Chicken Parmesan is a standard at most Italian Restaurants and a favorite among diners of all ages. It also is quick to rack up the calories particularly after the initially healthy boneless skinless chicken breast is breaded, pan fried and covered in cheese. If you are like me, however, and are perpetually watching the scale tick, tick, tick ever higher and constantly fighting to keep the pounds at bay, this version provides all the flavor with much less guilt.
The place to start is with an easy homemade marinara sauce. Just a few ingredients will result in deliciousness without much effort at all. If, however, you are short on time, have a favorite jarred brand or just simply don't want to make homemade sauce for whatever reason, you are off the hook with me. Grab your favorite standby and skip on to the next step. For those who wish, here goes...
Easy Marinara Sauce
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (the good stuff in absolutely necessary, feel free to sub. reg. olive oil)
1 large garlic clove, minced
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
1 large can whole Italian tomatoes (San Marzano variety is my fav. pick but any will do the job)
1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon dried oregano
bunch basil leaves, torn
splash (or two, or...) of red wine (optional)
In a large saucepan, add olive oil, garlic and red pepper flakes. Turn on burner heat to low and let the oil come slowly up to temperature until garlic becomes fragrant and begins to sizzle. Do not allow garlic to brown, however. Next, add the can of whole tomatoes, salt, sugar, oregano and wine if using. Stir together and allow to gently simmer for about 15 minutes. Once tomatoes begin to soften and break down after approx. 15 min. mash with a potato masher for a chunkier sauce or use an emmersion blender to a smooth sauce. Let simmer until thickened, approximately 10 min. more. Add torn basil, taste and adjust seasonings and remove from heat.
Next step is to preheat your grill. You should feel free to use whatever grill you prefer whether that is an indoor grill pan, an outdoor charcoal grill (just set it up for indirect heat cooking) or a gas grill set to a med. to med. high temperature.
Take your boneless skinless chicken breasts and pound them out, between two pieces of plastic, until they are of a uniform thickness so they will cook evenly. Season them liberally with salt, pepper and a good glug of olive oil. Grill them (time will depend on the method you use) until they are almost cook through.
Place the chicken breasts on a plate on "stand by" while you get set up to assemble the remaining ingredients. Be sure to preheat the oven to about 375 degrees. Place several spoonfulls of the marinara of your choice in the bottom on a casserole pan large enough to comfortably fit your chicken breasts without over crowding. Most likely a 9x12 should do the trick. Then, place the grilled chicken breasts atop the sauce and cover with a bit more sauce. Top each chicken breast with a cheese blend of your choice. This is the perfect time to use some lowfat Italian cheese blend, or perhaps even some fresh mozzerella, your choice. You will want to top it with shaving of Parmesan cheese (or I guess it wouldn't be chicken parmesan). Bake in the oven for approximately 15-20min. or until the cheese it melted, the sauce is bubbly and the chicken it cooked through (165 degrees).
Serve remaining sauce with side of pasta and a green salad for a delicious, healthful, easy and budget minded meal.
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