Monday, March 28, 2011
Baked Chicken Parmesan
My husband loves Chicken Parmesan. The only Italian dish that he may love more is Fettuccine Alfredo. Neither of these dishes is health food. In the past I've chosen to lightly fry my chicken and top it with fresh mozzarella. I'm not going to lie, I prefer my chicken fried. This version, however, is a nice alternative and it is 85% as good as the traditional preparation. Since it's almost as good, easier to clean up, and a bit healthier, I'll make my Chicken Parmesan this way from now on. At least most of the time.
I chose to make my own marinara sauce, but you could absolutely use a jarred sauce to save time. I prepped the pasta while the chicken was baking and I had the entire meal on the table in about 40 minutes. This makes enough for six adults. I made the full portion and then packed some for lunch the following day.
I should have reserved some sauce to top the chicken before serving, so my written recipe reflects that improvement. I love topping my pasta with fresh basil, but basil isn't in season in my area yet. If you can't find fresh basil (or don't want to spend $5 in the grocery store for it), leave it out. I can't wait to start my summer garden so I have an endless supply of fresh basil.
Keep a close eye on the chicken. If you overcook it you'll be stuck with dry chicken and you'll wish you had fried it. If you get the chicken just right, it will have a juicy interior and a crisp exterior.
Don't be deterred by the long recipe. A lot of the time for this recipe is hands-off. Once you try this, you'll be able to make it even faster the second time.
Baked Chicken Parmesan
6 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
2 cups of dried breadcrumbs (I used a combination of panko and Italian flavored)
1 cup of flour
salt and pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
about 1 quart of fresh marinara or 1 jar of store-bought pasta sauce
3/4 pound short, sturdy pasta (rotini, rigatoni, mezzi rigatoni, etc.)
1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
fresh basil, for serving (optional)
grated Parmesan cheese, for serving (optional)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil and place a cooling rack in the baking sheet. This will allow the chicken to bake up crisp and not get soggy on the bottom. Spray the rack with non-stick spray.
Lightly season the chicken with salt and pepper, to taste. Use three shallow dishes (I used pie pans) to create your assembly line for chicken. The first dish should include the flour, seasoned with garlic powder and about 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. The second dish should include the eggs, beaten. The third dish should include the bread crumbs.
Prepare the chicken by dredging it in flour on both sides, then egg, then breadcrumbs. Place prepared chicken on the baking rack. Repeat with all six pieces of chicken. Bake chicken for 18-25 minutes or until golden brown.
While chicken is baking, boil pasta to an al dente texture. Drain pasta and return to the pot you used to boil it. Stir most of the sauce into the pasta, reserving about 1 cup to top the cooked chicken, if desired. Pour pasta and sauce mixture into a 9 by 13 baking dish. Top with mozzarella cheese.
When chicken is finished cooking, remove it from the oven and set aside. Switch oven to broiler mode and put the pasta on the top rack. Broil until cheese is bubbling and starting to turn brown, about 3 minutes.
Top chicken with reserved marinara sauce. Top pasta with chopped basil. Serve chicken with pasta on the side. Top with Parmesan cheese, if desired.