I am going to use every ounce of persuasive power I possess in hopes of convincing you to make this for dinner tonight.
I have lost count of how many times this meal has been on our menu over the past two months, but I have been hard-pressed to keep tomatoes and pasta on hand.
I hate "best" recipes. The best chocolate chip cookies? Oh please. In the words of a secondary character from a plotless but beloved film, "like anyone could ever know that."
Truthfully, this may not be the best chicken parmesan. I would not know, because I have not sampled every chicken parmesan recipe. However, of the many versions I have enjoyed, this is most certainly my favorite. It is my best and I have high hopes that it will be yours.
This is one of our new favorite dinners because it is surprisingly uncomplicated. While there are more than a few steps, it all comes together astonishingly fast. And... it is a fantastic meal to make on a weeknight because all of your workday hostilities can be taken out on a couple of innocent chicken breasts.
I used to hate pounding chicken because it made such a mess, but I have taught myself a few tricks. First, grab a gallon-sized zip-top bag and place your chicken (I suggest only working with two pieces at a time) inside the bag. Zip it up and go to town. But please, please, no medieval torture devices. We are looking to flatten, not pulverize. Those spiky things have no place in my kitchen. Just reach for the heaviest measuring cup you own - I use these - and evenly pound out each piece of chicken until it is about 1/4-inch in thickness. When you are done, just toss the zip-top bag. No splattering of raw chicken. No mess. We are winning.
Can we talk about bread crumbs?
More frankly, can I come into each of your pantries and confiscate any and every cardboard cylinder of seasoned bread crumbs that I find?
I promise that I am not going to be unreasonable. I have no intentions of trying to convince you to make your own bread crumbs. I only ask that you buy simple, unseasoned, panko bread crumbs. You should only be looking at four ingredients here - not the veritable novel of unpronounceable somethings listed on that cardboard can. These are my favorite. They are affordable and uncomplicated.
In my experience, traditional bread crumbs are not only saturated with preservatives and sodium, they also have the tendency to make everything they touch so unbearably dry - almost as if you had just coated your chicken in sawdust. Panko bread crumbs, however, are very light and add texture without totally drying out everything they touch.
So, to recap, we are using panko.
This chicken is coated twice, making it extra crispy and wonderful, and then it is topped with more parmesan (of course!) and popped in the oven, giving you just enough time to start dishing out the spaghetti.
I top the chicken with an extra spoonful of marinara because I love this sauce so much. Fresh parsley is completely optional, just not if you are a food photographer.
Confession: I do not actually like fresh parsley but the internet made me do it and now I'm ashamed.
This is absolutely my favorite meal...at least until I find my next favorite.
Our Wednesday needs this.
The Very Best Chicken Parmesan
for the marinara
- 1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1, 28oz can chopped tomatoes in tomato juice
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2-3 teaspoons granulated sugar
Heat olive oil in a 3-quart saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes, until the garlic is fragrant and has just started to brown.
Add canned tomatoes all at once, along with kosher salt. Bring the tomatoes to a simmer then reduce heat and cook, stirring often, for 20 minutes.
Stir in sugar to taste and season with additional salt, if you wish. Puree using an immersion blender or stand blender. At this point the sauce can be refrigerated and stored in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.
Cook's Note: If you do make the sauce in advance, be sure to reheat it for several minutes (the microwave is fine) before adding it to the pasta.
for the chicken
- 2 medium boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 cups panko bread crumbs
- 3/4 cup finely grated parmesan
- 4 teaspoons dried parsley
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 3 teaspoons garlic powder
- 2 teaspoons onion powder
- 4 large eggs
- 1/4 cup whole milk
- 1/3 cup vegetable oil
- sea salt
- shaved parmesan
- 1 lb spaghetti
- fresh parsley
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Prepare a large baking sheet by lining with parchment paper.
Use a very sharp knife to slice two chicken breasts in half lengthwise. Place two of the halves in a gallon-sized zip-top bag and use a heavy measuring cup or glass to evenly pound out each piece until it is only 1/4-inch in thickness. Remove the pounded chicken and repeat with the remaining two halves.
Place flour on a shallow plate. In a high-sided plate or pie pan, combine panko, parmesan, dried herbs, garlic powder, and onion powder. Combine eggs and milk in a shallow bowl and whisk well.
Prepare each piece of chicken by coating each side with flour and shaking to remove excess. Dip into the egg mixture and then coat with the panko, pressing the crumbs gently into the chicken. Return the filet to the flour and repeat the coating process so that you have two layers of each component. Repeat with each piece of chicken.
Fill a 4-quart saucepan with water and salt generously. Bring to a boil over medium high heat. Once the water is boiling, add the pasta and boil for 10 minutes; until al dente. While the pasta cooks, prepare the chicken.
Pour a shallow layer of vegetable oil into the bottom of a large, nonstick frying pan and heat over medium high heat.
Once the oil begins to shimmer, add two of the prepared filets to the hot oil and fry for 2-3 minutes on each side - until deep golden brown.
Lay the chicken out onto the prepared baking sheet while you prepare the remaining two filets.
Sprinkle each filet with sea salt and cover with shaved parmesan. Place in the oven and bake for five minutes, or until the cheese has just melted.
Drain the cooked pasta and add about 1 1/2 cups of the prepared marinara. You may wish to add more or less, depending on personal taste.
Top the finished chicken with several spoonfuls of the marinara and serve alongside spaghetti. Sprinkle with additional parmesan and fresh parsley, if desired. Serve immediately. Enjoy!
Cook's Note: This meal reheats surprisingly well. I make the full recipe for Mr. Pedantic and I just so that we can have leftovers. I reheat the spaghetti, usually along with a little extra marinara, in the microwave for about two minutes and crisp up the chicken in the oven at 375 for about ten minutes.