This is the absolute easiest way to cook flavorful chicken—it simply poaches right in the marinara sauce. This Chicken in Tomato Sauce is perfect with pasta or with a side of Italian bread and is a great easy family meal.

Chicken in tomato sauce in pan with cheese on top.

Chicken in Tomato Sauce

Simmering chicken in marinara or tomato sauce is my favorite way to cook it because there are less worries about whether it’s done and it stays super tender. This was the first way I learned how to cook chicken when I was first living on my own and all these years later, it remains a favorite.

This is an easy way to make chicken for kids since you pop it into the pan and it’s hands-off from there. And it’s super tender, so it’s easy for babies and toddlers to chew.

Plus, it’s just really good.

We usually have this chicken recipe with pasta, as shown here, but you could also serve it with bread, another grain, or a Caesar Salad.

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Ingredients You Need

Here’s a look at the ingredients you need to make this recipe so you know what to have on hand to get cooking.

ingredients for chicken in tomato sauce on countertop.
  • Marinara sauce: I prefer to use marinara sauce here due to its wonderful flavor. You can use store-bought or you can use homemade marinara sauce if you prefer. If you want a more affordable option, tomato sauce can work, too.
  • Skinless chicken breast (or tenders): For ease, I use skinless chicken breast or tenders. Feel free to use another type as you like.
  • Unsalted butter: This adds a little richness to the end of cooking. If you need to make this dairy-free, just leave it out.
  • Parmesan cheese: We like to top this recipe with grated Parmesan cheese for extra flavor.
  • Pasta (optional): You can stir in cooked pasta at the end of cooking the chicken to turn this into a complete meal. See the Notes at the end of the recipe for more easy ideas on how to serve this chicken.

Step-by-Step Instructions

Here’s an overview of making this family dinner. Scroll down to the end of the post for the full recipe with the amounts and cooking times.

how to make chicken in tomato sauce in grid of 4 images.
  1. Add the marinara sauce to a skillet. Bring to a simmer. Add the chicken pieces into the sauce. I cut them right into the pan with kitchen scissors, no need to dirty a cutting board.
  2. Cover, reduce the heat, and simmer to cook. Turn over the chicken halfway through.
  3. Meanwhile, prepare the pasta if using. Drain. Stir the butter, Parmesan cheese, and pasta (if using) into the chicken mixture.
  4. Serve warm with additional Parmesan cheese, if desired.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you cook chicken in sauce?

Yes, it’s easy to simmer or poach chicken in sauce to cook it through. We love to do it in marinara sauce since it’s so flavorful.

How long do you simmer raw chicken in sauce?

If the chicken is diced into bite-size pieces, it takes about 10 minutes. It may take longer if the pieces of chicken are larger.

What can I add to tomato sauce to make it richer?

You can add butter, cream, ricotta cheese, mascarpone, or goat cheese to enhance the flavor and richness of tomato sauce.

Chicken in tomato sauce in pan with tongs.

How to Store

Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. Heat through to serve, sprinkling with a little water to add the right amount of moisture.

Best Tips for Success

  • I prefer to use marinara sauce for the poaching liquid as it’s more flavorful than tomato sauce, but either would work. Store bought or homemade marinara both work here.
  • If you use tomato sauce, you may want to add some Italian seasoning.
  • Use another type of boneless chicken cut if you prefer.
  • Trade in shrimp for the chicken and reduce the cooking time to 6-8 minutes total.
  • Serve with pasta or serve with another grain or Italian bread.

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I’d love to hear your feedback on this post, so please rate and comment below!

Chicken in tomato sauce in pan with cheese on top.

Easy Chicken in Tomato Sauce (with Pasta)

This is the absolute easiest way to cook flavorful chicken—it simply poaches right in the marinara sauce. This Chicken in Tomato Sauce is perfect with pasta or with a side of Italian bread and is a great easy family meal.
5 from 11 votes
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Cuisine American
Course Dinner
Calories 325kcal
Servings 8

Ingredients

  • 28 ounces marinara sauce
  • 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breast (or tenders)
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese (plus more for serving)
  • 1 pound pasta (optional)

Instructions

  • Add the marinara sauce to a wide skillet over medium heat. Bring to a simmer.
  • Add the chicken, cutting into bite-size pieces with a pair of kitchen scissors as you drop into the sauce.
  • Cover, reduce the heat to low-medium so the sauce is at a low simmer, and cook for 5 minutes. Remove cover, flip the chicken over, and cook for an additional 5-8 minutes, or until the chicken is fully cooked. (It should register 160 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer.)
  • Meanwhile, prepare the pasta if using. Drain.
  • Stir the butter and Parmesan cheese into the chicken mixture. Season to taste with salt.
  • Serve the chicken in tomato sauce over the pasta. Top with additional Parmesan cheese, if desired.

Notes

  • Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. Heat through to serve.
  • I prefer to use marinara sauce for the poaching liquid as it’s more flavorful than tomato sauce, but either would work.
  • If you use tomato sauce, you may want to add some Italian seasoning.
  • Use another type of boneless chicken cut if you prefer.
  • Trade in shrimp for the chicken and reduce the cooking time to 6-8 minutes total.
  • Serve with pasta or serve with another grain or Italian bread.

Nutrition

Calories: 325kcal, Carbohydrates: 48g, Protein: 22g, Fat: 5g, Saturated Fat: 2g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 1g, Trans Fat: 0.1g, Cholesterol: 43mg, Sodium: 594mg, Potassium: 637mg, Fiber: 3g, Sugar: 5g, Vitamin A: 517IU, Vitamin C: 8mg, Calcium: 57mg, Iron: 2mg
Tried this recipe?Rate in the comments and tag @yummytoddlerfood on IG!

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Comments

  1. 5 stars
    This was so good and so easy to make. Our one year old ate so much chicken and pasta – I was amazed. Can’t wait to make this a staple!

  2. 5 stars
    Our family really enjoyed this. Instead of pasta, we scooped the sauce into roasted spaghetti squash halves, topped with a little mozz and then broiled for a few minutes. Toddler enjoyed the chicken (& nothing else, of course!). Thank you for an easy and delicious recipe!

  3. 5 stars
    I’m very excited for this recipe! I have a kiddo who doesn’t like ground beef, and I haven’t found many easy pasta recipes with chicken. I just bought ingredients to make it…I will report back!

    1. 5 stars
      It was delicious! I sauteed 4 garlic cloves in olive oil before adding the marinara, but otherwise followed the recipe as written . Both our toddlers loved it, and it was the right amount for dinner for 4 people, then two lunch portions the next day. I will definitely make again!