The Olive Garden Chicken Margherita is an easy chicken recipe to make and it’s perfect for a weeknight dinner. Tender chicken breasts topped with mozzarella and pesto with a buttery lemon garlic sauce and tomatoes is truly an incredible Italian dish.
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About Olive Garden Italian Kitchen Restaurant
People love the Olive Garden with its home-style Italian food. In fact, the majority of Americans will tell you they love to “mangia italiano” — or eat Italian. I wonder about the minority – they just don’t know what they’re missing!
Once you’ve eaten at the Olive Garden, you will always crave the restaurant’s freshly made pasta sauces and its famous breadsticks.
Fun Fact: Someone has estimated that Olive Garden serves about 700 million breadsticks per year. Their signature starters are baked in hundreds of batches each day and delivered fresh to every Olive Garden restaurant; the breadsticks, like the chain’s soups and sauces, are never frozen.
Did you know that you can make Olive Garden’s famous breadsticks at home? Get the Olive Garden breadsticks recipe.
Olive Garden Chicken Menu
The Olive Garden caters to everyone’s love of chicken by serving up several delicious chicken dishes. Olive Garden’s Chicken Margherita combines grilled chicken breasts with a delightful medley of mozzarella cheese, fresh tomatoes, basil pesto, and a lemon garlic butter sauce. It’s served with Parmesan garlic broccoli.
This dish is so enjoyable because it combines many bright and vibrant flavors. Complete your meal with a side serving of pasta.
Why do they call it Margherita? Here’s the Story
Legend has it that in 1889, Queen Margherita, while staying in Naples, grew tired of the French gourmet food that was the standard cuisine served to European royalty at the time. The queen summoned the famous pizza-maker, Raffaele Esposito, and instructed him to bake her three pizzas with different toppings.
She wasn’t keen on the one with garlic (pizza marinara) or the one with anchovies (pizza Napoli). However, she absolutely loved the pizza with tomato sauce, mozzarella, and a sprig of basil.
Esposito immediately named his invention after the queen – and the now-famous Margherita pizza was born. This dish has the components of the pizza combined with chicken for a flavorful entree.
What Makes This Recipe So Unique
The grilled Chicken Margherita Olive Garden serves is based on the classic pizza recipe of the same name. You may think this dish is just a lighter version of Chicken Parmesan, but it has a flavor all its own.
What Makes This the Recipe for Chicken Breast You Must Try
It is the freshness of this dish that really stands out. The combination of bright flavors from the ripe, juicy grape tomatoes, Italian dressing, lemon juice, and basil pesto sauce plays off the richness of the mozzarella wonderfully.
The taste is a little complicated but bringing the dish to the table is not. With a total cooking time of only 30 minutes, this is a perfect weeknight recipe to add to your rotation.
Ingredients You Will Need for Grilled Chicken With Mozzarella
To make Chicken Margherita, you’ll need:
- Chicken breasts
- Italian salad dressing
- Olive oil
- Pesto – store-bought or homemade
- Garlic, minced
- Lemon juice
- Fresh Grape tomatoes
For homemade pesto you’ll need:
- Fresh basil leaves
- Garlic cloves
- Pine nuts
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Grated parmesan cheese
- Grated romano cheese
Use skinless and boneless chicken breasts for this recipe.
Sliced mozzarella cheese works fine in this dish, but using fresh mozzarella will give you better flavor.
Grape tomatoes are preferable for their sweet and tangy flavor, but you can use any ripe tomato you have on hand.
How To Make Chicken Margherita
To cook Olive Garden grilled chicken with tomatoes and cheese:
- Gently pound the chicken until it is an even thickness. A good way to do this without making a mess is by putting one chicken breast at a time inside a sealing bag and using the flat side of a meat tenderizer to pound it.
- After flattening all the chicken, return the breasts to the bag and add the Italian dressing. Seal the bag and give it a good shake to coat the chicken. Marinate for about thirty minutes and then remove the chicken and pat dry. You can do the first two steps up to the day before and keep the marinated chicken covered with plastic in the fridge.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Place a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Before adding the olive oil, wait a few minutes for the skillet to get hot.
