I never really fully appreciated the term "fruits of our labor" until we planted a garden, harvested it and then canned what we harvested. Enjoying what we have canned is enjoying the fruits of our labor in the most literal sense of the words. What I didn't realize though, was how difficult it would be for me to actually open those pretty little jars lining my pantry. When you have worked so hard to take the raw ingredients given to you by the earth and condense them down to something delectable and worth preserving; actually consuming it can be a hurdle.
You know that feeling you get if you've ever spent hours on a birthday cake only to watch it be devoured in minutes by famished sugar starved munchkins, or to see your beautiful masterpiece of a wedding cake shoved in someone's face? Eating what you have canned, runs along the same line. I never knew how many hours of work went into making one homemade jar of tomato sauce, nor how many tomatoes for that matter. Lots of tomatoes. Tons of tomatoes. Way more than you would ever suspect. As I mentioned in my entry on actually making my Tomato Basil Simmer Sauce, I have a whole new appreciation for Ragu now.
I decided this past week it was time to open up another can of my sauce,
but it needed to be a recipe worthy of my "labor". I decided to create a simple Chicken Parmigiana served over penne pasta and topped with my homemade sauce. This recipe starts on the stove top but finishes up in the oven, and if you haven't canned tomato sauce this summer (or can't bring yourself to open up a jar of your homemade sauce yet), then your favorite store bought tomato sauce will work just as well.
Chicken Parmigiana with Tomato Basil Simmer Sauce-Gourmet Meals for Less
6 thawed or fresh boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 cup all purpose flour
1 ½ cups panko breadcrumbs
2 large eggs
½ tsp salt
1 tsp fresh ground pepper
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. dried basil
½ tsp. garlic powder
1-2 Tbs. olive oil
1 package fresh mozzarella
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 lb penne pasta
1 jar of homemade Tomato Basil Simmer Sauce* (or tomato sauce of choice)
fresh basil leaves (optional)
*see link above
Preheat oven to 350°. Place chicken breasts on cutting board between two sheets of wax or parchment paper. Gently pound chicken with flat side meat mallet until uniform and approximately 1” thick. This will allow for your chicken to cook evenly. While you are preparing chicken, bring water to boil in a large saucepan according to pasta directions. Add pasta when water is at a full boil, cooking until al dente, 2-3 minutes shorter than recommended time. You do not want to overcook your pasta, as it will cook additional time in oven. Drain pasta and set aside.
To bread your chicken, you will need three separate bowls. In one bowl, place eggs, which have been slightly scrambled and to this add 1 Tbs. of water. In second bowl, place flour. In third bowl combine panko crumbs with salt, pepper oregano, basil and garlic powder. Heat large skillet to medium-high and coat with two-three turns of olive oil. While skillet is heating, take one chicken breast at a time and first coat in flour (shaking off excess),
then coat in egg (allowing extra to drip back into bowl), then in panko crumbs (making sure they have completely coated chicken).
Place chicken into hot skillet. Repeat with each chicken breast. Cook chicken breasts, turning one until golden brown on each side. Make sure your chicken has browned sufficiently on one side before flipping. This will prevent your breading from sticking to pan and coming off of chicken. Remove chicken and place on paper towel covered place.
Spray the bottom of a 9X13 baking dish with cooking spray. Pour pasta into bottom of pan. Top with ½ of pasta sauce and ½ cup of Parmesan cheese. Layer chicken breasts on top of sauce, and with remaining sauce and remaining ½ cup of Parmesan cheese. Top chicken with slices of fresh mozzarella. Bake at 350° for approximately 30-40 minutes, or until pasta is tender, chicken is cooked through and mozzarella is bubbly and golden. If desired, garnish with fresh basil leaves.
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