One of my favorite Italian dishes is chicken parmigiana. Ok, so it’s not true Italian, but rather American Italian, but it’s still delicious. The original dish originated in Southern Italy, but eggplant was used rather than chicken. It wasn’t until Italian immigrants here in the U.S. found that chicken was more affordable here than back in Italy so it was used in place of the eggplant. The dish became quite popular. It was later found in many restaurants and then in 1962 it was featured as a recipe in the New York Times. It was and still is one of the most popular American Italian dishes around.
It can seem a little intimidating at first to make, but it is really quite easy. I find that using a good quality jar of marinara sauce makes it even easier to prepare. You can use your favorite homemade marinara recipe if you prefer. I also like to use chicken thighs because it has more flavor and it can be a little cheaper than the traditional chicken breast that is usually used in this dish, but it is definitely not cheap on taste. I do still use chicken breasts at times so feel free to use either. Either way, the end result is still delicious. The chicken thighs are breaded and lightly fried until nice and crispy and topped with fresh basil leaves (I like to add this for a little more layered flavor). A tasty marinara sauce is gently spooned over the chicken like a hug followed by a nice, healthy mound of fontina (or mozzarella if you like) and parmesan cheese that’s melted on top. All of that tasty goodness is then nestled on a bed of spaghetti to complete a comforting, satisfying meal.
Here’s what you need:
*4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs or boneless, skinless chicken breasts; pounded thin if desired.
*3/4 cups flour
*2 eggs, beaten
*1 1/2 cups panko bread crumbs
*1 TBS Italian seasoning or more to taste + more for the chicken
*1 tsp salt + more for the chicken
*1/2 tsp. or less to taste cracked pepper +more for the chicken
*1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese for the bread coating; for this I like to use the kind that comes in shakable containers that are sand like in texture. It seems to blend and stick better to the chicken.
*fresh basil leaves
*shredded fontina cheese to taste
*jar of good quality marinara sauce + more for the spaghetti if desired
Preheat oven to 400°
Sprinkle the chicken on both sides with the Italian seasoning, salt and pepper to taste.
In a shallow dish combine flour, salt and pepper.
Pour the whisked eggs into another shallow bowl.
Mix together the bread crumbs, Italian seasoning and the grated parmesan cheese (the one that is sand like in texture) and place into another shallow dish.
Press both sides of the chicken into the flour, then shake off any excess.
Coat the floured chicken on both sides in the egg.
Place the chicken into the bread crumb mixture pressing down slightly to make sure the breading adheres to the chicken.
Transfer to a plate or baking rack and repeat with the remaining chicken.
In a large skillet, add enough canola oil to cover the bottom in a thin layer and heat to medium high heat. Place chicken in the skillet making sure not to over crown the pan. Cook 2 to 3 minutes or until the chicken is golden and crispy, turn the chicken over and cook for another 2 minutes.
If the chicken is not cooked through, that is ok because it will finish cooking in the oven.
Spray a baking dish or tray with no stick spray and place the chicken onto the dish.
Place basil leaves on top of each piece of chicken.
Spoon the marinara sauce over the chicken but not entirely covering the whole chicken.
Pile on the fontina and freshly shredded parmesan cheese on top.
Bake for 15 minutes or until the cheese is melted and the chicken is cooked through.
If the chicken is not pounded thin and is a little on the thicket side, cook for about 20 minutes.
While the chicken is cooking, prepare the spaghetti according to the package directions.
Heat up any additional marinara sauce as well.
Remove the chicken from the dish and serve with spaghetti.
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