Our son, who is on a college trip to Italy, called last night. He was standing by the Trevi Fountain in Rome with a large and boisterous crowd of friends, and he said he was thinking of when his Dad and I took him there a few years ago. We had a wonderful weekend in Rome that time, and on the Sunday, we all threw coins in the beautiful Trevi Fountain, as legend has it that this guarantees your return to Rome. Clearly, it has worked more quickly for our son than for us! I was so touched that he thought of us, and even more so when he said he had just thrown three coins in the fountain, one for himself and one each for his Dad and I, so that we would all soon return to Rome as a family. He’s such a thoughtful chap; I’m glad I made him a nice dinner before he left!
Last Sunday night, before our son set off on his trip, I wanted to make something special for dinner, and thought that it could be fun to work with the Italian theme. I made this dish from memories of the many plates of Chicken Parmigiana I have eaten in Italian restaurants all over the world and in Italy itself over the years. I seriously winged it with this recipe, cooking solely from my memory of the taste, texture and flavours of this wonderful dish, and thankfully, it worked amazingly well. I was particularly pleased about my discovery that I really could bake the chicken breaded, because not only does it use less fat, it’s a lot easier and less messy!
Anyway, this is by no means an authentic Chicken Parmigiana, but it is comfort food made with love, from my kitchen to yours.
To serve four people you will need:
4 chicken breasts
1½ cups of matzo meal or bread crumbs
salt and pepper to taste
1 pound of spaghetti
about 4 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 cups of passata (sieved tomatoes) or tomato sauce
2 tablespoons basil pesto
4 medium slices Mozzarella cheese
4 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese (please use fresh Parmesan if possible, not dried)
Preheat the oven to 375℉ or about 190℃ (170℃ for a fan oven).
Pour about 3 tablespoons of olive oil on a baking sheet big enough to fit all the chicken breasts and use it to coat the whole pan well.
Beat the eggs with a fork in a bowl. Put the matzo meal or bread crumbs on a plate and sprinkle over a bit of salt and pepper.
Dip each of the chicken breasts in the egg and then coat with the matzo meal or bread crumbs and place directly on the baking sheet. Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes without turning.
Meanwhile, heat about a tablespoon of olive oil in a medium saucepan and sauté the onion until it is beginning to go translucent. Add the passata or tomato sauce and the pesto and simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally.
After they have cooked for 20 minutes, very carefully turn the chicken breasts over (if you have used enough oil the crumb will not stick, but if it does, don’t worry too much as you won’t see it anyway). Cook for about 5 to 10 more minutes until the chicken is done and no pink remains inside.
Top each chicken breast with a slice of Mozzarella cheese. Turn the heat on the oven down and allow the cheese to melt.
Meanwhile cook the pasta according to package directions. When cooked, drain well and return to the pan.
Serve each chicken breast on a bed of spaghetti topped with tomato sauce. Garnish the chicken breast with a bit more tomato sauce and the Parmesan cheese.
This is wonderful with a glass of good red wine.