Phil doesn’t like to mess with a classic.  He’s got his favorite pancake recipe,  the oven-fried chicken with buttermilk biscuits and gravy, the Thanksgiving turkey, and the potato dumplings that his Grandma used to make.  And, he is also adamant about my chicken parmigiana, which he professes to be “the best he’s ever had”. That’s why it took me so long to try Giada’s version, a streamlined, lightened up approach to this American-Italian goodie.  I tried to hide my game, but he saw some of the regular actors in the plot: chicken breast filets, mozzarella cheese, and my tomato sauce simmering on top of the stove.  He opened his brightest smile: “We are having chicken Parmigiana! YEAAAAH!”    I  replied with a sheepish smile:  “Well, sort of, it’s a kind of Parmigiana, yes, but not really, maybe almost Parmigiana, but not quite.  We’ll see if we like it.”   Silence.  A slight shudder of the shoulder, which I could not help but notice.  His body language went more or less like “Why would she do this to me?”  Why? For the simple thrill of it, of course! 😉

First, you must make your own tomato sauce, using good quality canned tomatoes.  I saute’ a little shallot in olive oil until fragrant, season with salt and red pepper flakes, add the tomatoes and some dried thyme, and simmer for about 20 minutes. Then I use an immersion blender to turn it into a smooth sauce.

Next, you need to make a little seasoned oil.  I used thyme from my friend Cindy’s garden (yet another gift from my very thoughtful friend), and rosemary from our own plant here in Manhattan. Chop them finely, and add to the oil with a little salt. And freshly ground black pepper.

Brush the chicken cutlets on both sides with the oil, keep in the fridge for half an hour or so, if you have the time. If not, move on to the next step.

Sautee the cutlets in a very hot skillet with just a tiny coating of olive oil.  Once both sides are nicely golden, pour some  tomato sauce around and over the chicken.  Cover the pan and simmer gently for a few minutes.  Uncover, add grated mozzarella cheese on top of the meat, cover the pan again and bake on a 400F oven for 10 minutes.
Open the lid, turn the broiler on for a little while if you like your cheese to get a nice tan. It’s not mandatory, though… at this point, you have already reached the desired level of yumminess.

Serve with some spaghetti with your home-made tomato sauce, sprinkle Parmigiano cheese on top, and   ENJOY!

For Giada’s recipe, follow this link…

Comments:  When I make my own version of this dish,  I often omit the cheese in some pieces.  I tried it with this recipe (you might be able to notice one small piece of cheese-less chicken on the first photo), but I advise against it. In this particular preparation, the cheese will act as an important blanket for the cutlets that otherwise will be a bit dry.  What I love the most about this recipe is how easy it was to make it.  No need to have those three trays with breadcrumbs, flour, eggwash, and the result is quite a bit lighter but still delicious.  The herb oil adds a lot of flavor, don’t omit this step, and feel free to experiment with other spices and flavorings. Will it be the default Parmigiana in our home?  I doubt it, but it’s definitely a great option for those evenings that pop up right at the end of a hectic day at work.  😉

One more thing before I forget:  the pan I use is a Giada cast iron dish sold by Target.  I cannot believe I’m saying this, but I like it better than Le Creuset.  It is a lot cheaper, it works just as well, and the cleanup is a breeze!  My Le Creusets got stained from the first use, and never cleaned well, even using diluted bleach.  Giada’s pan still looks brand new, after many  encounters with tomatoes, red wine, and soy based sauces.  No, I don’t work for Target, and have no personal links to Giada.  In fact, I have never accepted  freebies from companies to write a review.  I only endorse stuff I love.  And I love, love, love this pan!  😉

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  1. Oh, that’s so funny, my husband is the exact same way (I think it’s the engineer in him) but he literally cannot watch me cook. Even though he usually likes the result, it makes him crazy to see me mess around with ingredients and especially measurements ;-). Sally, I happen to love chicken parmigiana but do you know, I’ve never made it! (I think it has something to do with pounding flesh that I just can’t get into…) but yours doesn’t seem to call for that – so you buy thin sliced cutlets? What a great idea. I have to investigate and I agree, homemade sauce is the way to go… thrilled to have this recipe Sally!


    • I found cutlets already very thin, but it’s not always that those are available. I normally slice the chicken breast in two lengthwise, and if I have to pound the thicker parts I just sprinkle a tiny bit of water on top, cover with SaranWrap and pound it gently.


  2. I make a version of this a few times a year, but I sometimes make it even easier (and I’m sure, less tasty) by using a premium bottled pasta sauce, like Lidia Bastianich or Rao’s. But I also add the step of dipping the chicken in beaten egg, then in flour, before pan-frying. I skip the breadcrumb part. After that, I add in the sauce, put cheese on top, and put the pan in the oven. Delicious every time.

    I was going to ask you about the pan. Looks the perfect size and shape for this dish, and many others! Thank you, Sally. I hope Phil didn’t mind “slumming” this time!


    • Paula, so nice to “see” you again! I like your version, will give it a try too, poor Phil doesn’t know what is coming! 😉

      He was happy with this recipe, actually, I was surprised how well it was “accepted” even if it deviated from the norm!


      • I forgot to mention that I added some fresh basil on top of the chicken, before I put the cheese on. This added some great flavor and the basil didn’t burn because it was protected by the cheese. I’ve also made this dish with boneless, skinless chicken thighs instead of breast meat, and it’s effortlessly moist and tender. I don’t even bother to pound the thighs, but I do spread them out so they are as thin as naturally possible.


  3. I’m in the market for a new frying pan, so glad to hear your Giada pan works best! I had to scroll fast.. I was dying to know if it was a better recipe than your traditional, favorited one. Looks like it wasn’t.. but I might have to try both myself to see which one my family votes for:D Maybe on the same night!! xx


    • Barbara, I am divided in this one, actually. Part of me really likes the “traditional” version, but I can see myself changing to this one 75% of the time and leaving the other one for special occasions, as this is so much lighter


    • I often roll my eyes to the ceiling when I see all the “food celebrities” gadgets and pans and products being sold everywhere. Giada now has pasta, sauces, something that probably started with Emeril Lagasse. So, I was more than pleasantly surprised by the quality of this pan. I also bought Giada’s large grater, and it works well too, and is cheaper than the Microplane (which I have in a smaller size)


  4. This is such a great dish, Sally! I’ve gone from pan-frying the breaded chicken pieces to baking them, in an effort to cut some of the calories. I never thought to get rid of the bread crumbs, though. Duh! What a great idea! It makes this dish so much more accessible and really does eliminate much of the mess. I will definitely give this a try. Thanks!
    As for your pan, 2 years ago I bought a no-name Dutch oven for about 1/8 of what a Le Creuset cost. Yes, it is lightly stained but, once I tire of the stains, I’ll purchase another without batting an eye, something I’d never be able to afford with Le Creuset.


    • I’ve seen other Dutch oven pans for sale and often wonder about them. Now I don’t have space to store any other large pan, so I’ll stay with my stained Le Creuset and just not worry too much about it 😉


  5. I have almost bought this pan a million times, but have been holding out for the le creuset. I may reconsider now. 😉 And you’ve got me craving chicken parm. I haven’t had it in too long! And you know once a craving hits…gunna have to make this ASAP!


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