Chicken Parmesan is a hearty, delicious, nostalgic family dinner I adore. However, it typically involves chicken fried in canola oil and served with starchy pasta. I knew this Italian classic could use a healthy makeover. To lighten it up, I bread the chicken in whole-wheat breadcrumbs instead of white breadcrumbs to add fiber and then I lightly fry it in nutrient-rich olive oil instead of canola oil. These two simple swaps create a chicken breast that is still crunchy, moist and flavor-packed but much less caloric!
Red Sauce and Pasta
2 tbsp (30 ml) extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 small white onion, diced
1 tbsp (9 g) finely chopped garlic
2 tsp (6 g) garlic powder
2 tsp (2 g) dried basil
1½ tsp (2 g) dried oregano
1 tsp dried parsley
1 tsp onion powder
2 tsp (10 g) salt
¼ cup (60 g) tomato paste
1 (28-oz [794-g]) can crushed tomatoes
1 (28-oz [828-ml]) can tomato sauce
1 tbsp (15 ml) balsamic vinegar
1 lb (454 g) whole-wheat or gluten-free spaghetti (I like Banza), cooked according to package instructions
Chicken Parmesan
2 large eggs
½ tbsp (8 ml) water
3 tbsp (45 ml) extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 cup (121 g) whole-wheat breadcrumbs
½ cup (90 g) grated Parmesan cheese
2 tsp (10 g) salt
½ tsp black pepper
1 tsp garlic powder
½ tsp onion powder
1½ tsp (2 g) Italian seasoning
4 to 6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, patted dry
4 to 6 large leaves fresh basil
4 to 6 (1” [3-cm])-thick slices fresh mozzarella cheese
To make the red sauce and pasta, heat 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of the oil in a large Dutch oven or pot over medium heat. Add the onion and cook it for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the onion softens and becomes translucent. Add the garlic and the remaining 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of oil if the Dutch oven is dry. Cook the mixture for 1 to 2 minutes, or until the garlic is fragrant. Add the garlic powder, basil, oregano, parsley, onion powder, salt and tomato paste. Cook the mixture for 1 to 2 minutes.
Add the crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce and vinegar and bring the sauce to a low boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer the sauce for 20 to 30 minutes, so that it slowly develops its flavor.
To make the chicken Parmesan, set out two wide, shallow bowls. Set out a large baking sheet next to the bowls.
In the first bowl, combine the eggs, water and 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of the oil. Whisk the ingredients until the eggs are fully combined with the water and oil. In the second bowl, stir together the breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese, salt, black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder and Italian seasoning.
Dip each chicken breast into the egg mixture and then the breadcrumb mixture, so that the chicken is entirely coated. Place the chicken on the baking sheet. Allow the chicken to rest for at least 10 minutes, so the breadcrumbs can fully adhere to the meat.
Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons (30 ml) of oil in a large lidded skillet over medium heat. Add the chicken breasts and cook them for 3 to 4 minutes per side, until each side is golden brown. Top each chicken breast with a little of the red sauce, 1 basil leaf and 1 slice of the mozzarella cheese. Cover the skillet with its lid and cook the chicken for 1 to 2 minutes, or until the cheese is fully melted. Remove the chicken from the skillet.
Place the desired amount of spaghetti on each plate, then top the spaghetti with the red sauce and a chicken breast.