Golden pieces of lightly breaded chicken breast are baked in a homemade tomato sauce and topped with mozzarella cheese.
To prepare the chicken, slice each breast in half on an angle. Butterfly the thicker half. Using the flat side of a mallet, gently pound each piece just until it is about 1/3" -inch thick. Set aside.
To set up your breading station, first grate the Parmesan cheese. Mix the cheese and the Italian breadcrumbs together. Place half of the breadcrumb mixture into a shallow bowl. It’s best to use the breadcrumbs in stages, as you may not need them all.
In another shallow bowl, whisk the eggs until evenly blended. Place the flour into a third shallow bowl and set everything aside.
Before breading the chicken, preheat your oven to 375º degrees Fahrenheit (or 190° degrees Celsius).
To bread the chicken, generously season both sides with salt and pepper. Coat each piece with the flour and shake off any excess. Then dip the chicken into the egg mixture. Allow any excess to drip off before placing into the breadcrumbs. Cover the chicken with the crumbs, pressing them into the chicken so they stick. Transfer to a baking tray.
Add more breadcrumbs, as needed. Once you’re finished breading all of the chicken, set it aside while you heat the tomato sauce.
Pour the tomato sauce into a medium pot and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat.
By preheating the tomato sauce, this allows the dish to cook quickly in the oven, which prevents the chicken from being overcooked. Once it comes to a simmer, turn off the heat and set aside while you fry the chicken.
In a large, nonstick fry pan add the oil and heat over medium-high heat. Test the oil by adding a breadcrumb to see if it sizzles. If the breadcrumb sizzles and turns golden, the oil is ready.
Place the pieces of chicken into the pan facing away from you in case the oil splatters. Once the underside is nice and golden, gently turn over. Continue to shallow fry the chicken until it is golden on the other side. This should only take about two minutes per side. The chicken doesn’t need to be cooked all the way through, as it will finish baking in the oven later.
Transfer the chicken to a cooling rack that is resting over a baking tray. Cook the second batch, making sure that the oil is still hot enough and that the chicken sizzles nicely. Once all of the chicken is fried, you can begin assembling.
To assemble the dish, first grate the cheese.
Cover the base of a large baking dish (9″ × 11″ -inches) with about 2 to 3 cups of the tomato sauce. The layer of sauce should be about 1/2" -inch high. Place the pieces of chicken into the sauce, shuffling them around a bit if needed so they lay somewhat flat. Next, spoon a couple of tablespoons of the sauce onto each piece, followed by a bit of grated cheese.
Bake for about 10 to 15 minutes or until cooked and heated through. If desired, you can turn on the broiler for the last 2 to 3 minutes of cooking to slightly brown the cheese.
Serve family style with a nice big salad, some fresh pasta and enjoy!
There are many variations of this dish. Some recipes add or substitute Parmigiano-Reggiano (parmesan cheese) for the mozzarella (this could explain why many people think it is called “Chicken Parmigiano” instead of “Chicken Parmigiana”. Where the name comes from is a bit of a mystery; some say it originated in Parma, Italy and some say it is named after a Sicilian recipe, called “Parmiggiana”, which is fried eggplant, tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese. No matter where it comes from, or how you make it, it is simply delicious.