- Pat the flattened chicken breasts dry with a paper towel and saute them until lightly brown, about 7 to 8 minutes per side. Transfer the chicken to a baking dish and put it in the oven.
- While the chicken is cooking, melt the butter over low heat in a small pan. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds before turning off the heat. Stir in the lemon juice.
- When the chicken is cooked, put it in the skillet with the lemon garlic butter sauce. Cover the chicken with one or two slices of mozzarella cheese, and add the tomatoes to the pan.
- Return the chicken to the oven until the cheese melts and colors slightly.
- While the chicken is cooking, thinly slice the basil.
- Remove the chicken from the oven and cover it with pesto.
- Garnish the grilled chicken with sliced basil and serve.
How to Make Basil Pesto
It’s easy to make pesto in a food processor. Here are the steps:
- Place basil, garlic, pine nuts, olive oil, salt, parmesan, and romano cheese in the food processor bowl.
- Process until you have a smooth pesto. It should only take about a minute.
What to Serve with Chicken Margherita
How To Store Leftover Grilled Chicken Margherita
To store the leftovers, remove the garnish from the extra grilled chicken and wrap it in plastic. You can keep the chicken breasts in the fridge for up to three days.
Since basil will blacken over time, it is best to throw it out, but you can refrigerate the cut tomatoes separately in an airtight container.
How to Reheat Grilled Chicken With Mozzarella
The best way to reheat Olive Garden grilled chicken is in the oven.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Place the chicken on a baking tray and sprinkle water around the edges of the baking tray. The water will turn to steam and help keep the chicken from getting dry.
- Cover the tray with aluminum foil and bake for about 10 minutes, or until hot.
- Garnish with reserved or fresh tomatoes and freshly sliced basil.
More Olive Garden Chicken Dishes
As well as this wonderful Chicken Margherita, the recipe for which is given below, you can also make the following Olive Garden chicken dishes at home.
I don’t want you ever to run out of Olive Garden chicken recipes that will delight your family.
- Chicken Alfredo Dip
- Chicken Alfredo Flatbread
- Chicken and Shrimp Carbonara
- Chicken Gnocchi Soup
- Chicken Scampi
- Creamy Chicken Alfredo
- Crispy Chicken Fritta
- Chicken Marsala
- Venetian Apricot Chicken
Favorite Italian Recipes with Chicken
Copycat Olive Garden Chicken Margherita
- 2 pounds chicken breasts 4 portions
- 1 cup Italian salad dressing or your favorite marinade
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- ½ cup basil pesto
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic
- 6 tablespoons butter
- 1½ tablespoons lemon juice
- ½ pound sliced mozzarella 1 slice for each piece of chicken
- 1 cup grape tomatoes
- ¼ cup fresh basil leaves sliced thin
- 1 cup fresh basil leaves
- 3 cloves garlic
- 2 tablespoons pine nuts
- ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
- ¼ cup grated romano cheese
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Pound chicken out between two sheets of plastic wrap. This will even out the thickness of the chicken, and it will make the chicken cook more evenly.
- Place the chicken breasts into a gallon-sized ziptop bag. Add Italian dressing marinade, and allow the chicken to marinate for at least 30 minutes before cooking.
- Wash the grape tomatoes and set them aside.
- Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat.
- Add the chicken and cook for 7 to 8 minutes on each side, or until the chicken is almost done (it will continue to cook in the oven), remove the chicken from the skillet and place it on a plate or baking dish.
- Add butter, minced garlic, and lemon juice to the skillet. Cook until the butter has melted.
- Add the chicken back to the skillet with the lemon butter sauce.
- Place a slice of mozzarella on top of the chicken.
- Add the tomatoes to the skillet.
- Place the chicken in the oven, and bake until the cheese begins to melt and brown. This should take 7 to 10 minutes.
- Add a tablespoon or two of pesto on top of the mozzarella cheese.
- Serve garnished with fresh basil if desired.
- Place all pesto ingredients in a food processor.
- Process until the mixture is smooth.