Food You Can Eat: Chicken Parmigiana

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Cousin Matthew’s Three Chicken Parmigiana Recipes, In Increasing Order of Complexity

I am going to take you on a culinary history of my love affair with chicken parmigiana. The recipes are going to get more complex because over time my kitchen skills and my kitchen itself improved immensely. All recipes serve two hungry people, but if you’re a savage like I am, you can warm up any leftovers in an oven (NOT a microwave) and have the leftovers for a hungover breakfast.

The second and third recipes call for boneless, skinless chicken breasts. 


College Student Who Has Access to an Oven Chicken “Parmigiana” Heroes

I actually used to do this up until about a decade ago, and I did not graduate in the 21st century. It’s quite tasty and hits the spot when the craving overcomes you. 

2 precooked chicken breasts, spiced and breaded, preferably with a little parmesan already thrown in. You can get these at delis and wholesale clubs. 

1 jar of the best garlicky tomato sauce you can find. I like Rao’s and Patsy’s, but those are two New York restaurants and I don’t know how easy it is to get outside the NYC metro area. Try your best.

1/2 lb or maybe 1 lb sliced mozzarella

4 small-ish hero rolls. 6’ maximum. And not the really thick ones.

No Parmesan cheese (!)


Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. 

Slice your chicken breasts in half horizontally. They should be kind of thin. If they’re thick, put the chicken breasts on a cutting board, cover with cling wrap, and pound them with something. If you have a meat pounder use that, otherwise, a rolling pin or even press on them with a heavy pot.

Arrange the chicken breasts on one side of a baking sheet. Use parchment paper or tin foil if you have it but that’s only for easy clean-up later. If you’ve ever seen chicken parm made in a pizza place they just throw it on the grill. 

Spoon some of your tomato sauce over each breast.

Top each with 1/4 of your sliced mozz (that’s what we non-Italian cooks call it to sound like we’re “in the know”.)

In your preheated oven place your baking sheet on the middle rack. Your chicken is already cooked so you’re just warming this all together. I’d give it about 4 minutes total, maybe a little more. You want the chicken to warm through and the mozz to melt.

Slice your hero rolls in half length-wise. At the two-minute mark add the hero rolls face up (not face down, they might burn) on the other side of your baking sheet.

Remove from oven, remembering to wear your souvenir shop oven mitt that says “Food is better when it’s made in Wisconsin.” It was a gift; I’ve never been to Wisconsin. Move the rolls to two dinner plates, 4 halves each. Using a spatula CAREFULLY transfer the halved chicken breasts to the roll halves and top with the other lonely one. Each plate will then have two sandwiches. I am at least 30 pounds over my ideal weight.


Somewhat Healthy Chicken Parmigiana

This is actually closer to what you’d get in Italy itself. Imagine my disappointment when it arrived at my tavola without a half gallon of sauce and accompanied with a salad.

2 fairly large but not plump chicken breasts

Olive oil

1/2 cup flour

1 or 2 eggs, beaten

Breadcrumbs, about a 1/2-cup

Grated parmesan, I’ll get to this later

Salad* (see Chef’s note below)


This requires significant dishware so I hope you have a dishwasher. If not and you are making this to be shared make them clean up as payback. The ingredient amounts are a little vague and you’ll see why.

Flatten your chicken breasts (cling wrap, pressing them with a pot, a meat pounder or rolling pin if you have one). They should be really flat, not much thicker than a cellphone. I think that’s about 1/4 inch. Or maybe like the width of a Sharpie.

Now you will be dredging. I love dredging meat and seafood but I have a dishwasher. Put your flour on a plate at least as large as your chicken breast. It will grow after you’ve pounded it, you’ll see. Beat the eggs in a bowl and then transfer them to a wide soup bowl. Put your breadcrumbs on another plate. Your breadcrumbs might be “parmesan” flavored. Yeah, well. What I do is make my own. Take regular bread crumbs, pour in some melted butter, and add parmesan cheese. Use only enough butter to make the parmesan stick to the breadcrumbs, you don’t want a bread paste. Make this beforehand so they’re room temperature.

Try to gauge how much flour, egg, and breadcrumbs you’ll need (you can always add more) because:

Pour a little olive oil in a large sauté pan and spark it up. A frying pan will work but I have a sauté pan because I am a fan of omelets and crèpes. Coat both sides of your chicken breasts in the flour, dip in the beaten eggs, and then coat in the breadcrumbs. When you lay them in the flour there will be some extra so remove with thumb and a finger or two. Move your breasts into the sauté/frying pan over medium heat. If you don’t have quite enough coating material you’ll have to add more for the second, and your first will get a head start.

This doesn’t take long. Your chicken breasts are so skinny that you should only need about three or four minutes, over they go to the other side, and three or four minutes more, maximum. There’s no sauce in this so you don’t want it to be dry.

*Chef’s note: I’ve had this three times in Italy in three different areas of the country. It’s always been served with a very simple salad. When in Rome…When I make this (and I’ve made it for Italian natives) I just chop up some arugula and Boston lettuce and serve with a store-bought “Italian” vinaigrette. I think this is what an Italian expects but go rogue if you want.


American “Red Sauce Italian” Restaurant Chicken Parmigiana Dinner

Now we’re talking. If you go to an American place called something like “Mama Maria’s Cucina Italiana Since 1974” this is what you’ll get. It is my favorite and what I will order for my last meal should I wind up on death row for the pandemic lockdown-related murder of my husband.

