Chicken Parmesan Lightened Up

I have a love/ hate relationship with Italian food.  If carbs had no effect on your thighs, it would be a complete love relationship, but we all know that is a harsh reality.  I love nothing more than going to Carraba's and having half of a bread basket dipped in olive oil followed by a large portion of chicken parmesan and pasta.  Oh, and then maybe a piece of tiramisu.

Well, I probably wouldn't be able fit through my kitchen if I ate like this every day so I am all about finding recipes that are just as delicious without all of the calories.  If you agree with anything that I just said, you are going to want to make this recipe as soon as possible.  It has all of the great flavors of a true chicken parmesan without the crispy, breaded coating.

 Now I still think this is paired well with angel hair pasta with olive oil and garlic, but at least you are not overdoing it with the chicken.  I discovered this recipe last week and have made it twice for dinner and served it for a dinner party I catered.  It is easy enough for a weeknight, but special enough for a dinner party.

Warning: If you are preparing to make this, be sure to read the recipe note below.

From my little kitchen to yours... Enjoy.








Chicken Parmesan Lightened Up
Recipe Notes
Warning! The sauce for this recipe needs to simmer for an hour! Just wanted to put that out there so you weren't trying to throw together a quick dinner and not have realized this (like I did the first time).  However, I still consider this a great and quick recipe because you can do quite a few things with the sauce.  You could make it a couple of days before so you can throw it together quickly, you could make a big batch and freeze it, and you can also use it on pastas or pizzas. With this said, you could always use a jarred sauce, but I think the homemade sauce is the key to making this dish so great.  So make it on a Sunday, use some for a dinner during the week and freeze the rest for the next batch. This recipe makes enough sauce for 6 pieces of chicken.  Even if you are making just two, make the whole batch of sauce and freeze the rest! (okay, now I sound like a broken record about the whole freezing thing but it really saves so much time in the end).
Next, this recipe calls for chicken cutlets, which is a really thin piece of boneless skinless chicken breast. Most grocery stores will do this for you if you ask, but if yours doesn't, here is a how-to on doing it yourself.
Last thing, if you have a great french skillet and are making 4 or less chicken breasts, follow the instructions about putting the pan in the oven.  If you don't have a great pan or you have more than 4 portions, cook all of the chicken as directed and then cook in a glass casserole dish.
For the chicken
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary leaves
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon fresh Italian parsley leaves
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
4 chicken cutlets (or if they are really thin and small, use 8)
1 1/2 cups homemade tomato sauce (recipe below) or store bought
Thin slices of fresh mozzarella (1 or 2 per piece of chicken) OR 1/2 shredded mozzarella
8 teaspoons grated parmesan
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
For the tomato sauce
1/2 cup virgin extra olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
2 (32-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes
4 to 6 basil leaves
2 dried bay leaves
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, optional
Step by Step
For the sauce
In a large casserole pot, heat oil over medium high heat.  Add onion and garlic and saute until soft and translucent, about 2 minutes.  Add celery and carrots and season with salt and pepper.  Saute until all the vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes.
Add tomatoes, basil, bay leaves and simmer covered on low heat for 1 hour or until thick.  Remove bay leaves and check the taste.  If sauce tastes slightly acidic, add unsalted butter, 1 tablespoon at a time to round out the flavors.

Process sauce until smooth.  If you have a hand blender, stick it in the pot and blend until smooth.  If you  have a mini food processor, add half of the sauce and blend until smooth.  Add the other half and do the same.  You could also use a blender for this as well.  Make sure to cool sauce before using a food processor or blender.

If not using all of the sauce, allow to cool completely.  Pour 1 to 2 cup portions into plastic freezer bags and freeze up to 6 months.  To thaw, put in the refrigerator overnight.  Reheat on the stove.
For the chicken
Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F.

Stir the oil and herbs in a small bowl to blend.  Season with salt and pepper.  Dip each chicken cutlet in the olive oil herb mixture until well coated.  Heat a large oven-proof skillet over high heat.  Add the cutlets and cook just until brown, about 2 minutes per side.  Remove the skillet from heat.

Spoon the marinara sauce over and around the chicken.  Lay a slice of mozzarella on each piece of chicken or place a small amount of shredded mozzarella on each.  Top with a tablespoon of parmesan on each piece and sprinkle with pieces of butter.

Bake until the cheese melts and the chicken is cooked through, about 5 minutes.

These pics are from when I made this for a dinner party for 8.  Because I had more chicken than would fit in the pan, I cooked it in two batches and then placed all of the chicken in a lightly greased casserole dish.  I then topped with sauce and cheese and cooked according to the original directions.

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