Sunday, January 12, 2014

Chicken Parmesan with Pasta

It's a new year. And with each new year, there is always a mad dash to resolve to eat better and work out more. I always make it a point to try and find healthier version of comfort foods, especially during the winter. This past week was no exception. I effectively had a quiet week where I essentially went to work, went to the gym, and went home and cooked. I relished in the quiet and caught up on some much needed sleep.

But in deciding which dish to make in a lighter, yet tasty way, I found myself gravitating toward a type of cuisine that I don't cook very often: Italian. After discussing eating habits and preferences over the weekend, I came to realize that not everyone is adventurous as me when it comes to eating. And that's to be expected. Everyone has their tastes and their preferences. I have had some great Italian food in my time, but I don't cook it very often. So I was inspired to revisit an Italian classic that just about anyone can get behind...Chicken parmesan.

But before I share the recipe, I want to share a story about chicken parm and veal parm, an oldie but a goodie involving my grandmother. She has always been a fan of the Olive Garden (I will keep my opinions to myself there!) and a few years ago, we were in the process of packing her up to sell her home and to move into an assisted living facility. What we discovered in her large freezer in her basement was pretty amazing. Boxes upon boxes of veal and chicken parm from Olive Garden. She would always pack up half of her meal to take home. Then she'd freeze it. And forget about it. I can only imagine how old some of those Styrofoam boxes were. To this day, she still likes to go to the Olive Garden. So I bought her a gift card to go there with her card playing friends sometime this winter. And I bet she'll order the parm. But at 91, I just hope she indulges a bit and eats the whole damn thing.

Chicken Parmesan with Pasta (serves 4)


  • 4 oz uncooked pasta
  • 2 (14.5-oz) cans unsalted petite-diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1 1/2 TB olive oil, divided
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt, divided
  • 3 TB finely chopped fresh basil
  • 2 (8-oz) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
  • 2 TB all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated
  • 1 tsp butter
  • 2 oz part-skim mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced
  • Torn basil leaves

  • Directions:

    Preheat broiler to high.

    Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat; drain.

    While pasta cooks, place tomatoes in a food processor; process until almost smooth. Heat a saucepan over medium-low heat. Add 1 1/2 teaspoons oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add pepper and garlic; cook 1 minute or until fragrant, stirring occasionally. Add tomatoes and 3/8 teaspoon salt; cook 15 minutes or until slightly thickened, stirring occasionally. Stir in chopped basil. Toss 1 cup sauce with pasta; keep warm.

    While sauce cooks, split each chicken breast half horizontally to form 2 cutlets. There will be four in total. Combine flour, garlic powder, and remaining 1/8 teaspoon salt. Sprinkle tops of cutlets with half of flour mixture; pat evenly onto cutlets. Turn cutlets over. Sprinkle with remaining flour mixture; pat onto cutlets. Shake off any excess flour. Place egg in a shallow dish. Combine panko and Parmigiano-Reggiano in another shallow dish. Dip cutlets in egg; dredge in panko mixture.

    Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil and butter to pan; swirl until butter melts. Add chicken to pan; cook 4 minutes on each side or until browned and done. Place chicken on a baking sheet; top evenly with mozzarella. Broil 2 minutes or until cheese melts.

    Arrange about 1/2 cup pasta mixture on each plate; top each with 1 cutlet and about 3 tablespoons remaining sauce. Sprinkle with torn basil, if desired. And if you're me, just a bit more cheese.

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