Chicken Parmesan Casserole (plus bonus recipes)

Chicken Parmesan Casserole      serves 6-8

  • 4 c fully cooked chicken – shredded or cubed
  • 28 oz marinara sauce (see bonus recipe below)
  • 3/4 c shredded parmesan cheese
  • 2 c shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 c seasoned bread crumbs (see bonus recipe below)
  • 1-2 T extra virgin olive oil
  • fresh chopped basil, thymes, chives & parsley

In a large casserole dish, layer the chicken, top with the marinara sauce.  Mix the cheeses together, then layer over the sauce.  In a small bowl, mix the chopped herbs with the bread crumbs and sprinkle them on top. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes. Remove and let it rest for five minutes before serving.  I served this over herbed fusilli pasta, with Caprese Salad (recipe in yesterday’s post) and bread from our favorite Italian bakery. 

Marinara Sauce (Red Sauce) – from the Extra Virgin Cookbook

  • 28 oz can of Marzano tomatoes
  • 2 T extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 red onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • red pepper flakes – optional
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 2 T fresh basil – torn just before adding to the pot

Pour the tomatoes into a saucepan. Using an immersion blender to smooth the sauce breaking down the tomatoes.  For a more rustic sauce, you can crush them by hand or with a wooden spoon.

In a saute pan, heat the olive oil and add the onion.  Saute for 6-8 minutes, add the garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes more.  If you are adding red pepper flakes, do so now as well as salt and pepper.

Add the onion and garlic mixture to the tomatoes, stir to combine and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in 2 T of fresh torn basil.

Homemade Crouton Bread Crumbs

  • 6-8 c stale bread cubed (any combination of breads)
  • 4 T olive oil
  • 4 T melted butter
  • 2 t garlic seasoning
  • 2 t Italian seasoning
  • 1 t dried rosemary – crumbled

Place the bread in a single layer on a sheet pan.  Combine the olive oil, butter and seasonings together.  Pour over the bread and toss together to coat.  Place in the oven at 275 degrees for 30 minutes.  Remove and stir the bread. Place back in the oven for at least 15 minutes more or until crunchy.  Remove and cool.  You could stop here as these are now delicious croutons but if you want scrumptious bread crumbs, place them in a ziploc bag and pulverize them with a meat tenderizer or rolling pin.





Braciola with Pasta – a recipe for entertaining

Many years ago I found this recipe in a food magazine though I’m not sure which one. I was intrigued and instead of pulling the recipe and adding it to the hundreds of recipes I stick into a “to-be-tried” pile, I immediately prepared it. It was superb and soon became my “go-to” recipe for entertaining my foodie friends. And when they asked me what the dish was called, I told them “Braciola” pronouncing it “brackee-ola”.

Then everything changed (keep in mind this was years before the Food Network). I was entertaining Basil, the cousin of Spence’s best friend. I told him I was preparing “brackee-ola”. Basil stood next to me, watching the preparation of the stuffing, the rolling of the steak. He said it looked remarkably like a dish his Italian aunt had made for years.

“What was it called?” I inquired.

“Brah-jool” was the way he pronounced it.

The wheels in my head were clicking…..”how is it spelled?” I asked with trepidation.

He wasn’t sure. I showed him the recipe. “That’s it” he exclaimed.

Fast forward, I know the pronunciation and the Food Network is now a part of my life meaning that I hear Giada and Rachael talk about Braciola (or the more common spelling Braciole) on a regular basis. Isn’t that the way it goes? Now that I’ve cleared that up, here’s the recipe:

Braciola with Pasta      8 servings

  • 1/2 c italian breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 c chopped flat leaf parsley
  • 1/3 c grated parmesan or romano cheese
  • 3 T capers
  • 2 T toasted pine nuts
  • 2 T lemon juice
  • 1 t extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced or pressed (with garlic press)
  • flank steak, ask the butcher for the thickest one & have it butterflied
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 1/2 c marinara sauce
  • 1/2 c dry red wine
  • 8 ounces cooked pasta (16 oz uncooked) like fusilli

Combine the first 8 ingredients in a bowl, set aside.

Ingredients for the stuffing Ingredients for the stuffing

Unwrap the steak and unfold it (like a book) on the butcher paper. Use a meat mallet and flatten it to a uniform thickness. Cut 3-4 pieces of kitchen twine and slide under the steak as shown:

Have your butcher Have your butcher “butterfly” a flank steak

Spread the bread crumb mixture over the steak, leaving a bit of the edge uncovered. Roll up “jelly-roll” style, tie with twine. Refrigerate for at least a few hours, it’s even better if refrigerated overnight.

IMG_6495 Spread your stuffing onto the steak, just shy of the edges.
Roll up, pressing the steak into a tight roll. Tie up with the twine. Roll up, pressing the steak into a tight roll. Tie up with the twine.
Tied up, it looks like this. Now fold the butcher paper around it, wrapped up and refrigerate, at least a few hours, I prefer overnight......set it out at least an hour prior to cooking. Tied up, it looks like this. Now wrap the butcher paper around it and refrigerate.

Set the meat out at least one hour before cooking. In a large Dutch Oven, coat the bottom of the pan with the olive oil and set to a medium high heat. Place the meat in, turning to brown well on all four sides. Remove from pan. Add marinara and wine to pan, deglazing and bringing the sauce to a boil, add the steak and reduce heat to simmer.  Simmer for 1 hour, turning the steak in the sauce a few times.

Remove the meat and allow to rest a few minutes, remove the twine. Put the sauce into a serving bowl.

After cooking, remove from sauce onto a cutting board. Rest for 5 minutes, cut and remove twine before slicing. This is what it looks like just out of the sauce.

Slice and plate, I added more flat leaf parsley to garnish.

Sliced and ready for serving on a platter, garnished with flat leaf parsley. Sliced and ready for serving on a platter, garnished with flat leaf parsley.

Serve the pasta, topped with a slice of the Braciola, then top with sauce. Open a bottle of red wine and enjoy!