Man, these are dark times we are living in. From the coronacraze, to the election, to the seemingly disastrous news every other day, I've had to remind myself to just stop, drop and roll, I mean, breathe. In times like these, I turn to comfort food. Casseroles, pots of soup, hearty stews, foods that fall under the mozzarella blanket category, if you know what I mean. Enough of these foods though and suddenly you feel like a brick of cheese yourself. So today, I want to share my lightened up take on the classic Chicken Parmesan. My version is baked instead of fried, and I'm willing to bet you wouldn't know the difference if I didn't let you in on my secrets 🙂 Let's jump into the details.
What Makes My Healthy(ish) Chicken Parm Special?
This healthy chicken parmesan recipe is one of my favorites because you have a pairing made in heaven: crispy cutlets, rich tomato sauce and unctuous fresh mozzarella bubbling on top of the whole thing! The best part is that it can be ready in under 30 minutes (ok, 27 to be exact!) and I use almost NO oil!
Baked Chicken Cutlets = Better/Easier/Faster/Less Messy Than Fried
I kid you not, these cutlets are JUST as satisfying as fried chicken cutlets. There are a few secrets to getting really flavorful ones... The first is seasoning your chicken directly. Generously add salt and pepper right onto the meat! The second secret is to ALSO season your breadcrumbs! If you buy plain panko like the recipe calls for, it has no salt or pepper added, much less garlic or oregano. By seasoning the breadcrumbs, you're ensuring that every bite of the chicken is packed with a punch. Finally, Baking the cutlets allows them to stay relatively dry and be ready to absorb tomato sauce instead of oil. How good does that sound?!
What Kind Of Mozzarella Should You Use?
My favorite mozzarella is local, handmade fresh mozzarella. I love the creamy, silky taste of milk that it provides, and the stark contrast (both in terms of flavor and visually) between sauce and cheese. If you prefer to use low-moisture mozzarella that melts into the sauce more, please feel free! I won't judge you 🙂 Typically in Italian restaurants, they use low-moisture mozzarella so it's a more familiar flavor for those of you who want to sail as close to the original Chicken Parmesan as possible.
Quality Tomato Sauce Is Key
When you cook like I do, with only a handful of ingredients, those ingredients must be FRESH and made with the highest quality. Often times, tomato sauces can be loaded with sugar or artificial ingredients. If you can afford to splurge on a quality sauce that is loaded with TOMATOES and not all sorts of other funky stuff, please do. Often times, you'll be able to find awesome local brands at the farmer's market or Whole Foods. In NYC, Rao's is really good. I also like Otamot, a new brand that has tons of veggies stuffed in their sauce- perfect for picky eaters!
Fresh Basil Makes A Huge Difference
Would you believe me if I said a few sprigs of basil leaves take this recipe from good to great? The subtle contrast of fresh, herbacious, green leaves on top of the smooth mozzarella and crunchy chicken really bring this recipe home for me.
What To Serve This With
To be honest, we just ate this healthy chicken parmesan as is. However, you could totally serve this over some spaghetti, rice or mashed potatoes. It's filling enough without any extras, so how about a fresh side salad to counter the richness? I like romaine lettuce, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers and sliced pepperoncinis dressed simply with olive oil and lemon. Add a little dried oregano if you enjoy herbs in your salad... I do!Print
crispy chicken cutlets, marinara sauce, fresh mozzarella + basil make a classic combo
- 1 1/4 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts (thinly sliced)
- 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon dried garlic
- 2 eggs
- 1 pound fresh mozzarella cheese (thinly sliced)
- 1 1/2 cups of marinara sauce (or your favorite red sauce, vodka sauce would be delish!)
- handful of fresh basil (roughly chopped)
- extra-virgin olive oil
- salt + pepper
- Preheat your oven to 400º
- In a small bowl, whisk together eggs and set aside
- In a medium bowl, combine panko breadcrumbs with dried herbs and a big pinch of salt and pepper. Seasoning your breadcrumbs is the secret to a flavorful chicken parm!
- Season chicken with salt and pepper and both sides
- Dunk chicken into egg, then into panko. Press the panko into the chicken, making sure the surface of the meat is completely covered
- Repeat this with all of your chicken
- Lay breaded chicken on a parchment-lined baking sheet, then drizzle lightly (or spray) with extra-virgin olive oil. You do not need much!
- Bake for 10 minutes, then flip and bake for ten more minutes
- Remove chicken from the oven and layer it (I prefer a single layer) in a large baking dish
- Pour sauce over chicken, reserving 1/4 cup. Make sure to evenly coat. I applied approximately 1/4 cup over each piece of chicken, then smeared around with the back of a spoon
- Cover chicken with fresh mozzarella and the remaining sauce
- Place the entire dish bake into the oven on a low broil for 4-7 minutes, until the cheese becomes golden in spots and is bubbling. I recommend staying close to the oven and not walking away as the cheese can burn very quickly
- Buon appetito!
- Category: Main Course
- Method: Oven/Baked
- Cuisine: Italian
Keywords: chicken parmesan, chicken parm, parmesan, healthy chicken recipes, healthy chicken parmesan, healthy italian recipes, italian cooking