I don't know that I have seen this in Italy. I am almost sure it's Italian-American. How it evolved is questionable. I am sure it was all because of leftovers. There was always leftover sauce, leftover mozzarella cheese from the weekend, along with plenty of Parmigiano cheese in our kitchen. Chicken breasts, pan fried, were a popular item growing up in many Italian-American households. A little lemon squeezed on top is all you needed. Many never made it to the baking dish as we would steal some as my Mother fried away. It was always a favorite among the children. It remains today, a very popular item, both in kitchens around the globe and in many family restaurants. It's not difficult at all to make. I wonder why we don't make it more often? A little goes a long way here. Here is my mother's version and it might have been your Mom's version too. Enjoy! Buon Appetito
Servings for 6 people:
2 pounds of chicken breasts, boneless, pounded thin. Cut into even 4 inch pieces
4 eggs beaten (for each additional egg add one tablespoon Parmigiano Cheese. Just in case you need extra).
3 tablespoons whole milk
3 cups meatless tomato sauce leftover or made fresh
2 teaspoons of salt
2 teaspoons of pepper.
4 tablespoons Parmigiano Reggiano cheese plus additional 4 tablespoons for baking dish
4 cups of unseasoned bread crumbs
3 large plates or dishes/ one for your egg mixture, one for your bread crumbs and one for your chicken (this is just to make it easier for you to prepare for your frying).
Skillet for frying
About 2 cups frying oil. I prefer Sunflower or any vegetable oil
Assemble your ingredients:
Pound your chicken pieces thin and set aside. Add about a teaspoon of salt and pepper to your chicken. Mix your eggs, Parmigiano and milk in your baking dish. Carefully, begin heating some frying oil in a large skillet. You want your oil heated to medium/high. Your oil should be enough to come up the size of the pan, about an inch. You don't want to much, as you will be turning them rather quickly as they turn golden. Carefully begin coating your chicken. First in your egg then bread crumbs, then repeat. This will ensure a thick coating. Carefully drop a few bread crumbs in your hot oil. If the oil sizzles it's ready. Carefully place your chicken in the pan. The chicken will cook quickly. Turn it only once.
Drain the chicken on paper towels. Continue this method until all your chicken is cooked. It just needs a few minutes on each side.
Cook or heat your basic tomato sauce. If you are making this fresh, you will need to make it ahead or it will delay your assembly. I had to make mine fresh. You will need:
2 cans, 14oz diced tomatoes and their juice ( you will lose some volume/liquid while this cooks and reduces. You should have around 3 cups sauce).
3-4 tablespoons of olive oil
1/4 cup diced onion
2 tablespoons carrot
2 tablespoons celery
one teaspoon salt
one teaspoon pepper
One cup of red wine
Heat your oil in a pot enough to accommodate your sauce. Add your onion until fragrant. Add your celery and carrot, salt, pepper and mix until fragrant. Just takes a few minutes. Carefully add your tomatoes and wine. I like to add a pinch of nutmeg. This is optional. Cook for 15-20 minutes on medium/low or until the oil forms a ring around the sauce and your sauce has thickened. Turn off the heat and set aside.
Add several tablespoons of sauce on the bottom of your baking dish.
Place your cooled, chicken pieces into your baking dish. Fill up the pan. Preheat your oven to 375F.
Continue your assembly by placing sauce all over the tops of your chicken. Then sprinkle mozzarella cheese evenly over the tops along with several sprinkles of Parmigiano Cheese.
Place into your preheated oven, covered with foil for 15-20 minutes until your cheese has melted and all your ingredients have merged into one dish.
Let rest about 10 minutes and serve hot with crusty bread