Thursday, November 17, 2011

Penne Pasta and Chicken Parmesan: It's Sunday Dinner on a Friday Night!

This was the unexpected dinner.  I asked my daughter what she wanted for dinner?  Sofia always says Pasta like Nonna's (Grandma in Italian).  I thought momentarily if I even had some tomato paste, the right seasonings and everything to make the sauce someone close to my mom's sauce (which may I add, can never be duplicated).  So I decided why not, it's been awhile since I've made homemade sauce.  I know it's crazy sounding.  I used to make sauce all the time.  Life has got more busy and I found a really great jarred sauce that was a close substitute and was actually quite on the money for being close to Authentic Italian Flavors.  It's called MIDS, I would never use Prego or Ragu.  Italian Language Lesson:  Prego means "You're Welcome" in Italian.  Silly name for a Pasta Sauce.

If some of you don't recall, Prego used the tag phrase "It's In There", hence the name of my blog.  Why I chose that name is because of the connection of pasta sauce and my life, It's In There....  The ingredients like the herbs and spices of sauce are many and so does include the ingredients of the makeup of life.  We have our own ingredients that make up our lives, so I though,t It's In There was a good connection.  Hopefully that phrase isn't copywrited, lol!

I grew up with my mom making sauce pretty much everyday especially on Sundays.  Sundays consisted of a huge dinner though.  It was the only day that we were all together.  Everyone worked, had school or had something going on.  So Sundays were a big deal.  I think that's why Sunday dinners are so known for Italian Culture in Italian Households.  It was our feast, our celebration of togetherness.  It was the only time my siblings and I were probably not!  Also we never started eating until dad sat down and it was always an early dinner usually around 2pm.  Now that we are all on our own it was hard to make it to Sunday dinner and eat at 2pm.  Our dad would be so frustrated.  My dad has been passed for 2 years now and Sunday dinners have slowed down.  His passing took a toll on all of us and Sunday dinners aren't the same without him and also now my brother is in Iraq.  So it's been just a bit of a black cloud over us with everything.  I think though honestly when my brother does come home, I think things will be better especially for my mother.

To put a Halloween twist to this story, I have to tell you a little freaky situation.  When my brother was home and wasn't leaving for Iraq yet, we had Sunday dinner.  We all pretty much sat at the same chair when we ate dinner.  My dad always sat at the head of the table.  The chair was empty and then my brother sat in it with the frame of mind that he was now the man of the family (he's the only boy).  Well it was awkward and honestly I didn't think it should of been occupied.  Maybe it was a way for my brother coping.  Who knows.  Well I said to him that I didn't think it was right for him to sit in dad's chair, he ignored me and just didn't think anything of it.  About a half hour later my brother and I talked about it again and I was heading to the kitchen. My brother stood up to do something and the chair flew out from under him like someone was throwing it out from under him.  I laughed and said, "See even dad doesn't want you sitting in his chair!"  My brother looked like he saw a ghost!  I was just about to tell my mom what happened and my brother said, "No, don't tell mom!"  I didn't at the time but I eventually did.  She didn't seem surprised.  We think in a sense that my dad left such an imprint in our lives and in the house we grew up in that we feel sometimes his spirit is in the house. If you knew my dad, you'd understand and it would of been a trick he would of pulled on my brother.  Now you are probably wondering if my brother has sat on that chair ever since, yes, when he came home for a break from Iraq, he sat in the chair.  Nothing happened but I think my brother has a sense of respect for the chair now.  LOL!  That story always gets me!  I laugh hysterically everytime!  That's my Daddy!

So now on to the whole point of this blog.  Don't we all get sidetracked!  When I decided to make sauce I figured should I do more?  I knew I had chicken breasts and was all set for making some Chicken Parmesan. Which is my husband's favorite.  Now maybe in a sense I made it because I knew he would be surprised but honestly I think I just wanted to make it.  I had hoped maybe it would put a smile on Scott's face but I didn't really mind if it was no big deal even though I know it's his favorite food.  I think though it was more for the fact of me going, Blah blah Scott, I made it now you can feel guilty for being a punk sometimes.  Now in marriage to say it's perfect is imaginary.  Fairytales don't exist and if someone goes into it thinking so, they will highly be disappointed.  I don't care everyone has their down days.  I am no different.  Wish it wasn't true but it is for all in every type of relationship.  I know many wouldn't admit it or some may pretend but I live in a very realistic world.  LOL!

It was nice though to sit down as a family be grateful and thank God for blessing us with what we have.  After all that's what the feel of Sunday dinner brings to us.  That is why I say it was a Sunday dinner on a Friday night!

