Get your hands on the best version of this Italian-American classic you’ll ever have! The Ultimate Chicken Parmesan features juicy chicken coated in seasoned bread crumbs and pan-fried in olive oil. Those crisp cutlets are then smothered in homemade marinara, mozzarella cheese, and fresh basil, and baked to golden-brown, bubbly perfection!
Recipe by Leidi Rodriguez
We’ve all got a go-to order for those days when you just need a guaranteed win. Wanna know mine? Chicken Parmesan! I love everything that is crunchy, cheesy, and saucy, so a classic parma dinner is basically my dream come true.
Today I’m serving up a favorite in its purest, most delicious form. Simple ingredients. Under an hour of time. And more flavor than you could possibly imagine!
Chicken Parmesan (Chicken parm for short) encompasses everything we love about Italian food in one bite. From the bright and slightly sweet flavor of the rich tomato sauce to the silky texture of the mozzarella, every component of this dish is familiar and comforting.
But, it’s not all just about the flavor, it’s about the ritual too. The hands-on approach of pounding the cutlets, dredging in flour, dipping in egg, then dropping into seasoned breadcrumbs before frying in oil, all makes for an intensely satisfying kitchen experience.
Is Chicken Parm Actually Italian?
Chicken Parmesan can be found on the menu of just about any Italian-American eatery across the country. But, the question stands, is it actually an Italian recipe? The answer is no!
In the 1950’s a large influx of Italian immigrants made their way to America, bringing with them a treasury of food knowledge, as well as a plethora of new ingredients. Italians introduced us to all things pasta, tomatoes, olive oil, Mediterranean spices, and so much more.
From those contributions, an extraordinary gastronomic marriage between the US and Italy was born and so was “Chicken Parmigiana”.
There are just a few pantry staples you’ll need to pull this recipe together. Chicken parmesan is best when made with homemade marinara but, if you’re in a hurry, you can absolutely use a jar of your favorite homemade sauce!
All you’ll need for the perfect parm is:
- OLIVE OIL: – The slick start to any fab dish. It’s like the base coat of your culinary nail polish — absolutely essential, darling!
- GARLIC: – Because what’s life without a little…okay, a lotta garlic? It’s the aromatic confetti in the parade of flavors.
- SALT + PEPPER: – The classic duo, more iconic than celeb couples. They’re here to bring out the inner superstar in the other ingredients.
- RED PEPPER FLAKES: – Oh, hot dang! These are the sparkles in our comfort food; a little flirty, a bit fiery, and oh-so-memorable.
- CRUSHED TOMATOES: – The saucy backbone of the dish. Rich, robust, and ready to mingle with those fine herbs and spices.
- BASIL: – Fresh or dried, basil is like a surprise party for your taste buds. It’s herbal, it’s fragrant, it’s a confetti pop of green goodness.
- CHICKEN BREASTS: – The main event! These bad boys are the canvas for all those delectable flavors you’re about to throw down.
- EGGS: – The glue in your flavor masterpiece. They might be behind the scenes, but the show couldn’t go on without ‘em.
- ITALIAN + PANKO BREADCRUMBS: – Crunchy, crispy, and oh-so-satisfying. They’re the dynamic duo that gives your chicken that must-have crunch.
- PARMESAN: – Oh, darling Parmesan! Salty, nutty, and downright classy. It’s like the high heels on your favorite outfit – sharp, sophisticated, and just the right amount of flashy.
- MOZZARELLA: – Hello, gooey goodness! It’s the melty embrace that brings everything together in cheesy harmony.
- So, you ready to rock your kitchen with this Chicken Parmesan? Tie that apron, cue your cooking playlist, and let’s dive into a world of flavor that’s as fun as it is delicious!
HOW TO MAKE HOMEMADE CHICKEN PARMESAN
- MAKE THE SAUCE. I promise that making it is a no-brainer. Start with a high-quality can of tomatoes for the freshest flavor. Same goes for olive oil, always. Use lots of fragrant garlic and sauté it just until lightly browned, any more and it’ll taste burnt. Simmer the sauce at a low heat and do not allow it to boil or the sauce will get super thick and goopy. Season to taste!
