Chicken Pizzaiola – Another Leftover Spaghetti Sauce Idea

In keeping with my leftover spaghetti sauce recipes, today I present one of the family’s absolute favorites — Chicken Pizzaiola. This is pronounced Pizza – yola (with a long “o” and short “a”), and yes I had to type it into my browser and find a YouTube video to help me with that. For some reason I kept wanting to say the “i” in “iola” and it just didn’t flow. It took an Italian pronouncing it for me to finally get this down.

I came across a recipe for this in Cooks Illustrated some time ago and after a little bit of tweaking, I came up with a version my family thinks is perfect. The original recipe called for boneless skinless chicken breasts. Chicken breasts are not typically my choice of chicken parts to use. I find chicken thighs make most chicken dishes richer and far more tender then a chicken breast. Additionally, I breaded my chicken with a combination of Parmesan cheese and Italian bread crumbs, rather than just Parmesan cheese. This gave the chicken more of a distinct presence in the dish. When I served it without putting the bread crumbs on the chicken, the flavor of the chicken was somehow lost among the sauce, cheese and pepperoni. The addition of the bread crumbs really helped to boost the flavor of the chicken and allowed it to not be overpowered by the other flavors surrounding it.

One thing in this recipe that I discovered through some trial and error experimenting was that when I used freshly grated Parmesan cheese mixed in the bread crumbs, the mixture did not form a coating on the chicken as nice as the powdery store-bought Kraft grated Parmesan cheese. Now I know there’s been talk recently about how bad store-bought Kraft Parmesan cheese is and there has even been some mention that it isn’t really cheese, but in this particular recipe it mixes so well with the bread crumbs that I make an exception and use it. I suppose if I were to take my freshly grated Parmesan, Asiago, or even Romano cheese and put it in a food processor and make it as powdery as the Kraft version I would probably be able to eliminate it completely from the recipe. As of yet however I have not tried this, so for now I’m going to leave the recipe to include the combination of the breadcrumbs with the Kraft Parmesan cheese.

As far as what to serve with this, being that the Chicken Pizzaiola would be considered a main dish there are lots of options. Most of the time I’ve seen this served with a side of spaghetti or other pasta with red sauce, but I prefer to serve it with potatoes and there haven’t been any complaints. Actually having a potato instead of a side of spaghetti broke up the flavors more so we were able to appreciate the flavor of the chicken dish without having it compete with a side dish that had more spaghetti sauce. I haven’t tried this yet but think this would be good with a side of Parmesan noodles or possibly a very mild fettuccine Alfredo as well. But whatever it’s served with this meal is definitely a keeper.

The first step in making this dish is to prepare the chicken. once you have cleaned your boneless chicken thighs, combine the eggs and milk. Set aside.

Then combine the Kraft Parmesan cheese and bread crumbs. I use Italian bread crumbs, but if you don’t have Italian bread crumbs you can add some Italian seasoning to your bread crumbs and this will help kick up the flavor.

Next, bread the chicken. First dip a piece of chicken in the egg/milk mixture,

then dredge it in the bread crumb mixture and sprinkle with garlic salt.

At this point, depending on how much breading you like on your chicken, you can either repeat the process or move onto the next step. I’ve done it both ways and regardless of how much breading there is, the chicken is excellent. 

Next you will want to fry your chicken. Heat some olive oil in a large fry pan.

Place the breaded chicken in hot oil.

You don’t want to cook the chicken through. All you’re trying to do at this point is brown the chicken.

Once the chicken is brown, place it in a 13 x 9 baking dish that has been sprayed with cooking spray and has the spaghetti sauce spread on the bottom.

Shred your mozzarella cheese and spread over chicken.

I used homemade mozzarella, but store-bought works just as well. A side note here: Store-bought shredded cheese does contain additives that prevent it from sticking together in the package, so typically I do not buy shredded cheese. I only buy chunk cheese and shred it myself. This is just a personal preference because if I can avoid using anything that has additives of any type, I’ll do it. However, if you are pressed for time, the store-bought shredded cheese does come in handy. 

