While I am going to share Melissa Clark's recipe for Chicken Parmesan here, I want to impress you with the versatility of this dish. While the sauce and the cheese are a constant, you can really substitute any form of protein that you want in this recipe.
Veal, chicken, pork or beef cutlets....they all work. Get your Italian mojo going with either Italian sausage or meatballs. Even seafood would fly here....shrimp sounds particularly good. You could even make this a vegetarian dish by using cauliflower steaks instead of a protein.
And while you could easily substitute a store-bought tomato sauce to speed up the recipe, take the time to make this fantastic sauce from scratch. It's a gift. This recipe serves six and takes just 75 minutes to make...and 40 of that is in the oven. :-)
SIMPLE TOMATO SAUCE
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
¼ teaspoon red chile flakes
2 (28-ounce) cans whole or diced plum tomatoes
2 sprigs basil or 1 bay leaf
½ teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
¼ teaspoon black pepper
- In a large, straight-sided skillet over medium heat, warm the oil. Add garlic and cook until just lightly golden. Add chile flakes and cook 30 seconds.
- Stir in tomatoes and juices, basil or bay leaf, and salt and pepper.
- Bring sauce to a simmer and cook until sauce is thick and tomatoes have mostly fallen apart, about 30 to 40 minutes. Adjust heat as needed to keep at a steady simmer. If using whole plum tomatoes, mash them up with the back of a wooden spoon or a potato masher to help them break down. Remove sauce from heat and discard basil or bay leaf.
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts (or use chicken thighs for even more flavor)
½ cup all-purpose flour
3 large eggs
2 to 3 cups Panko bread crumbs, as needed
Kosher salt, as needed
Black pepper, as needed
Olive oil, for frying
5 cups Simple Tomato Sauce
1 cup finely grated Parmesan, preferably Parmigiano-Reggiano
½ pound shredded mozzarella cheese
- Heat oven to 400 degrees.
- Place cutlets between two pieces of parchment or plastic wrap. Using a kitchen mallet or rolling pin, pound meat to even 1/4-inch-thick slices.
- Place flour, eggs and panko into three wide, shallow bowls. Season meat generously with salt and pepper. Dip a piece in flour, then eggs, then coat with panko. Repeat until all the meat is coated.
- Fill a large skillet with 1/2-inch oil. Place over medium-high heat. When oil is hot, fry cutlets in batches, turning halfway through, until golden brown. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate.
- Spoon a thin layer of sauce over the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking pan. Sprinkle one-third of the Parmesan over sauce. Place half of the cutlets over the Parmesan and top with half the mozzarella cheese. Top with half the remaining sauce, sprinkle with another third of the Parmesan, and repeat layering, ending with a final layer of sauce and Parmesan.
- Transfer pan to oven and bake until cheese is golden and casserole is bubbling, about 40 minutes. Let cool a few minutes before serving.
Wine pairing: Chianti