One of the first “complicated” dishes I learned to make was chicken parmigiana. It had been a favorite of mine at restaurants when I was younger, before I ventured away from the chicken section of menus. Chicken, pounded thin, breaded, fried, and covered in sauce and cheese is safe. It’s an easy out when you don’t know what else to order, because chicken parmigiana is kind of hard to screw up. It contains familiar ingredients, so there’s never a slew of special requests for the server to roll their eyes at. My only demand when ordering chicken parmigiana was that they take it easy with the sauce. I know, I shame my Italian heritage when I say that I don’t like any entrée that’s swimming in red sauce, no matter how good that sauce is.
Now, the fact that chicken parmigiana isn’t known for its health benefits doesn’t escape me. Restaurant portions of the dish are usually enough to feed a family of four, and it is fried and covered in cheese then served with a side of
carbohydrates pasta. I love it anyway. Properly fried food isn’t nearly as bad for you as you’ve been led to believe. Using a heart-healthy oil, keeping the oil clean during frying, and keeping the oil hot are all key to proper frying. I make my chicken cutlets with a panko breading, fry them quickly in hot olive oil, and get them out of the pan quickly so they don’t absorb too much oil and become greasy. I also use moderation when it comes to the melted cheese and pasta on the side. So please, don’t shy away from making chicken parmigiana because you’re convinced that fried chicken covered in sauce and cheese are the nutritional equivalent of a death sentence.
If you have a favorite sauce, go ahead and use it here. You could also use my quick pasta sauce recipe or the Godfather’s sauce here as well and it would be great (just leave out the sausages and meatballs). The sauce I made worked really well with this, it’s a lot like my quick sauce, with red wine added. Make sure you leave some time for the sauce to simmer and thicken, but other than that, this is simple enough to tackle on a weeknight. Also, the chicken breasts I had on hand were gargantuan, and I pounded them out and fried them whole, then cut them into smaller portions. The directions below reflect my suggestion to cut them first into manageable portions.
for the sauce:
- 1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 medium onion, minced
- 1 Tbsp. dried oregano
- 2 tsp. kosher salt
- 1 tsp. sugar
- 1/4 C. dry red wine
- 2 tsp. dried basil
- 1 Tbsp. olive oil
for the chicken:
- 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts (cut into 4- 6 total pieces if needed)
- 2 C. panko breadcrumbs
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten with 2 Tbsp. water
- 2 C. shredded mozzarella cheese
- olive oil
- 8 oz. cooked spaghetti or desired pasta
To make the sauce, heat the 1 Tbsp. of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat.
Add the garlic, onion, oregano, basil and salt and cook, stirring, until softened, about ten minutes.
Add the crushed tomatoes, sugar, and wine to the skillet and stir to combine.
Simmer, uncovered, while preparing the chicken.
To make the chicken, place each piece of chicken between two sheets of waxed paper.
Using a mallet or heavy skillet, pound the chicken out to roughly 1/3 inch thickness.
Dip each piece of chicken into the egg and then into the panko, pressing to coat the chicken with breadcrumbs on both sides.
Repeat until all chicken has been breaded.
Add olive oil to a large skillet, enough to cover the bottom plus a little extra.
Heat the oil over medium high heat until a drop of water sizzles when added.
Place the chicken into the skillet (you may have to do this part in batches depending on the size of your skillet) and leave, undisturbed, for two minutes.
Flip the chicken over and fry for 3 additional minutes.
Remove from the skillet and place on a baking sheet that has been sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.
Repeat frying until all chicken has been fried and placed on the baking sheet.
Heat the broiler.
Top each piece of chicken with sauce (roughly 1/8 C. depending on how large the pieces are), and then top them evenly with the mozzarella cheese.
Heat under the broiler until the cheese is melted and bubbly and starting to brown, about 5 minutes depending on your broiler.
Serve with cooked pasta.
Makes 4-6 servings.
Source: Diana Dishes original