Last Updated on October 1, 2017 by Jennifer Pallian BSc, RD
Chicken parmesan with thick knots of spaghetti and a bright tomato sauce is an ultimate cozy dinner. My version uses a couple of tricks to ensure maximum crispiness.
Mamas, it can be hard to find a good groove with dinners, can’t it? In our home, the kids are starving by 5 pm, but I can rarely accommodate that hour as dinner time. With bedtime routine starting at 6:30, they are exhausted and raging (and I mean raging) with emotions during the period when I’m actually cooking. There are often a few tears before the first plate hits the table. (Sometimes the kids cry, too.)
I’ve found two things actually make the evening rush go smoother. The first is planning, which yes, is a major pain, but really does make life easier. Short term pain for long term gain (repeat to self).
The second thing is having food ready before the meltdown hits. For me this means a mix of batch cooking (making double quantities of reheat-friendly dinners a few times a week), or early cooking (getting dinner started while I’m working from home in the afternoon, or when the little one is napping, or even in the morning with the slow cooker).
This recipe is a great one to make extra of and freeze. I used chicken tenders instead of the usual fillets (which are just breasts halved crosswise and pounded to even thickness) and filled our freezer with chicken parmesan “fingers” for future meals.
This recipe is in collaboration with Horizon (wholesome, family-friendly, no-weird-stuff-added, yummy products). As you might already know, I joined forces with them this year in their #AllForWeird (just not in food) campaign, which I think is such a great slogan.
I took advantage of their pre-shredded cheese (a convenience item I rely on heartily) to shave some precious minutes off of the preparation. I used their organic mozzarella, and showered it generously over the chicken once it was partially cooked. A quick trip to the broiler, and the mozza was soon bubbling and golden.
The first trick to crispy oven “frying” is a hot, hot oven and convection, if you’ve got it. The second trick is a wire rack placed inside a baking sheet – this ensures heat and air circulation all around, so the bottom crisps as nicely as the top. Finally, mixing some olive oil in with the crumb coating adds flavour and coaxes the exterior to golden, crunchy perfection.
I included my quick and easy marinara sauce recipe, but absolutely no judgement should you decide to just twist open a jar. Such a yummy dinner, for kids and grown ups alike.
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Crispy Baked Chicken Parmesan
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 1 cup finely chopped onion
- 4 large garlic cloves minced
- 1 28- oz 796 mL can unsalted diced tomatoes
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 2 cups panko breadcrumbs
- ½ cup finely grated parmesan cheese
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1 ½ lbs chicken tenders or fillets
- 2 large eggs
- 1 heaping cup Horizon Organic Shredded Mozzarella
- Cooked spaghetti to serve (optional)
- Preheat oven to 450º (on convection, if you have it). Place an oiled wire rack inside a baking sheet.
- To make sauce, heat olive oil over medium in a medium saucepan. Cook onion until translucent, about 10 minutes, then add garlic and cook a minute more. Stir in tomatoes and salt, then reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Use an immersion blender to puree, or carefully blend in two batches in a regular blender.
- In a shallow baking dish, whisk breadcrumbs with parmesan, olive oil, and salt. In a separate dish, beat the eggs. Dip chicken first in the beaten egg, then in the breadcrumb mixture and place on the prepared rack. Bake chicken for 10 minutes, then remove and turn on broiler. Top chicken with mozzarella, then return to oven and broil until golden and bubbly, and chicken reaches 165ºF, about 4 minutes more. Serve atop tomato sauce with hot, cooked spaghetti, if desired.