Chicken Parmesan Casserole

The last stop on my cooking marathon yesterday was this dish – Chicken Parmesan Casserole! I love the idea of deconstructing a traditional dish and turning it into a casserole (see also Chicken Cordon Bleu Mac and Cheese). So I thought I’d do something similar to this Italian classic. The fact that I love fried chicken helped to add this to my dinner rotation for the week too. I have to say that it turned out great and every bite was definitely reminiscent of the original dish. Some of the breading from the chicken gets mixed in with the pasta and sauce and continues the flavor throughout. Yum, yum! I made own Italian bread crumbs (because I have yet to find a store-bought brand that is all-natural) to bread the chicken. By the way, frying chicken with these breadcrumbs and buttermilk just as a normal fried chicken entree is awesome, and even if this dish doesn’t appeal to you, I suggest you try it! Hope you enjoy!

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Chicken Parmesan Casserole

Vegetable oil (enough to fill a frying pan 1-inch)
1 1/4 cup Italian bread crumbs (see recipe below for homemade)
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 lb chicken tenderloins
1 lb penne pasta, boiled to al dente
6 cups marinara sauce (see recipe below for homemade)
1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
1/2 cup mozzarella balls, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 cup shredded mozzarella (for topping)

1.) Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2.) Heat vegetable oil over medium heat. Dip each chicken tenderloin in buttermilk, then dredge in the breadcrumbs, making sure to coat well on each side. Add to hot oil and fry until browned and cooked fully (actual time will depend on the thickness of the chicken – I cooked mine for about 5 minutes on each side). Remove from oil and place on a paper towel lined plate. Transfer to a cutting board and cut into chunks. Set aside.
3.) In a large bowl (or the pot you cooked the marinara sauce in), combine cooked pasta, marinara sauce, parmesan cheese and mozzarella balls. Stir well until everything is well combined. Gently stir chicken into the pasta (so you don’t lose all the breading). Top with shredded mozzarella. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until cheese is browned and sides are bubbly.

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Italian Bread Crumbs
1 1/2 cup plain panko breadcrumbs
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp salt
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp parsley
1/2 tsp dried parsley

Place all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until well combined and consistency is thinner.

Italian Bread Crumbs

Marinara Sauce
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 large sweet onion, diced
2 tbsp minced garlic
2 26-oz boxes finely diced tomatoes
3 tbsp tomato paste
1/3 cup fresh basil, julienned
1 tbsp oregano
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

Saute onions and garlic in olive oil. Add remaining ingredients and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for at least an hour.

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Meatballs and Marinara

So I actually made this a while ago… I even typed out the recipe, uploaded the pictures and everything, but apparently I forgot to post it! Well, it’s too good to not share, so here it is!

My boys love, love, love meatballs, so this goes over really well in my house. I’ve played around with this recipe a lot over the years – sometimes with pork and/or veal – but I really just like it best with a high quality ground beef. The parmesan cheese and fresh herbs add a lot of flavor, and overall, they’re pretty easy to throw together. I made these along with marinara, so the instructions below are how I did both in about 45 minutes. Hope you enjoy!

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Meatballs

1 1/2 lbs lean ground beef
1/2 sweet onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup plain panko bread crumbs
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped (or 1 tbsp dried)
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped (or 1 tbsp dried)
2 tsp dried oregano
2 eggs
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

Marinara

3 14-oz cans diced tomatoes (undrained)
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 sweet onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup red wine
8 oz mushrooms, chopped
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped (or 1 tbsp dried)
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped (or 1 tbsp dried)
2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
2 tbsp sugar

1.) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat oil in large dutch oven over medium-high heat.
2.) Add onions and garlic and sauté for 3 to 5 minutes. While onions are sautéing, in a large bowl,  combine all ingredients for the meatballs.
3.) Add tomatoes to onions in the dutch oven and reduce heat to medium; simmer while you form meatballs into 1 1/2″ – 2″ balls.
4.) Place meatballs on a baking sheet about an inch apart and bake for 35 to 40 minutes (depending on how big you make the meatballs).
5.) To the sauce, add red wine, mushrooms, herbs, salt, pepper and sugar. Sauté for 30 minutes.
6.) With an emersion blender (or by using a normal blender to blend in batches), puree sauce to desired consistency (I like mine a little chunky, so I didn’t totally puree).
7.) When meatballs are done, add them to pot and coat with sauce. Serve over pasta.

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I was able to make 15 meatballs at this size.

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The sauce after simmering, before blending.

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The finished sauce – yum!

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Simple Sausage Marinara

This dish is a simple 30-minute homemade marinara that is a go-to for a weeknight meal.  Both of my boys love Italian sausage, so I’ve been using it in place of beef in a lot of my Italian dishes.  I used Publix’s Greenwise Italian Chicken Sausage and it was really good.  This dinner was a success –  I didn’t have to spend the whole evening in the kitchen and the boys cleaned their plates. The leftovers were great too.

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Simple Sausage Marinara

1 lb Italian sausage (I used chicken sausage)
1/2 medium onion, diced
1 tbsp minced garlic
8 oz mushrooms, sliced
2 14.5-oz cans diced tomato
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

1.) Brown the sausage in a large skillet. Add onion, garlic and mushrooms. Sauté until onions and mushrooms are soft, about 5 minutes.
2.) Add diced tomatoes, tomato paste, sugar, basil, oregano, salt and pepper. Reduce heat and simmer for about 15 minutes. Add parsley and simmer for 5 minutes longer.  Serve over pasta and top with parmesan cheese.

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