|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Servings: 4 to 6|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 42g||54%|
|Saturated Fat 12g||60%|
|Total Carbohydrate 55g||20%|
|Dietary Fiber 5g||17%|
|Total Sugars 9g|
|Vitamin C 4mg||18%|
|*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.|
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
Gather the ingredients.
Pat the chicken breasts dry with paper towels. Cut in 1/2-inch strips, then into cubes.
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.
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.
Make the pasta and sauce
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.
In a medium mixing bowl, combine the marinara sauce, Italian seasoning, and garlic powder.
Toss the pasta with the sauce. Set aside until the chicken is finished cooking. Preheat the oven to 375 F.
Assemble the casserole
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.
Cover the casserole with foil and bake for 25 minutes.
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.
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.
- 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.