For my first post, I thought I would do one of my most favorite things to eat! All my friends know that I generally prefer Asian cuisine over anything, so to not have an Asian dish as my first entry is going to shock you all. Hah!
When I crave Italian food, this is always my go to choice.
This dish reminds me of when I first moved to the US for college; I didn’t experience the “culture shock” that our high school college counselor eagerly prepped us for. I did, however, experience food shock. There were so many different types of foods that I had never eaten as a child growing up in Hong Kong. Until this day I’m still not sure if it’s because I was an incredibly fussy eater, or because we just didn’t have that much of Italian/ American spread over in Asia.
For the longest time I couldn’t remember that ‘Parm’ was not an abbreviation for parmesan, though I really don’t know anymore – there are so many Chicken Parmesan recipes out there. Anyway, I was first introduced to this dish at a little Italian joint in Providence’s infamous Italian neighborhood, Federal Hill. I liked the description on the menu and ordered it. I was so excited when it arrived because I just knew it was going to be good… and OMG, it seriously was. I immediately fell in love with the different textures (soft, crispy, juicy) – I’m big on a variety of textures, that’s really important for me in a dish – and needed to figure out a way to replicate the plate for myself.
So here’s my take on this Italian favorite. It involves a pseudo-homemade tomato sauce (I like to make things easy for myself, when I can), whole wheat spaghetti, a deliciously baked chicken cutlet, and most importantly fresh basil leaves, which the husbo & I grow in our little balcony garden.
1 lb 99% fat free chicken breast cutlets (thinly sliced)
1 tomato, diced
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 cup pasta sauce (I prefer classico’s red pepper)
1/2 yellow onion, diced
1/2 packet of shake’n bake
1 egg, beaten
pinch of cornstarch
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
5 – 6 leaves basil chiffonade
whole wheat spaghetti
2 cloves of garlic, grated
1 cup italian blend cheese, grated
salt & pepper (to taste)
1 tsp italian seasoning
extra virgin olive oil cooking spray
crushed red pepper flakes (to taste)
Preheat the oven at 400℉ and begin by prepping the chicken. Wash thoroughly and pat dry with a paper towel. Lightly sprinkle each side with salt & pepper. Do the same with the cornstarch, being sure to really massage it in.
Cover a baking tray with aluminum foil and coat with cooking spray. Pour the packet of Shake’N Bake into a shallow dish, and the beaten egg into a separate dish – creating a little assembly line. Dip the cutlet in the beaten egg, and then dredge in the Shake’N Bake. Place on the baking tray.
The baking tray goes onto the middle shelf of the oven, for 20 minutes… or until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165℉. If you don’t have a thermometer (I don’t) you can just check the color of the meat, making sure it’s not pinkish (this is super important, because let me tell you: Salmonella is friends with no one!) and check it’s juiciness by piercing it with a fork.
Coat a medium sauce pot with extra virgin olive oil and place over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic, crushed red pepper; cook and stir for 5 minutes until the onions are browned, soft & fragrant. Carefully add the tomatoes (they enjoy splashing everywhere), stir and cover for 3-5 minutes, until the tomatoes begin to get mushy. Add the Italian seasoning, tomato paste, and pasta sauce – stir thoroughly. As the sauce thickens, I prefer to keep the tomatoes chunky, but feel free to use a hand blender to smooth it out – if that’s what you like. Season with sugar, salt & pepper. Stir thoroughly, lower the heat, cover, and keep warm for later.
Don’t forget to prepare the pasta while the chicken is cooking! I’m not a huge fan of plain pasta, so I keep a little bit of the tomato sauce on the side and mix it into the spaghetti before serving.
Ladle the tomato sauce over the baked chicken cutlet and sprinkle with cheese. Bake for an additional 5 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly. Remove from oven and garnish with the basil chiffonade.
Serve hot with spaghetti and enjoy!