When my kids first came to live with me, they informed me up-front that they DID NOT like spaghetti or lasagna. I was surprised because I thought all kids like spaghetti. I think I may have tried once or twice anyway, but they lived up to their promise that they would not and did not like it.
A few years in, we were invited to my friend’s house for an Italian dinner. I brought lasagna and the friends made spaghetti. I knew I was in for a rough mealtime with the kids. Guess what? They absolutely loved the spaghetti, raved about the spaghetti, ate plate after plate of spaghetti. PLAIN spaghetti, that is. No sauce. Plain old spaghetti with nothing on it, well, actually, with a little parmesan cheese on it. They asked me if I could possibly make spaghetti at home for them.
I was not interested in having plain old spaghetti myself, so I decided to try this parmesan chicken recipe. The kids could eat the plain spaghetti, and I could have a nice meal with flavorful and juicy chicken. It has been a big hit with the kids and with the adults who have tried it. It is now a regular part of our meal rotation. And 2 of the 3 kids even eat the spaghetti with the marinara sauce on it!
*I previously tried a few different baked versions of parmesan chicken, but they always turned out dry. This one includes pan-fried chicken that comes out juicy and tender enough to cut with a fork.
Ingredients for homemade marinara sauce:
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, minced or smashed
- 28 ounce can of crushed tomatoes
- 1 small bay leaf
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil or 1 tablespoon dried basil
- salt and fresh pepper to taste
- 1/2 tablespoon sugar (optional) [I add this at the end to cut the acid of the tomatoes.]
- spaghetti (optional)
Ingredients for chicken:
- 4-6 skinless, boneless chicken breasts that have been pounded thin or sliced thin
- 1 cup flour
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1-2 large eggs
- 1 tablespoon water
- 3/4 cup seasoned dry bread crumbs
- 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
- 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving if desired
- unsalted butter
- olive oil
- Make the marinara first: In a small to medium pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and saute until golden. Add crushed tomatoes, salt, pepper, oregano, bay leaf, and basil (if using fresh basil, add it at the end, just before serving). Stir and reduce heat to low. Cover and let simmer for 15-20 minutes or longer. Add sugar and fresh basil if using. Stir and serve.
- While the marinara is simmering, prepare the chicken by pounding it thin or cutting it into thin fillets. Set aside.
- Next, prepare the coatings for the chicken. Combine the flour, salt, pepper, and garlic powder in a shallow container, In a second container, beat the eggs with 1 tablespoon of water. In the third container, combine the bread crumbs and parmesan cheese.
- Coat the chicken breasts on both sides with the flour, then the egg, and finally the bread crumb and cheese mixture, pressing lightly.
- Heat 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large frying pan and cook coated chicken breasts in batches, cooking each side on medium-low heat for 2 to 3 minutes on each side, until cooked through (time may vary depending on the thickness of the chicken). Add more butter and oil to the pan for additional batches.
- Optional: Place chicken on a rack in another pan, top chicken with a pinch of mozzarella cheese, and broil for 2-3 minutes to melt and brown the cheese.
- Serve chicken with spaghetti and marinara sauce. Other options: use the chicken for a chicken parmesan sandwich or cut the chicken into smaller pieces and serve over a salad.
*Chicken is best when eaten fresh. The chicken breading gets a little soggy when reheated. Reheating in a low oven turns out better than in the microwave. Marinara sauce will keep in the refrigerator for several days.
Source: Parmesan Chicken adapted from Ina Garten; marinara from skinnytaste.com.