Chicken Parm gets a bad rap. Granted, it’s not the most sophisticated Italian food out there but there’s certainly a time and place for crispy, breaded chicken coated in tomato sauce, you know? You don’t have to be an eight year old to like it (but it doesn’t hurt.)
Over time I’ve learned that certain things are worth making yourself and certain things just aren’t. For me, tomato sauce is one of those things that don’t make the “homemade” cut. First of all, I don’t have 8 hours to sit around watching tomatoes bubble and secondly, every time I try to make it myself I’m always disappointed. The pros know what they’re doing. I prefer to buy a good, jarred pasta sauce then fancy it up a bit. Let the Real Housewives of New Jersey have a monopoly on legit tomato sauce.
So here’s my corner-cutting, totally inauthentic recipe for Chicken Parmesan. Don’t tell your imaginary Italian grandma I don’t make my own sauce, okay?
WEEKNIGHT CHICKEN PARMESAN
1 (24oz.) jar tomato-based pasta sauce (whatever flavor and brand you like!)
1 (12oz.) jar crushed tomatoes
***optional: chopped tomatoes, garlic cloves, fresh herbs to rev up your sauce
2 large boneless chicken breasts
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup bread crumbs, any flavor
2 eggs, beaten
2 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 cup mozzarella and/or parmesan cheese
1/2 lb. spaghetti
1. In a medium saucepan combine the pasta sauce, the crushed tomatoes and any extras you want to throw in. For this recipe I used some chopped parsley, 5 whole (peeled) garlic cloves, about 7 chopped up grape tomatoes, and extra black pepper. Allow sauce to simmer, covered for at least 20 minutes. Meanwhile preheat your oven to 425 degrees F and begin bringing a large pasta pot full of water to a boil.
2. Place the chicken breasts on a plastic cutting board. Using the heaviest glass you have (no sharp corners or you’ll rip the meat!) pound the chicken breasts until they’re about 1/2 inch thick. Sometimes I roll my glass to keep the pressure even. When they’re thin enough cut each chicken breast in half to create 4 roughly equally-sized chicken breasts. Be sure to wash your hands thoroughly when you’re done.
3. On three separate plates place the flour, then the eggs, then the breadcrumbs. Leave a clean plate at the end for your finished chicken. Dredge your chicken breast halves in the flour (coating both sides, knocking off excess), then the egg, then the bread crumbs. Place your breaded chicken breasts on the clean plate.
4. Grease a medium-sized casserole dish. Using a ladle, fill the dish about 1 to 1.5 inches full of your tomato sauce. In a skillet, heat 1 tbsp. of the olive oil until hot over medium heat. Two breast pieces at a time, brown the chicken in the skillet on both sides but not until cooked through, about 2 minutes per side. Once browned, nestle your chicken breasts atop the sauce in your casserole dish. Repeat until all four breasts are in the dish.
5. Top the chicken with your Parmesan/mozzarella cheese and place in the oven. Cook about 20 minutes, or until cheese is bubbling and browned. While your chicken is cooking, drop the spaghetti in the boiling water and cook about 11 minutes, or as directed on the box, then drain.
6. Serve by placing a chicken breast on top of a serving of spaghetti and covering with additional pasta sauce. Throw in a salad or green vegetable for good measure.