Next spread the pepperoni pieces on top of the mozzarella.

Finally, sprinkle 1/2 cup to 1 cup freshly grated Asiago, Romano, or Parmesan cheese on top of the pepperoni.

Cover with foil that has been sprayed with cooking spray and bake in a 450 oven for 20 minutes. Remove the foil after 20 minutes. Increase the temperature to 475 and bake for an additional 5 to 10 minutes until the top is golden brown.

This is one of those meals that is so good that we call it company-worthy and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Chicken Pizzaiola

  • Servings: 4 - 6 Servings
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 9 Boneless Skinless Chicken Thighs
  • 1/2 Cup Kraft Parmesan cheese
  •  1 Cup Italian bread crumbs
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1/4 Cup Milk
  • Garlic Salt
  • Olive Oil for frying
  • 3 cups Spaghetti Sauce
  • 1-2 Cups Shredded Mozzarella Cheese
  • 1/2 Cup Pepperoni slices, cut into small piece
  • 1/2 to 1 cup of Freshly Grated Asiago Romano or Parmesan cheese

Directions

The first step in making this dish is to prepare the chicken.

  1. Once you have cleaned your boneless chicken thighs, combine the eggs and milk. Set aside.
  2. Combine the Kraft Parmesan cheese and bread crumbs. I use Italian bread crumbs, but if you don’t have Italian bread crumbs you can add some Italian seasoning to your bread crumbs and this will help kick up the flavor.

Next, bread the chicken.

  1. First dip a piece of chicken in the egg/milk mixture, then dredge it in the bread crumb mixture and sprinkle with garlic salt.
  2. At this point, depending on how much breading you like on your chicken, you can either repeat the process or move onto the next step. I’ve done it both ways and regardless of how much breading there is, the chicken is excellent. 

Next you will want to fry your chicken.

  1. Heat some olive oil in a large fry pan.
  2. Place the breaded chicken in hot oil. You don’t want to cook the chicken through. All you’re trying to do at this point is brown the chicken.

Preparing the dish for the oven.

  1. Once the chicken is brown, place it in a 13 x 9 baking dish that has been sprayed with cooking spray and has the spaghetti sauce spread on the bottom.
  2. Shred your mozzarella cheese and spread over chicken. I used homemade mozzarella, but store-bought works just as well. 
  3. Next spread the pepperoni pieces on top of the mozzarella.
  4. Finally, sprinkle 1/2 cup to 1 cup freshly grated Asiago, Romano, or Parmesan cheese on top of the pepperoni.

Cover with foil that has been sprayed with cooking spray and bake in a 450 oven for 20 minutes.

Remove the foil after 20 minutes. Increase the temperature to 475 and bake for an additional 5 to 10 minutes until the top is golden brown.

Cooking Note

Store-bought shredded cheese contains additives that prevent it from sticking together in the package, so typically I do not buy shredded cheese. I only buy chunk cheese and shred it myself. This is just a personal preference because if I can avoid using anything that has additives of any type, I’ll do it. However, if you are pressed for time, the store-bought shredded cheese does come in handy. 

As far as what to serve with this, being that the Chicken Pizzaiola is considered a main dish there are lots of options. Most of the time I’ve seen this served with a side of spaghetti or other pasta with red sauce, but I prefer to serve it with potatoes and there were no complaints. Actually having a potato instead of a side of spaghetti broke up the flavors more so we were able to appreciate the flavor of the chicken dish without having it compete with a side dish that had more spaghetti sauce. I haven’t tried this yet but think this would be good with a side of Parmesan noodles or possibly a very mild fettuccine alfredo.

Recipe by: Tilly Frueh, Simply Grateful Cooking at https://simplygratefulcooking.wordpress.com/ – 2017

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