If you have ever visited Italy, the likelihood of finding “parmesan,” or in true Italian, parmigiano anything is very slim. Italians do like their cheese, but they do not melt it or shred it or paste it on every dish they create. You definitely NEVER put cheese on fish or you could be arrested. I once observed an American tourist order shrimp in Venice, and after delivery, asked for cheese. The waiter refused. They had an argument, and I think the waiter started to cry like there had been an Italian death. It’s really that much of a sacrilege in the Italian community.
However, the notion of parmigiano(a) (or shoot me now, parmesan) did come from somewhere, and has bled its bastardized way onto Italian menus across this great land of ours because Americans like it. They would “parmesan” anything from gummy bears to toilet paper if they could. I am sure there are versions of things that had their origins in Italy, or possibly Parma, where our beloved Parmigiano comes from, and my kids like most true blooded pizza lovers, do like their cheese on everything. If you can’t beat’em, join ‘em, but with a compromise. Giada DeLaurentiis, the skinniest chef with the whitest teeth I have ever seen, has pretty quick authentic Italian delights, and I will say, her unbreaded chicken parm is one of my favorites, and my baby Al’s.
I make my own sauce, which for many seems to be a heroic feat. It takes me about ten minutes, about six ingredients,and that’s it. (That will be another post. ) Giada says you can use “good quality” jarred sauce, so if you must, it’s ok.
There is about ten minutes of “browning” involved, so that may take up some kitchen time, but the entire meal should not take more than ½ hour to prepare. You can pair it with a side salad or cooked veggie, and it’s a sure crowd pleaser even the mayor of Parma might approve of.
HIP MOM HINT: If you have time to prep this in the morning or a few hours before dinner time, prep it until right before the butter pats kiss the chicken (if your sauce is hot, it will melt the butter). At the last minute, you can throw it into the oven to finish cooking. I usually make this in the morning, and whoever is home can pop it into the oven at dinner time.