Nothing is more comforting than a bowl of pasta with homemade gravy. It instantly takes me back to my childhood. One of my favorite Sunday Night Suppers from when I was a kid is Chicken Parmesan. This dish doesn’t necessarily take a long time to pull together but there are a lot of steps and moving parts. It’s a great meal to make with someone too. Normally, I prefer to cook alone but there are some dishes that are nice to have a companion in the kitchen for. Everyone is familiar with Chicken Parmesan. It’s one of those classic Italian dishes that you can find anywhere. It’s been transformed into a sandwich, salads, and I’ve even seen pizzas and recipes for soup! Nothing beats the classic, pan fried and oven finished meal.
This recipe has two parts, the pasta and the chicken. Chicken Parmesan is traditionally served without pasta. Italians don’t mix meat entrees with pasta. You have the meat course, the pasta course and the salad course all separate. My family never had a problem with the American tradition of mixing meat and pasta though. Spaghetti and Meatballs? Bring it on. If it saves us from an extra set of dishes, we’re in. With that said, I went all in with this recipe by creating a homemade gravy (or red sauce) to use in the pasta and the Chicken Parmesan. I’m not above store-bought but to do a Sunday Supper properly, pour the ingredients into the pot and get the real thing going. It’s hardly any effort at all. The only hassle is stirring the gravy regularly to ensure the bottom doesn’t burn. Tasting it each time is also important. It’ll tell you whether you need to adjust the seasoning.
When it comes to the Chicken Parmesan, the end result that you want is a nice, crispy breading with a gooey outer layer from the mozzarella, finished with a delightful crisp Parmesan crust. This recipe, I’m proud to say, yields that result. Believe me when I say I surprised myself with how delicious this meal turned out. My Noni would have been proud had she been with us that night. Let’s start at the beginning. The chicken receives a classic breading technique. Flour followed by egg finished with breadcrumbs. Don’t be afraid to get messy. Get the chicken nice and soaked by the egg so that the breadcrumbs can hold on tight. Make sure to be really generous with the breadcrumb coating too because you want a nice, crisp breading. The oil should be screaming hot before placing the chicken into it otherwise you risk the chicken being soggy. It will only take a few minutes per side to fry the chicken. You’ll know because when you go to flip the chicken, the cooked side will be nice and stiff. This is what you want.
Once the chicken is fried, it’s not completely cooked so it needs to finish in the oven. This is also where the cheesy magic happens. The mozzarella will get all gooey around the chicken and the parmesan will become golden and bubbly on top while creating a crisp later. This is pure heaven and while it might seem like you’ve overcooked your chicken, you haven’t. The result should be a moist center. Serve on top of a bed of spaghetti and you’re good to go. See? Not too bad! There are a few moving parts but in the end, the result is completely 100% worth it.
Homemade Red Gravy
2 - 28 oz. cans Crushed Tomatoes (low-sodium or no salt added preferred)
8 oz. Tomato Paste (low-sodium or no salt added preferred)
½ cup Fresh Basil (or ¼ cup dried)
6 Garlic Cloves, minced
2 tbsp. Oregano
2 tbsp. Parsley
1 Bay Leaf
½ tsp. Red Pepper Flakes
Salt & Pepper, to taste
1 - Place all the ingredients in a medium-sized pot over medium heat. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to low, and let cook for 2-3 hours stirring every 15-30 minutes. Keep the temperature as low as you can to avoid the bottom from burning. Taste the gravy each time you stir to make sure the seasoning is good. Adjust as necessary.
½ cup Flour
1 tsp. Garlic Powder
¾ cup Breadcrumbs
½ cup Parmesan, grated
1 tbsp. dried Parsley
1 tbsp. dried Basil
1 tsp. Oregano
⅓ cup Vegetable Oil
4 boneless, skinless Chicken Breasts
1 recipe of Homemade Red Gravy (above)
1 lb. Spaghetti
Salt & Pepper
1 - Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Prep three bowls. In one add the flour, garlic powder and salt and pepper. In a 2nd add the eggs and whisk. In the 3rd, mix together the breadcrumbs, parmesan, basil, parsley, and oregano.
2 - Add 1-inch of vegetable oil (about ⅓ cup) to a cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. While the oil gets hot, start breading the chicken. Coat first with flour followed by dredging in the egg and then coating generously with the breadcrumbs mixture.
3 - Add the chicken to the hot oil and cook 4-5 minutes until golden brown on each side. Take off the heat, add half of the gravy and top the chicken with th mozzarella cheese, parmesan, and basil. Bake 15-20 minutes until the cheese is melted and the chicken temperature reads 165 degrees internally.
4 - While the chicken bakes, bring a pot of water to a boil. Salt the water generously and add the pasta. Cook until al dente and drain. Toss with the remaining gravy. Serve the Chicken Parmesan by making a bed of spaghetti for the chicken and placing the chicken on top.
IF YOU DON’T HAVE A CAST-IRON SKILLET OR OVEN-SAFE SKILLET
Grease a baking dish and spread a half cup of gravy along the bottom. Place the chicken in the dish after shallow frying in the skillet. Continue the recipe as is.
4 Large Chicken Breasts Makes 8 Servings