Italian-style roast chicken


    1 whole chicken olive oil

    maldon sea salt flakes

    ½ lemon

    1 bulbs garlic

    2-3 sprigs of rosemary

    2-3 sprigs of thyme

    1 banana shallot (or red onion)

    some olive oil

    ½ fennel bulb

    3 red peppers

    4 garlic cloves (finely chopped)

    2 tbsp capers

    150g stoned (black or green) olives (roughly chopped)

    1 glass white wine (optional)

    1 bay leaf

    1 tsp crushed dried chillies (optional)

    2 tins of chopped tomatoes

    1 handful fresh basil

    300g polenta

    2 tbsp olive oil

    100g parmesan

    1 sprig of rosemary (chopped)

    1 bunch of basil

    1 bunch parsley

    1-2 tbsp capers

    6-8 anchovies

    1-2 garlic cloves (crushed)

    200ml olive oil

    juice and zest of 2 lemons

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Main serves 6

Roast dinners can be light enough for the summer too, with this fresh recipe. You can join Louise for a BABY BITES cookery class at www.babybites.co.uk

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Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/gas mark 5.


Rub the chicken with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt and cracked black pepper. Fill the cavity with half a lemon, the whole garlic bulb sliced in half horizontally, rosemary and thyme, then put it in the oven for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until it is well browned and the juices run clear when you cut into it. Always test a chicken at its thickest point of the thigh joint.


While the chicken is cooking, prepare the ragu. Finely chop the onion and place in pan over a medium heat with some olive oil. While the onion cooks, finely chop the fennel and peppers and add them too. Then add the finely chopped garlic, capers and roughly chopped olives. Cook for a further 2-3 minutes before adding the white wine, a bay leaf, the dried chilli (if using) and, finally, the chopped tomatoes. Leave this to simmer and thicken. Roughly tear or chop the basil and stir this in just before serving.


Next, prepare the polenta. Cook according to packet instructions, but a good rule of thumb is that it should be about 5 cups of boiling water to 1 cup of polenta. Place the water in a pan and then slowly pour in the polenta while stirring continuously, until it is well combined. Allow it to simmer for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally to stop it sticking to the bottom. When it’s cooked it should be free of any hard bits. Remove from the heat and stir through 1 tbsp of the olive oil, 2/3 of the Parmesan, chopped rosemary and season with salt and pepper to taste.


Line a baking dish with baking paper and pour in the polenta. Roughly scrape a fork over the top to help it crisp up. Sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan and drizzle with the rest of the olive oil. Place under a hot grill for 10 minutes or until the top is golden.


Finally, prepare the salsa verde. Chop the basil, parsley, capers, anchovies and garlic. Beat in the olive oil gradually, along with the lemon juice and zest, until a thick sauce is created. Adjust as necessary, adding more lemon, olive oil, and garlic to taste. Alternatively, throw it all in a blender for a smoother, less rustic finish.


Serve the roast chicken with wedges of polenta, the ragu and salsa verde.

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