Chicken Parmesan, is yummy.  It came out great for me.  It had been awhile but it all came back to me.  The starter for every Italian tomato sauce is Onions, Garlic and Olive Oil.  That is what I always remember smelling when my mom would begin her sauce.  It was a smell you knew and knew what was coming.

I used tomato paste, tomato sauce and crushed tomatoes.  I had to make a lot of sauce for the Chicken Parmesan and I wanted to have some left over because my daughter could eat pasta everyday.  I grew tomatoes myself in the past and nothing beats using tomatoes from the garden.  My dad had his own vegetable and herb garden.  It was huge and he tended it like it was a baby.  We never bought vegetables at the store unless it was something specifically needed that you couldn't grow yourself in Ohio even though my dad could make fig trees grow in our backyard.  He eventually stopped a little bit after he became diagnosed with cancer.  My parents had so many tomatoes I remember my mom jarring tomato sauce and making sun dried tomatoes.  Technically they oven dried them, not much a sun dried area here in Cleveland, Ohio.  So they used the next best thing, the oven.  Now making dried tomatoes stinks up the house.  How I didn't like being in the house when they made them.

So to make this Chicken Parmesan is quite easy.  It's a little time consuming but not so much if you use jarred sauce.  This time I made my own.

This is what you need:

Skinless Boneless Chicken Breasts (usually big breast is a good serving)
Italian Seasoned Bread Crumbs
Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese
1 Egg Beaten
Shredded Mozzarella Cheese
Cooked Pasta
Crushed Tomatoes or Tomato Sauce
Tomato Paste
Italian Seasoning
Garlic Powder

Make your sauce or buy jarred sauce.  This is how I make mine....

I start off sauteing 1 whole onion, some minced garlic with some olive oil in a sauce pot.  This is how my mom starts every sauce.

Add a regular can of Tomato Paste

Add about a can and a half of water and add your 2 big cans of Tomato Sauce, then start adding the above seasonings, how much depends on your taste, just add as you cook the sauce whatever is needed....

Cover and Simmer on low.  You can taste test it and add the seasonings you think it could use more of such as garlic powder, oregano, etc...  Stir occasionally....

While sauce is cooking:

Beat an egg in a bowl and pour Italian Bread Crumbs in a separate bowl, (I will add some Parmesan Cheese to the bread crumbs but not too much).

Dip Breast into beaten egg then into bread crumb mixture.  At this point you can bake your chicken breasts at 350'F until thoroughly cooked or you can pan fry them like I did in this next photo:

Cook each side until golden brown and cooked through, not too worry as it will be thoroughly cooked in the oven.

Take a baking dish and slather some tomato sauce and place all cooked chicken breasts on top of sauce.  Layer sauce on top of Chicken Breasts and bake in oven for about 15/20 minutes.  Take baking dish out and layer shredded mozzarella cheese on top.  The heat of the already baked chicken will melt the mozzarella cheese.  This is when I cook my pasta.  You can make any pasta you like, I used Penne this time.

If you don't want to fry your chicken breasts like before mentioned, you can bake them in the oven, do the layering process and bake until cheese melts on top which should only be a few minutes.  Sometimes you can place your pasta on the plate, place your breaded chicken breast, ladle sauce and sprinkle mozzarella cheese on top, this will skip the whole baking process.

The kids loved this dish including Scott.  It's nice to make your own sauce but when I do use jarred sauce I love to use MIDS jarred sauce.  I think they are the best out there right now commercially.

Here are my monkeys lovin them some Pasta and Chicken Parmesan!



It's so nice when the kids love eating what I make.  I am so thankful!

This was my plate and it was so yummy!  I love a lot of cheese.  Here it is topped with Parmesan Cheese....  YUMMY!  I was so full after I ate it.  But it was so gooooood!

Buon Appetito,


  1. I love chicken parmesan.With Nona's sauce it would be awesome I am sure.Love your stories too:)And kids are adorable:)

    On my blog there is nice Giveaway till 23 November.Everyone is welcome;)

  2. Bella la tua storia! Mi dispiace della perdita di tuo padre!Brava la tua mamma che ti ha imparato a cucinare pietanze italiane! Brava anche tu che hai preparato questo piatto ricco e completo! Graziose le tue bimbe! Ciao....Molly

  3. That looks delicious, and Sunday dinner at your house sounds way better than at my house when I was a kid!

  4. Thank you Mary, every family is different. I remember when I was a kid, Americana type foods were so foreign to me. I still remember sitting in Preschool and I wouldn't eat corn, lol! They made me sit there until I ate it, I never did. My mom never made corn when I was little, I didn't know what it was...ha ha ha! Of course now I love corn!