Lightened Up Copycat Carmela's Chicken

Chicken, mushrooms, and delicious caramelized onions cooked up in a wine and cream sauce and served over rigatoni. A lightened up version of the Macaroni Grill favorite.

Course Dinner
Total Time 1 hour 35 minutes
Servings 6
Calories 446 kcal
Author Tracy


Caramelized Onions

  • 2 large onions sliced into 3/4-inch half moons
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon sugar


  • 1 pound (about 2 small) boneless skinless chicken breasts pounded thin
  • Salt and pepper

Pasta and Sauce

  • 12 ounces rigatoni pasta
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 8 ounces mushrooms
  • 1 teaspoon basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/3 cup sherry or Marsala* plus more for deglazing
  • 1 1/2 cups half and half*
  • 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese plus more for topping
  • Parsley optional, roughly chopped for garnish


Caramelize Onions

  1. In a large, heavy-bottom pan, heat butter and oil. Add onions, stirring to coat in the oil and spread evenly over the pan. Cook, stirring every few minutes for 10 minutes.
  2. Sprinkle sugar over the top.
  3. Continue to cook, stirring and scraping every few minutes for 20 to 40 minutes, until onions are a deep amber color. Set aside.

Cook Your Chicken and Pasta

  1. In a medium pot, lightly salt and start your water for noodles. When water begins to boil, add pasta. Cook according to directions on the box, drain and set aside.

  2. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Spray pan with cooking spray and add chicken. Cook through, 5-8 minutes per side, until an instant-read thermometer reads at least 160°F.
  3. Transfer chicken to a cutting board. Deglaze the pan with a little of your wine and and pour back over the chicken. Tent with foil to keep warm and set aside.

Make the Sauce

  1. In the same pan, melt butter and add mushrooms. Cook mushrooms until they are just shy of your preferred level of doneness. (For me, about 5 minutes.)
  2. Add basil, caramelized onions, salt and pepper and cook for one minute.
  3. Add the wine and cook for another minute.
  4. Add the half and half and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Simmer for 2-3 minutes until slightly reduced and thickened.
  5. While sauce is simmering, cut your chicken into strips or cubes, whatever you prefer.
  6. Add Parmesan cheese and chicken to the sauce and stir. Stir in noodles and heat until warmed through.
  7. Garnish with parsley, serve, and enjoy.

Recipe Notes

*Marsala is what the restaurant version uses, but I like sherry equally well and is what I'm more likely to have on hand.

*You can substitute 1 cup milk and 1/2 cup heavy cream for half and half.