Chicken Parmigiana is the definition of classic Italian comfort food. The crispy breaded cutlets, bright tomato sauce and melty cheese make it irresistibly delicious, warming and satisfying. The leftovers also make some of the best sandwiches.
BASIC TOMATO SAUCE (MAKES 5 TO 6 CUPS)
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large Spanish onion, finely diced
3 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
2 (28-ounce) cans whole peeled plum tomatoes, with their juices
1 pinch sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
4 eggs, beaten
2 cups panko-style breadcrumbs
4 (8-ounce) boneless skinless chicken breasts, pounded to about 3/4-inch thickness
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup neutral oil, such as avocado oil, for frying
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup baby arugula
2 cups Basic Tomato Sauce, served hot (recipe above)
8 ounces bufala mozzarella, sliced into 8 slices
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
2 tablespoons hand-torn basil
FOR THE BASIC TOMATO SAUCE:
In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook until soft, 3 to 4 minutes.
Add the garlic and pepper flakes (if using) and cook until soft, about 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and their juices and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and the sugar. Cook until the sauce is reduced and thickened, 45 minutes to one hour, using a potato masher to lightly crush the tomatoes as they cook.
Use immediately or let cool completely, transfer to airtight containers and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or in the freezer for up to a month.
FOR THE CHICKEN PARMIGIANO:
1.Preheat the oven to 425 F. Place a baking rack over a sheet pan and set aside.
2.Set up a dredging station: Place each of the flour, the beaten eggs and the breadcrumbs into separate shallow dishes and season each with salt and pepper.
3.Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Dredge each breast in the flour and tap off the excess, then dip into the egg, letting the excess drip off. Finally, dredge in the breadcrumbs. Transfer the chicken to a sheet pan or large plate and set aside.
4.Heat half the oil up in a large deep sided sauté pan over high heat until it begins to shimmer. Cooking in batches, fry the chicken until golden brown on all sides and cooked through, adding oil to the pan as needed. Transfer the chicken to the baking rack over the sheet pan set up. Repeat with remaining chicken.
5.To finish the chicken, place two slices of fresh mozzarella on top of each chicken breast, season with salt and pepper, and place in the oven until the cheese melts and warms through, approximately 4 minutes.
Ladle hot tomato sauce onto platter or plate. Top with chicken. Sprinkle Parmigiano, drizzle some olive oil, garnish with basil and arugula leaves.