Chicken Parmesan Casserole

Chicken Parmesan Casserole

The Spruce Eats / S&C Design Studios

Prep: 20 mins
Cook: 60 mins
Total: 80 mins
Servings: 4 to 6 servings
Yield: 1 casserole
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
752 Calories
42g Fat
55g Carbs
36g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4 to 6
Amount per serving
Calories 752
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 42g 54%
Saturated Fat 12g 60%
Cholesterol 163mg 54%
Sodium 1959mg 85%
Total Carbohydrate 55g 20%
Dietary Fiber 5g 17%
Total Sugars 9g
Protein 36g
Vitamin C 4mg 18%
Calcium 463mg 36%
Iron 5mg 25%
Potassium 729mg 16%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Transform a favorite Italian-American dish into a delicious chicken Parmesan casserole. The recipe has everything that's great about a classic casserole dish, complete with tender meat, pasta, savory sauce, and a little crunch from the breading. Ready in about one hour, it's also an excellent make-ahead dish for meal planning.

Like lasagna, the chicken parm casserole is built in layers: sauce-laden pasta, fried chicken, and mozzarella. It uses a jarred marinara sauce that gets a flavor boost from a little Italian seasoning and garlic powder. That gets tossed with a rigate (Italian for "ridged") tubular pasta, such as rigatoni or penne, which is ideal for baking. The sauce clings to the pasta's ridges and, along with the crispy chicken, prevents the chicken Parmesan from getting soggy. To bring it all together, the mozzarella cheese melts into gooey layers, and the Parmesan cheese topping is a classic finishing touch.

The recipe includes steps for how to bread chicken from scratch. The small pieces fry up quickly and can be cooked ahead of time. They're delicious on their own, so try not to eat all of them before building the casserole. If you prefer to skip the oil, cook the chicken in your air fryer or oven. Frozen chicken tenders and leftover rotisserie chicken are both great shortcuts.

This hearty dish is very filling and should easily feed four to six people. Double the ingredients to fill a larger casserole dish, or to make a second casserole to freeze for later. To complete the meal, serve it with garlic cheese bread and a side salad.


For the chicken tenders

  • 2 medium boneless, skinless chicken breasts , about 1 pound

  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour

  • 3 large eggs, beaten

  • 1 1/2 cups Italian breadcrumbs

  • 2/3 cup peanut oil or canola oil , for frying

For the pasta

  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt

  • 8 ounces rigatoni pasta, or penne rigate

  • 1 24-ounce jar marinara sauce, about 3 cups

  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning

  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

For the casserole

  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

  • 1 cup grated parmesan cheese

Steps to Make It

Make the chicken tenders

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for Chicken Parmesan Casserole
    The Spruce / S&C Design Studios
  2. Pat the chicken breasts dry with paper towels. Cut in 1/2-inch strips, then into cubes.

    Cutting Chicken Bites for Chicken Parmesan Casserole
    The Spruce / S&C Design Studios
  3. Set up an assembly line for breading the chicken: Place the four in one shallow bowl, the beaten eggs in another bowl, and the breadcrumbs in a third bowl. Bread the chicken pieces by dredging them in the flour, then the eggs, then the breadcrumbs. Set each on a paper towel-lined plate.

    Breading Chicken Bites for Chicken Parmesan Casserole
    The Spruce / S&C Design Studios
  4. Add 1/4-inch of oil to a deep, heavy-duty frying pan or Dutch oven and heat oil to 375 F. Fry the chicken in batches for 3 to 4 minutes on each side, turning once. Transfer cooked chicken pieces to a plate linked with paper towels to drain. Once cool, cut any larger nuggets into bite-size pieces.

    Frying Breaded Chicken Bites for Chicken Parmesan Casserole
    The Spruce / S&C Design Studios

Make the pasta and sauce

  1. Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to a boil and add the salt. Cook the pasta for the minimum time on the package, until not quite al dente. Drain well.

