An Italian American favorite with hot crispy chicken and pasta
Meaty, Crispy, Saucy… and basically my husband’s favorite food
Sunday is pasta night, and there’s a 50% chance it’s time for my Crispy Pan Fried Chicken Parmesan. My husband treats this meal as the ultimate comfort food: crispy pan fried chicken covered in fresh parmesan cheese and sauce. All of that on top of a bed of noodles and served with a roll, creates a carb heavy delight that will leave you full and wishing for a nap.
How to flatten a chicken breast
Properly flattening a chicken breast is the key to this entire meal. A whole chicken breast is simply too thick to bread and fry to completion in a pan. By flattening the breast you create more surface area for breading and allow the breast to cook in a short enough time to not burn the breading.
If you don’t own a meat tenderizer, you should look into buying one since they’re fairly inexpensive. If you need to make Crispy Pan Fried Chicken Parmesan right now, you can, of course, slice the chicken breast in half to create thinner cutlets. But small thin cutlets fly in the face of this meal. People love to see the huge flat thin sheet of chicken covering the pasta, promising crispy chicken with every bite.
Here’s how to flatten a chicken breast for this meal:
- The chicken should be thawed or mostly thawed, and boneless. Don’t try to hit a chicken shaped ice cube.
- Place some plastic wrap over the meat. This will prevent meat juice from making a mess.
- For chicken, use the flat size of the tenderizer. The pointy side is better for beef or other fibrous meats.
- Flatten the breast until it’s ⅓-½ inch thick, or until it’s as big around as you want to serve. I typically turn a fully flattened chicken breast into two servings.
How to make the best pasta sauce with three goals
First, let me qualify what I look for in a tomato pasta sauce:
- Tomato forward flavor, this is a tomato sauce and the tomato taste should be up front.
- Not too watery, the sauce should be thick
- A rich flavor profile that blends savoriness, acid, and heat. The sauce shouldn’t be too much of any one of those, but should be a rich blend of all of them.
With those goals in mind, you should feel free to customize to your heart’s content. I’ve made great pasta sauces that have included vodka, sour cream, and various vegetables like peppers and mushrooms.
Lastly, I have to share that this meal is way better with smoked tomatoes. Every year I usually smoke half my tomatoes before canning. Check out my guide on how to Smoke Tomatoes.
Goal 1, Tomato forward flavor
To achieve a tomato forward flavor, I start with whole tomatoes. I go through the process of preserving and jarring tomatoes every fall, and will certainly create a post on the topic this year. I love my canned tomatoes for their rich garden fresh flavor all year long. If you don’t have access to your own garden tomatoes, you can either buy whole peeled tomatoes from the store, or start with whole fresh tomatoes. If you start with fresh tomatoes, cut the cores out and optionally slice them in halves or quarters. After a few minutes in the stock pot, they’ll break down into the base of your sauce.
Goal 2: No watery sauce here!
There are a few strategies for managing water content in your sauce. First, drain off the liquid if using canned or jarred tomatoes, the tomato itself will provide more than enough liquid. Then while cooking you can go one of two ways. If you have the patience, you could simmer the sauce for an hour or more to boil off the excess water. Otherwise, you can add tomato paste to thicken the sauce. We made our own frozen tomato paste every year from tomato scraps, and I’ll show you how this fall.
Goal 3: A rich flavor profile
Lastly, I’ll share a bit of a cheat code for creating that rich flavor profile. Sometimes I will do a lot of work to balance out a mixture of butter, worcester sauce, paprika, and other spices, but as of late I’ve been on a simpler kick. A bit of red wine, in my case Cabernet Sauvignon and a pinch of salt will create a rich flavor profile that will leave you hungry for more. Don’t worry, the alcohol will boil out of the sauce pretty quickly, so it’s safe to serve to all ages.
Sliced, grated, or block, what’s the best cheese for chicken parmesan?
All cheese is equal, but some cheese is more equal than others. Poor literary jokes aside, I do love cheese. For this meal, I have to recommend buying a block of parmesan from the “nice cheese” section of your grocery store. Grate it, and spread it over the chicken before serving. You’ll find it tastes very different (and better) than the grated kraft variety, and your meal will instantly look classy.
Typically I serve the sauce on top of the chicken and cheese, so that all the cheese melts under the hot sauce. For the purpose of presenting the recipe, I went with chicken and cheese on top of the sauce.
What kind of breadcrumbs should I use for chicken parmesan?
My post on making delicious tonkatsu has a longer write up on breadcrumb selection, you should check it out.
In short however, I recommend using the breadcrumbs you have on hand. I prefer to use panko for almost everything, and keep a large stock of it in my pantry. Panko creates very crispy and visually appealing fried food. It’s also flavor neutral, so even though “panko” screams Japan, you’ll still find it appealing for this Italian dish.
Recipe for Crispy Pan Fried Chicken Parmesan
Crispy Pan Fried Chicken Parmesan
- 1 sauce pan or Dutch oven
- 32 oz Whole peeled tomatoes
- 1 Onion white or yellow
- ¾ Cup Red Wine, Cabernet Sauvignon
- 1 tbsp minced garlic
- Dried oregano or basil optional
- 1 Chicken breast (~1lb)
- ½ Cup Panko or other breadcrumb
- 1 large Egg
- 1 block Fresh Parmesan
- 1 Box Favorite long noodles I like angel hair
- basil optional garnish
Crispy Pan Fried Chicken Instructions
- Start by laying a thawed boneless skinless breast on a cutting board (preferably plastic or wood, not glass). Then place a sheet of plastic wrap over the top of the chicken and smash with a tenderizer until the chicken is between ⅓ and ½ inch thick. Slice in two if making two servings.
- Next lay out breadcrumbs on a plate, cover enough area to coat one side of the chicken, and pile enough crumbs so you can do both sides, maybe ¼-⅓ inch thick on the plate. Whisk an egg in a bowl, then run the chicken through the egg. Press the egg-covered chicken into the panko, then flip it and press again. Do not be afraid to add extra bread crumbs where needed.
- Next heat a pan to medium to medium high heat, and add a bit of canola oil. Canola is recommended over olive oil here because olive oil will smoke and burn quicker. Once the oil is hot, lay out the chicken and fry until both sides are golden brown. You can pull one off the pan and cut into it to check for doneness. You shouldn’t need a lid or water for this operation.
Sauce and Assembly Instructions
- Heat a saucepan or Dutch oven on medium high heat with a bit of oil at the bottom. Slice up an onion and fry until the onion starts to turn translucent or golden, between 2 and 5 minutes. Add the minced garlic and fry for another minute.
- Now drain and add your tomatoes and wine. Add a dash of salt and any herbs you want to add. Let the mixture reach a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for 15-20 minutes. Near the end, if the sauce looks watery, mix in 1-2 tablespoons of tomato paste.
- Boil your noodle per the instructions on its box. We used angel hair, and you can use whatever your favorite noodle is. If your noodles finish before the rest of the meal, strain them and put them back in the pot (burner off) with a teaspoon of oil mixed in to keep the noodles from sticking.
- When all the parts are ready, lay down some noodles on the plate, and add sauce, chicken, and cheese. I chose to show the chicken and cheese on top, but I probably like it better when the sauce is on top. Serve and enjoy 🙂