- BREAD + FRY THE CHICKEN. This part may seem a little intimidating but don’t sweat it. It’s just a little messier than one pot soup is all! Start by butterflying the chicken and pounding each piece into thin cutlets in between slices of plastic wrap. Season each cutlet generously with salt and pepper. Dredge the chicken in egg, then your breading mixture while the olive oil heats up. Without overcrowding the pan, fry each piece of chicken in the oil for 3-4 minutes per side, or until light golden brown.
- ASSEMBLE + BAKE. Time for the magic to happen! As the oven preheats, spread half the sauce on the bottom of a baking dish and layer the chicken on top. Spoon the remaining sauce over the chicken, spreading evenly. Top with sliced mozzarella, parmesan, and basil, then bake until browned, bubbly, and delicious!
If you’re planning a large spread or looking to prep a quick dinner on a busy day, this is your go-to recipe. You can pan-fry the breaded chicken, arrange in a casserole dish and top with marinara, cheese, and basil, then cover the dish and refrigerate until ready to bake.
You’ll need to bake the dish for a few minutes longer to account for the chilled chicken. Check the internal temperature of the chicken with an instant-read thermometer to ensure that it bakes to a safe 165˚F.
How To Store and Reheat
If it is fully prepared and cooked with the sauce and cheese on top, Chicken Parmesan can be refrigerated for about 3-5 days. The best way to reheat chicken parm is in the oven. At 350°F, place the chicken parm in an aluminum-covered oven-safe container with a small amount of olive oil lining the bottom and bake for about 15 minutes, or until heated through.
More Italian Inspired Recipes
Living in Chicago and having grown up in Boston (both large hubs for Italian-American communities), I’ve learned a thing or two about Italian eats and I’m sharing a few tidbits with you!
Try out a few more of GBC’s BEST Italian-inspired recipes:
- Italian Beef Grilled Cheese
- Garlic Bread
- The Best Italian Castagnole
- Sicilian Pizza
- Southern Spaghetti Sauce
For the Sauce
- Extra virgin olive oil
- 4-6 cloves of garlic thinly sliced
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp fresh cracked black pepper
- red pepper flakes
- 28 oz crushed tomatoes can
- 2 basil leaves
For the Chicken
- 2 large boneless skinless chicken breasts
- kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
- 3 large eggs
- 1 1/2 cups Italian breadcrumbs
- 1 1/2 cups panko breadcrumbs
- 2 tbsp Italian seasoning
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup grated parmesan
- 8 oz fresh mozzarella sliced
- 1/4 cup grated parmesan
- basil leaves
For the Sauce
- Coat the bottom of a small saucepan with extra virgin olive oil and set it over medium heat. Add the sliced garlic, salt, pepper, and a heavy pinch of red pepper flakes. Cook for 2-3 minutes, or until lightly browned and fragrant.
- Carefully pour the crushed tomatoes into the saucepan, add the basil leaves and stir to combine.
- Bring the sauce to a low simmer and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Remove from heat. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover and set aside.
For the Chicken
- Cut each chicken breast in half lengthwise (butterfly), creating 4 chicken cutlets.
- Place chicken on a smooth flat surface between two layers of plastic wrap and pound to even thickness, about 1/4-1/2 inch.
- Season each chicken cutlet with salt and pepper on both sides.
- Whisk the eggs in a small shallow bowl and mix together the breadcrumbs and Italian seasoning in another shallow bowl.
- Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.
- Dredge the chicken in eggs and then in the breadcrumb mixture. Add each cutlet to the oil, leaving a bit of space in between.
- Cook for 3-4 minutes per side, or until chicken is almost completely cooked through. Add more olive oil if needed. Remove chicken. Turn off the heat.
- Immediately sprinkle the grated parmesan over the top of each cutlet.
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
- Spread half of the sauce over the bottom of your chosen baking dish, then layer the chicken on top. Don’t worry if the cutlets are overlapping a bit.
- Spoon the remaining sauce over each piece of chicken. Spread as evenly as possible.
- Top with sliced mozzarella and grated parmesan. Spread a few basil leaves over the top. I chose to use whole leaves but you can chop them up if you’d like.
- Bake for 10-12 minutes or until the cheese is slightly browned and bubbling.
- Serve immediately with pasta, breadsticks, salad, or sandwich-style!