    Cooked Rigatoni for Chicken Parmesan Casserole
    The Spruce / S&C Design Studios
  2. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the marinara sauce, Italian seasoning, and garlic powder.

    Marinara Sauce for Chicken Parmesan Casserole
    The Spruce / S&C Design Studios
  3. Toss the pasta with the sauce. Set aside until the chicken is finished cooking. Preheat the oven to 375 F.

    Rigatoni and Marinara for Chicken Parmesan Casserole
    The Spruce / S&C Design Studios

Assemble the casserole

  1. Build the casserole in a 9-inch casserole dish: Begin with a layer of the pasta and sauce mixture, add a layer of fried chicken, then 1 cup of mozzarella. Repeat these three layers one more time.

    Making Chicken Parmesan Casserole
    The Spruce / S&C Design Studios
  2. Cover the casserole with foil and bake for 25 minutes.

    Chicken Parmesan Casserole
    The Spruce / S&C Design Studios
  3. Remove from the oven and top with the Parmesan cheese, and then bake uncovered for an additional 10 minutes, until cheese is melted and casserole is bubbly. Serve and enjoy.

    Chicken Parmesan Casserole
    The Spruce / S&C Design Studios

How to Store, Reheat, and Freeze

  • Leftovers can be refrigerated for three days and reheated in the oven or microwave. Cover with foil when reheating in the oven to retain moisture; 375 F for about 20 minutes works well.
  • The casserole can be prepared a few days in advance, covered, and stored unbaked in the refrigerator.
  • To freeze this casserole, build the pasta, chicken, and mozzarella layers, cover everything well, and freeze it unbaked in a freezer-safe dish. It will keep well for up to 3 months. Let it thaw overnight in the refrigerator, then sit out at room temperature for about 20 minutes, and bake as normal.
  • If the casserole seems a little dry, drizzle a little marinara or tomato sauce on top.

Recipe Variations

  • For a shortcut, switch to frozen breaded chicken tenders or nuggets. Since these are pre-cooked, they just need to be thawed, brought to room temperature, and cut into bite-sized pieces before adding them to the casserole.
  • Leftover cooked chicken can also be used. To replace the breading, top the casserole with 1 cup of breadcrumbs tossed with 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil or melted butter, then the Parmesan, for the final 10 minutes of baking.
  • Use a few cloves of chopped garlic rather than garlic powder.
  • Sauté a chopped green pepper and onion to add extra flavor to the sauce.
  • For a little spice, add a pinch of crushed red pepper to the sauce.

Can Raw Chicken Be Added to a Casserole?

A casserole is a dish containing multiple ingredients, including something starchy that helps the ingredients bind together when baked. Most of the time, some of the ingredients need to be cooked separately, first, before building the casserole. This is especially the case with meat.

It is not safe to rely on any casserole to cook raw chicken properly. That would require a longer baking time for the chicken to reach a safe temperature, and result in overcooked pasta or other ingredients. We do not recommend cooking the chicken in the marinara sauce, either. For this reason, the main ingredients—particularly the meat, pasta, and tougher vegetables—are almost always pre-cooked for casseroles.

Why Is it Called Chicken Parmesan If it Uses Mozzarella Cheese?

Mozzarella cheese is the primary cheese in all variations of this popular dish because it melts well, and Parmesan cheese is sometimes added as a final topping. So why do we call it chicken Parmesan (or chicken Parmigiana)? It's a bit of a mystery.

Chicken Parmesan is a dish created by Italian-American immigrants. It's based on eggplant Parmigiana (or melanzane alla Parmigiana), which originates from southern Italy. This is why it's unlikely named after the northern city Parma (home of authentic Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese). It may also derive from Neapolitan carne pizzaiola, meat in a tomato sauce covered with cheese, and cotoletta Bolognese.

The name could come from the Italian word damigiana, a wicker sleeve used for cooking the dish. Or it could come from the Sicilian word palmigiana, which describes roof tiles that resemble the layering of eggplant slices. Regardless, it's a much-beloved dish today.