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Chicken in a Rich Tomato Sauce with Spaghetti

Sometimes you just need a hearty and comforting pasta dish, especially in the heart of winter, like my mum's (known in Greek as) Kota Kokkinisti Me Makaronia (Chicken in a Tomato Sauce with Spaghetti). This recipe does the trick by delivering heartiness, with its simple yet rich tomato sauce and juicy tender chicken for added protein.

A Little History

Before we begin, there is a little story that also goes with this recipe. Every time my mum cooked Kota Kokkinisti Me Makaronia, it would remind me of my grandparents in Greece. Once every 7-8 years (we didn't have the finances to travel overseas much), we would arrive on their doorstep in Greece, and my grandparents would embrace us with open arms, tears in their eyes, and a huge smile that stretched from ear to ear. My grandfather would sit us down and feed us this meal immediately 'Makaronia Me Kota Kokkinisti', also known as a huge hug on a plate. It was their way of showing their love and welcoming us "home".

So this recipe has a lot of heart and soul in it. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do and it brings you the warmth and comfort that my grandparent's hugs brought to me.

Before my grandfather passed away, my brother visited them and he took this photo. As you can see they are eating my grandfather's favourite meal - Makaronada!

What is Chicken in a Rich Tomato Sauce aka 'Kota Kokkinisti'

Any meal referred to as 'Kokkinisto' is in reference to the method of cooking in a tomato sauce. 'Kokkino' means red and 'kokkinisto' means reddened.

In Greek cuisine, often vegetables (eg. green beans and carrots) or protein (eg. chicken or beef), or a combination of the two, are often cooked in a tomato sauce, but chicken is a personal favourite.

And this type of meal (kokkinisto) is often served alongside pasta, potatoes, rice or bread to help soak up the rich and tasty sauce. In this recipe, I have served it alongside spaghetti.

Watch How To Make It

How Do You Make Kota Kokkinisti
  1. The first step is to brown the chicken in olive oil. Then add the garlic and onion and lightly fry.

  2. Once the chicken is golden, add all the remaining ingredients including the broth, tomato paste, tomatoes, cinnamon, bay leaves and extra salt and pepper.

  3. Bring to boil and simmer for 50 minutes. This creates a thick rich sauce.

  4. In the meantime prepare a cup with cold water and corn flour and pour over the sauce. This helps to thicken the sauce.

  5. Cook the pasta according to packet instructions and then serve chicken over the top.

Helpful Tips

Choosing other Chicken Pieces

I have chosen to use Maryland pieces of chicken, however, you can use chicken thigh cutlets and drumsticks or even chicken wings instead. I would suggest using pieces that are not filleted but have a bone as this adds to the flavour. Plus, there is nothing better than eating a juicy and saucy piece of chicken with your hands. It's a little messy but so delicious and so Greek!

Chicken Broth or Chicken Stock

This one is completely up to you but I have made it a habit of always using broth. It is healthier and has less sugar, especially if it is store-bought. In the recipe, if you need to add extra broth / stock to cover the chicken, then do so. Depending on what pieces of chicken you choose to cook can determine how much stock is needed to cover the chicken so it cooks well.

Using a ready-made sauce

This recipe can work just as well using a store-bought ready-made Napoletana sauce but the flavour will be completely different. A 'kokkinisto' sauce has a simple flavour yet full-bodied and rich taste due to the cinnamon, bay leaves and time taken to cook.

Adding Vegetables to the Stew

Sometimes I'll add a couple of small carrots and potatoes into the pot while it is cooking. If you choose to add this, remember that more stock may be needed.

What do I do with Leftovers?

Store any leftovers for the next day in an air-tight glass container for up to 4 days. Meals that are cooked in tomato-based sauces taste even better the next day. Trust me on this one.

What else do you serve this chicken with?

The traditional way is with pasta, and in particular spaghetti, however, this also goes well with:

  • baked or fried potato chips (a personal favourite)

  • rice

  • couscous (gluten-free)

  • cauliflower rice

  • steamed vegetables

  • or even fresh country-style bread to dip into the sauce and a greek salad.

Other Chicken Recipes

Yoghurt Braised Chicken with Chickpea Salad

Lemon Oregano Chicken

Stuffed Baked Chicken Breast

Chicken and Rice Healing Soup

Deconstructed Chicken Souvlaki Bake

And now it’s time to start cooking! As always, if you make any of my recipes, I would love to hear your feedback. Don’t forget to save it on your Pinterest board as well! I have a board named CreateCookShare that you can follow and save. Can’t wait to hear from you!

Happy Cooking, Margaret x

Chicken in a Rich Tomato Sauce with Spaghetti

Serves 4

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cooking Time: 50 minutes


4 chicken Maryland pieces (or 4 thigh cutlets + 4 drumsticks)

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

800ml - 1 litre chicken broth or stock, heated

400g crushed or diced tomatoes

1 large onion, grated

4 fresh garlic cloves, minced

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 cinnamon stick

2-3 bay leaves

Sea salt and Pepper

1 packet of Spaghetti (optional to use gluten-free or traditional spaghetti)

To thicken the sauce:

1 heaped teaspoon corn flour

1/4 cup cold water

Optional: parmesan cheese or dairy free alternative


1. Add to a wide base pot the extra virgin olive oil. Season generously the chicken and place the skin side down first. Place over high heat and cook until golden brown. Add the garlic and onion to the pot and then turn over the chicken to cook the underside until golden as well.

2. Add the chicken stock (making sure it is heated), tomatoes, tomato paste, cinnamon, and bay leaves.

3. Making sure most of the chicken is submerged in the sauce, bring to a boil (add boiling water or more stock if needed). Once boiling, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 45- 50 minutes (the chicken should be tender and nearly falling off the bone).

4. Once the chicken is ready, add the cornflour to a cup with the cold water and stir to break down and combine, then pour it over the sauce. Using a spoon, combine well into the sauce and increase the heat to bring to a boil. Boil for 3 minutes or until the sauce has thickened a little. Turn off the heat and cover to keep it warm and allow the sauce to thicken further. Prepare the pasta.

4. Once pasta is cooked, drain and equally divide between bowls. Top with plenty of parmesan cheese or for a more authentic flavour, add Greek “parmesan” called Mizithra (available at European delicatessens).

5. Place the chicken pieces over the pasta with plenty of sauce and serve.

Optional: sprinkle parmesan cheese or parsley to garnish


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