Parmesan Polenta with Rustica Styled Chicken

Get ready to treat your tastebuds to something truly special! This recipe brings together creamy polenta, crispy chicken thighs, a simple rustica sauce, and tender zucchini for a dish that’s full of flavor and comfort. Whether you’re cooking for a crowd or just looking to enjoy a cozy night in, this meal is sure to hit the spot. So, roll up your sleeves, gather your ingredients, and get ready to create something delicious!

Cooking the deboned chicken thighs on the stovetop will be faster than baking bone-in chicken thighs in the oven but I’ve done it both ways so it depends on what your mood is. Both methods have been provided in the recipe below. You can happily replace the zucchini with your favorite vegetable (I just happened to by 2kg of zucchini so that’s my excuse… I do love them though). The sauce is divine, you could leave it chunky (like I did) or you can blend it using a hand blender, if you prefer a smoother texture.

“Rustica chicken” typically refers to a style of cooking that is rustic or traditional, often associated with rural or countryside cooking in Italy. It typically involves simple, hearty ingredients and techniques, often featuring a combination of chicken, vegetables, herbs, and sometimes a tomato-based sauce. The term “rustica” implies a certain simplicity and authenticity, with a focus on using fresh, seasonal ingredients and traditional cooking methods to create a flavorful and satisfying dish.

If you’re only interested in making the Creamy Parmesan Polenta then follow this link – Creamy Parmesan Polenta Recipe.



Parmesan Polenta with Rustica Styled Chicken

Crispy chicken thighs served on a bed of creamy parmesan polenta that's covered in a deliciously sinmple rustica tomato and onion sauce and served with a side of tender zucchini. This dish will make you feel like you've taken a step into the countryside!
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Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Mediterranean
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Servings: 2 people
Author: The Big Tasty Bite


Chicken Thighs and Zucchini

  • Salt and pepper
  • 6 chicken thighs deboned or bone-in
  • 500 grams zucchini/baby marrow or vegetable of choice cut in to chunks

Creamy Parmesan Polenta

  • 1-2 tsp salt
  • 3 tbsp butter separated
  • 1 liter full cream milk
  • 250 ml water
  • 160 grams polenta
  • 50 grams parmesan grated
  • 60 ml heavy cream

Rustica Sauce

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion diced
  • 5 cloves garlic diced
  • 3 large rosa tomatoes diced
  • 300 ml chicken stock
  • 1-2 tsp fresh chili diced
  • 2 tsp soy sauce
  • ½ tsp sumac ground
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • ¼ cup fresh basil chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste


Parmesan Polenta

  • In a large saucepan, add 1 tbsp butter, 1 tsp salt, 4 cups milk and 1 cup water and bring to a simmer. Once simmering whisk in the polenta. Stir until the mixture starts to thicken slightly. Cover and allow to cook on a low heat for 35 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Finish off the polenta by whisking in 2 tbsp butter, heavy cream, grated parmesan and mix well. Salt to taste. Keep covered until you're ready to serve.

Rustica Sauce

  • In a large saucepan, add in the onion, garlic and olive oil. Sauté until light brown in color. Add in the chopped tomatoes, chicken stock, chili, sumac, soy sauce and stir well. Allow to simmer for approx. 10 minutes or until the liquid has reduced by half.

Chicken Thighs & Zucchini

  • Stove top: Generously season the chicken thighs with salt and pepper. Bring a medium saucepan to a medium-high heat. Place the boneless seasoned chicken thighs in the pan with the skin side down. Sear for 5 minutes, once golden brown in color flip and sear for another 3 minutes. Set aside. *Do not dispose of the chicken fat in the pan.
  • In the same pan, add in the zucchini and sear on a medium high heat until fork tender and slightly charred. Season with salt and set aside.
  • Oven: Preheat the oven to 210 degrees celsius. Season the chicken thighs with salt and pepper. Place the chicken thighs in a large oven proof dish and bake for 30minutes. Add the zucchini to the chicken and us the oil from the chicken skin to coat the zucchini. Bake for another 15 minutes or until fork tender.



  1. If you'd like to loosen the polenta then just a dash of warm milk or water and stir.
  2. You could use boneless chicken thighs or bone-in, both cooking methods have been listed.
  3. Swop out the zucchini for cubed butternut, pattypan, cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage etc. Just be sure to adjust the cooking time to ensure the vegetable of choice isn't overcooked.
  4. If you prefer a smoother sauce, you can easily use a hand blender.

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