I have two stories of Italians from New Jersey for you today, both of which culminate with a delicious, easy go-to recipe for you!
When I was in high school, a native-New Jersey Italian from church taught all the teenagers how to make tomato sauce. It was fast, it was easy, it was fresh-tasting and delicious. And when Mike was teaching us how to make that sauce, I’m sure he thought we weren’t paying attention. But I was and the technique stuck with me from then on. He just simply sauteed garlic and onion in olive oil, added some canned tomatoes and tomato paste, a few spices and that was it!
On to the second story of Italians from New Jersey. A few years later when I was in college, my friend Patti was talking to me one day about how her new roommate didn’t really know how to do anything, you know, like pay bills, do laundry, all that “adult” stuff. I’ll never forget the culminating comment, “She can’t even throw together a simple chicken parmesan!” Spoken like a true Italian from Jersey, no? Anyway, when she said that to me, I just nodded and said, “Yeah, that’s crazy!” but inside I was thinking,”Hmmmm, I wonder how you throw together a simple chicken parmesan?” Thanks to Patti, I figured it out and it became one of my classic go-to meals.
Which brings us to the promise of this post…an easy, go-to recipe! This chicken parmesan recipe is a great one to have up your sleeve. Essentially all you need is a couple of eggs, some bread crumbs, frozen chicken, pasta, a few basic spices, parmesan cheese and Hunt’s tomato paste and petite-diced canned tomatoes. Yes, I’m working with Hunt’s. And, yes, I actually do always have Hunt’s petite diced tomatoes in my cupboard, even before I started working with them. I love the petite diced tomatoes. They are perfect for making sauce and the FlashSteam process makes the tomatoes taste flavorful and fresh. You would never guess my sauce is made from canned tomatoes!
So, get your cupboards stocked up and “go to” this recipe next time you’re in a dinner bind!
From Jane Maynard, created after hearing Patti describe making chicken parm over the phone years ago
- 1 pound chicken tenders (if you use boneless, skinless breasts, be sure to pound them flat)
- 1 cup plain bread crumbs
- 1/2 cup fresh shredded parmesan
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1/8 tsp. pepper
- 1/8 tsp. paprika
- 1/4 tsp. dried oregano
- 1/4 tsp. dried basil
- 2 eggs
- slices of fresh mozzarella
Note: I usually start cooking the sauce before I start prepping the chicken, so it can simmer while I make the pasta and chicken.
Preheat oven to 350 degree F.
Whisk the eggs in a soup/cereal bowl. In another cereal/soup bowl, mix together the bread crumbs, parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, paprika, oregano and basil. Dip each raw chicken tender in the egg to coat, then place in bread crumbs and coat well. Place on lined cookie sheet.
Cook for about 15 minutes, until they are JUST cooked through. Top with mozzarella cheese sliced and cook until cheese is melted, about 2-3 more minutes.
Homemade Tomato Sauce
From Jane Maynard, thanks to Mike’s inspiration even more years ago!
- 1 shallot or 1/2 onion, diced
- 3-5 fresh garlic cloves, minced or pushed through a press
- 2 cans Hunt’s petite diced tomatoes
- 2 Tbsp. tomato paste
- 1 – 2 Tbsp. sugar
- 1/4 tsp. black pepper
- 3/4 tsp. kosher or coarse salt
- 1/2 tsp. dried basil
- 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
Heat olive oil over medium heat. Add shallots/onions. Cook until soft, a few minutes. Add garlic and saute for about a minute. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, sugar, salt and pepper. Bring to boil, then reduce heat to the point where the sauce still simmers (usually medium-low). Simmer for 15-20 minutes. While the sauce is simmering, you can smash the sauce up a bit with a ricer or pastry blender, to break up some of the tomatoes. I like my sauce chunky, so I just do this a little bit.
Serve chicken with tomato sauce and cooked pasta.