I cooked so much Italian food my first year of marriage that I’m surprised we didn’t end up speaking with Sicilian accents. Most often I turned to quick and easy pasta recipes, but when I was feeling extra fancy or it was a Friday night, I’d make Baked Chicken Parmesan.
Between you and me, the first time I made Baked Chicken Parmesan, I was ultra impressed with myself. Here was a recipe I’d seen in restaurants my whole life, right on our plates. The Parmesan chicken was perfectly crispy on the outside, lusciously juicy on the inside, and the cheese topping was hot, bubbly, and every bit as comforting as I’d hoped it would be.
No doubt we had wine, and I probably would have turned on the Pandora opera station to give the setting the ultimate Italian effect, if I weren’t already occupied shoveling Baked Chicken Parmesan into my mouth.
What a lucky man, this new husband of mine.
The funny thing about Baked Chicken Parmesan is that even though it seems fancy, it’s one of the easiest recipes to make. Although I most often associate chicken Parmesan with restaurants, I don’t actually like to order it out. For one, it’s so easy to prepare at home, I’d rather spend my restaurant dollars on a different dish. For two, most restaurant versions of chicken Parmesan are so over-the-top heavy that you lose the flavor of the chicken entirely under a pile of greasy breadcrumbs and slippery cheese.
Unlike those overdone restaurant recipes, today’s version is a healthy Baked Chicken Parmesan that fuses Italian comfort food with weeknight dinner sensibility. It’s baked, not fried, and the breadcrumb crust is satisfyingly crisp, without being so thick you feel as if you are eating at KFC.
To make the recipe especially weeknight friendly, I took a shortcut by using good-quality store-bought tomato sauce. You can make your own, but on most weeknights, which is when we usually eat Baked Chicken Parmesan these days, I am equally satisfied to open a jar.
My one non-negotiable: the bubbly, melty mozzarella cheese. I don’t think I needed to tell you that though, did I?
Baked Chicken Parmesan
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, about 12 ounces each
1/2 cup Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
1/4 cup whole wheat Panko breadcrumbs
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 large egg whites
4 ounces part-skim mozzarella
1/2 cup tomato sauce, plus extra for serving as desired
Thinly sliced or chopped fresh basil
Optional, for serving: prepared whole wheat pasta or zucchini noodles, or just enjoy on its own!
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly coat a baking sheet with cooking spray. Cut each chicken breast in half lengthwise so that you have 4 pieces total. Pound each piece to an even 1/2-inch thickness. Set aside.
In a wide, shallow bowl (a pie dish works well), combine the Italian breadcrumbs, whole wheat Panko breadcrumbs, Parmesan, garlic powder, and pepper. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg whites until lightly foamy. Cut the mozzarella into 4 slices, or grate and divide into four equal portions.
Arrange your work station in the following order: pounded chicken, egg whites, breadcrumb mixture, baking sheet. Working one at a time, dip each piece of chicken into the egg whites, shaking off any excess, then the breadcrumbs, gently patting the chicken as needed so that the crumbs stick to all sides. Place on the prepared baking sheet. Lightly coat the tops of the chicken with baking spray.
Bake until the chicken is cooked through (it should reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees F) and the crumbs are brown, about 15 minutes. Remove from the oven, spoon 2 tablespoons of sauce over each piece of chicken, and top with a slice of mozzarella. Return to the oven and bake until the cheese is melted, about 3-5 additional minutes. Sprinkle with basil and enjoy immediately, topped with extra sauce as desired.