Marinara sauce

The 2 chicken breasts prepared as in the Somewhat Healthy recipe above

1/2 lb mozzarella, sliced not too thin

Shaved/grated parmesan cheese, a lot

1 lb spaghetti (you’ll probably have some leftover, but that’s the box size)


Make the marina sauce. For me this takes a couple of hours at the very least and I’ve never made it the same way twice. It always involves crushed tomatoes, a can of tomato paste (to firm things up so the sauce isn’t too runny) and lots of garlic. A bay leaf or two if I have, and oregano. I am a devoted meat lover but don’t add anything like sausage or hamburger or veal to your sauce. Make enough to keep in mind you’ll be covering your chicken with this and using it for spaghetti. I sometimes make two sauces, a very simple one for the chicken and something more substantial for the spaghetti, 

Make the two chicken breasts like you would for the Somewhat Healthy recipe. Then, top with a generous helping of more parmesan cheese.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. 

Start boiling a pot of salted water.

Go back to the College Student recipe. On a baking sheet lined with parchment paper (or not) place the cooked chicken breasts, spoon on some of your sauce, and add the mozzarella slices. Shave some parmesan over it, as much as you want.

Let the water come to a boil. Add your spaghetti. I use the thinnest I can find but that’s a personal preference. I have a friend who makes this and she uses penne. Using a short, thick pasta seems wrong, almost heretical. 

After about 5 minutes pull your chicken breasts out of the oven. Put them (using your handy tongs) on the largest dinner plates you have. Now your spaghetti should be at least al dente but cook it to the consistency you like. Drain the pot and then transfer the spaghetti to your be-chickened dinner plates using those tongs. Top with more of your marinara. Alternately you can move the pasta to a large bowl, add the marinara sauce and mix, but serving that to the plate at the dinner table makes a huge mess. Whatever you do, add more shaved parmesan to the spaghetti.

Note: For reasons I don’t understand the chicken is usually placed on top of the spaghetti. When it’s done this way sometimes the spaghetti does not have marinara to call its own. I do the side by side thing because I love tomatoes and you can never get enough.

I go all Mama Maria’s Cucina Italiana and make garlic bread. That’s easy, you smear a garlic-butter spread in the middle of a sliced loaf of Italian bread but you have to squeeze that in the oven. I make a garden salad with iceberg lettuce, cucumbers, and cherry tomatoes, with blue cheese dressing. For dessert I serve spumoni. It’s like eating at an Italian restaurant along a state route in New Jersey circa 1974 and it’s the best.




  1. Those all look very good, from the student to the pro versions! I actually own an old-school meat mallet, was my grandmother’s, nasty thing with a flat side and a side of pointed diamond shapes, looks like a medieval weapon. While I forego meat, I cook for people who will love it. Thank you!

  2. The chicken parm sandwich is my favorite way, and if you don’t slice the roll all the way, the “hinge” acts as a barrier to stop the sauce from leaking out if you tilt the sandwich about 15 degrees.
    Pretty much any kind of parm sandwich is good, pork, beef, mushroom, even textured vegetable protein.

  3. Being a non-Italian, I make the American version which is pretty similar to yours.  The melted butter in the breadcrumbs to make the cheese stick to it (I use Romano–fight me) is a good idea.  I’m going to try that the next time I make it.

  4. if i replace the chicken with minced meat…does it still count as chicken parm?
    coz…thats fucking deliciosus
    (farscy no likey da chicken…. he thinks its the meat vegans should eat)

    • Here in the US, or at least New York pizza places/casual Italian, the second most popular version for the chicken is veal. You do everything exactly the same, except you might cook the veal a little longer.

      • …I’m sure that would also be tasty…but if I’m going to eat veal & there are Italian options available I find it hard to read the ones that don’t say saltimbocca (or maybe saltinbocca – I don’t know which is right but I’ve seen it with the m more often than the n?)

        …but that may have to do with there being a particular Italian restaurant my family used to go to when I was younger where the owner used to bring me double-sized portions of that…mind you that was UK-size portions so it came to about a normal-sized portion in the places I’ve had it in the states

        …I know some people are pretty staunch about veal being not-ok but if it’s already in the kitchen I kind of feel like it’d be worse if it went to waste?


        • Yes, veal (and lamb too) will get you the side-eye. I never buy either in the supermarket anymore, I normally order it out or go to a couple of butchers I know. I would never serve it to guests because I’m sure someone would raise an objection. 
          Do you ever make osso bucco? That’s one of my favorites. 

          • …I’m not entirely useless in a kitchen but the one I’ve been living with the last few years is not well geared to what I think of as serious cooking

            …at my grandmother’s on the other hand…in a house with a walk-in larder & a chest freezer…I think I might have managed something like that…but I’m pretty sure it was only lamb shanks I remember in those days

            …it’s definitely something I can’t ever remember regretting having ordered, though

  5. This very late but I consciously uncoupled from the internet yesterday. I meant to include this tip.
    If you want to make bigger chicken parmesan, which I sometimes do, you don’t slice the breast through and divide. No, you slice it almost all the way through and then butterfly it. This is like laying an open book face down. This tends to make for a very big cutlet indeed, especially if you pound it to make it thinner, but if you order it at Mama Maria’s Cucina Italiana Since 1974 this is what they would do.

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