove the chicken from the marinade, place it on a rack in a roasting pan, and bake for 1 and 1/4 hours or until browned. Brush the chicken with the marinade as it bakes.

5. Now this is where I simplify. Giovanna adds the remaining marinade to the pan juices after the chicken is done. Then she puts the pan on two burners, adds the lemon slices, and simmers for 3 minutes, finishing the sauce off by adding a cup of water, stirring, bringing it back to the boil, and pouring it over the chicken. I, being a Lazy Bum (un barbone pigra), use up all the marinade as the chicken bakes, and then just pour whatever sauce has accumulated in the pan directly over the chicken. (I have also been known to not bother using a rack at all, and to just bake the chicken pieces directly in a glass or a roasting pan.)

6. Serve hot or at room temp, garnished with lemon slices.

Sicilian Lemon Chicken, copyright Jann Huizenga

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12 comments to Lemony Sicilian Roast Chicken

  • Ria

    Hi Jann,

    Just recently I have subscribed to your blog. I love it.

    Over the weekend I tried your lemony chicken and it was delicious and fresh-
    Since I roasted many pieces of chicken we used the leftovers with a green salad
    next day. The chicken was perfect even cold. Thank you so much for this great recipe and so easy to prepare. Please write some more.

  • sandee koeze wheeler

    Yummy recipe, Jann! I am catching up on some of your December posts!! Your pictures and posts sure makes me feel like I am there!!! Loved the car ride through town!!! Had to watch it a couple of times to look at the houses carefully!!! Your article published in the book was wonderful!! Was that the period of time when Noel and Herm visited??

    • Jann

      Sandee, you’re so sweet to go thru those old posts! Yes, that story was during the period when Noel visited me in Rome.

  • This looks yummy! I’ll have to give it a try this weekend next weekend…
    And simplifying/skipping steps does not a lazy bum make. It means you’re more efficient!

  • Nina

    Just like my Mom used to make it – I am so happy to find this recipe!!

  • catherine Billups

    sounds delicious.

  • Oh, I just have to try this recipe! Thank you, Jann! Now I don’t have to ask the significant other, “What do you want for dinner?” 🙂 Look at the gorgeous skin on your chicken! Yum!

  • May

    Sounds very tasty, Jann! And I love your photos, too.
    I’m going to try this recipe soon–thanks!

    Happy 2011,

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