Pepperoni Chicken Parmesan

If pepperoni is the holy grail of pizza toppings, and chicken parmesan is the king of Italian classics, what happens when you marry the two?

Vertical image of chicken parmesan on a white plate with a decorative fluted edge, garnished with red and yellow tomato slices, fresh basil, and grated cheese, on a table with a wooden spoon, printed with orange and white text in the top third and at the bottom of the frame.

Dearly beloved in your belly? I’d like to think so.

I’ve never met a pizza garnish I didn’t like, but somehow, I always find my way back to pepperoni. If it’s a grilled veggie, Hawaiian, or even white pie on the menu, without the addition of these sassy, salty rounds, it feels like something is missing.

Did I just admit to putting pepperoni instead of ham or Canadian bacon on my Hawaiian pizza? Oh yes, I did.

Let’s talk for a moment about why the spicy deli meat is so utterly addictive.

Vertical overhead closely cropped image of a white plate of pepperoni chicken parmesan with two pieces of red and yellow tomato and a sprig of fresh basil, garnished with grated hard Italian cheese, on a wooden table with a glass of red wine, a small white dish of red chili flakes, a wooden spoon filled with grated cheese, and a glass pie plate filled with more of the dish.

First, back to the basics. Pepperoni is an American variety of salami whose fine grind of cured pork and beef gives it a soft, silky texture when eaten cold.

As much as I adore pepperoni, however, I’m not as apt to sneak slices straight from the deli drawer as I am with other cured meats. My husband will gleefully eat them by the handful out of the fridge, but I prefer the magic that happens when the meat meets the heat.

That moment when the outer edges begin to curl up and crackle, and the middle wells up with grease – that’s when pepperoni enters its Goldilocks stage.

Slightly smoky, sumptuously crisp, and salty. How could anyone not be addicted to pepperoni?

Vertical overhead closely cropped image of a white ceramic pie dish filled with chicken parmesan with pepperoni, on a folded green cloth on top of a wood surface.

I bet you’re wondering when the parmesan treatment enters the room….

Knock, knock.

Okay, here we go.

As much as I’d love to stuff pizza into my face hole every day, I try to keep my diet balanced. I’m a believer in moderation.

Also, the previous two sentences don’t apply to weekends.

Removing the uber-carby crust from my imagined pizza and swapping in a less-carby base of breaded chicken is at the core of the brilliance of this recipe.

It’s basically a pizza on top of a piece of chicken, which essentially means less carbs, which fundamentally means… more wine?

Again, it’s all about balance.

Instead of just flicking several slices of the crimson-colored meat on top of standard, deep-fried cutlets, my spin on the dish incorporates several fresh elements for flavor and texture.

Vertical image of chicken parmesan with pepperoni on a white plate, topped with grated cheese, beside slices of red and yellow tomato and a sprig of fresh basil, with more of the dish in a glass pie plate in the background.

For starters, I’m an advocate of shallow-frying. You can still achieve a golden crust that clings onto chicken cutlets without dunking the entire breast in a vat of oil. Ouch. Anyone else just cringe?

I also prefer cooking protein until it’s almost done on the stovetop, and then letting it hit the finish line in the oven. It somehow always makes for a better seared, juicier piece of meat.

This goes for steak, chicken, chops, you name it.

I add a handful of salty Parmigiano-Reggiano right into the breading so that the nutty, sharp flavor sings its way through the entire dish. For that comforting gooey factor, I reach for fresh mozzarella every time I’m preparing any kind of “parmesan” dish.

Vertical overhead image of chicken parmesan in a glass pie dish beside a white plate with slices of red and yellow tomato and a sprig of basil on it, on a wood surface with a wooden spoon filled with grated parmesan cheese and a red cloth.

Not only does the fresh mozzarella have a bit more tanginess than the kind that comes in block form wrapped in plastic, once it bakes, I think it’s stringier and less rubbery than the pre-shredded stuff. It’s also fun to snack on while you’re prepping dinner.

Once the mozz has been mounded on top, I slice the freshest tomatoes I can find (heirlooms if it’s summertime) and add them to the mix. A good-quality marinara is a joy to eat, and a homemade one is even better. But the additional accompaniment of sweet, juicy, fresh tomatoes makes for some seriously delicious bites that are bursting with flavor.

I like my pepperoni to be as close to the surface as possible, so it gets a solid kiss of fire. Add some extra cheese and fresh, fragrant basil leaves and you’ve got yourself a chicken parmesan that doubles as a pizza stand-in that also kind of thinks it’s a casserole.

Italian food that’s going through an identity crisis? I’m so in.

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Horizontal oblique overhead image of chicken parmesan with pepperoni on a white plate, garnished with grated parmesan cheese, on a wood surface with a glass of wine, a pie plate containing more of the dish, a small white cup of red pepper flakes, and a wooden cooking spoon.

Pepperoni Chicken Parmesan


  • Author: Fanny Slater
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour
  • Yield: 6-8 servings 1x

Description

It’s time to put some pep in your chicken parm. Try our zesty spin on the Italian-American classic, made with garlicky pepperoni and fresh sliced tomatoes.


Scale

Ingredients

  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup half-and-half
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt, divided
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, divided
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, divided
  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, pounded to about ¾ inch thick (about 2 pounds)
  • About 1 cup neutral oil (for frying), such as vegetable or canola
  • 2 cups marinara sauce, store-bought or homemade
  • 8 ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced
  • 1012 thin slices deli pepperoni (about 3 ounces)
  • 2 small Roma or heirloom tomatoes, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons gently torn fresh basil leaves, divided

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
  2. Set up an assembly line of three shallow, wide bowls with a large clean plate ready at the end. In the first bowl, whisk the eggs with the half-and-half. In the second, mix the flour with 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper. In the third bowl, mix together the breadcrumbs with 1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano and 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley.
  3. Season the flattened chicken breasts on both sides with the remaining salt and pepper, and dredge in the seasoned flour. Shake off any excess. Dip the chicken into the egg, and then into the breadcrumb-cheese mixture, pressing down to help the crumbs adhere. Place the breaded chicken breasts on the clean plate at the end of the assembly line.
  4. In a large, heavy-bottomed skillet or cast iron pan, heat the oil over medium heat until shimmering. Working in batches, shallow-fry the chicken until golden brown, about 3-5 minutes per side. Transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate to drain any excess oil, and then move to a wire rack while you fry the remaining pieces.
  5. In a large 9-by-13-inch casserole dish, or two 8- or 9-inch glass or ceramic pie dishes, add the chicken in a single layer. Top with even portions of the marinara, mozzarella, tomatoes, pepperoni, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and about 1 tablespoon of the basil.
  6. Bake until the chicken is cooked through, the cheese is melted and bubbly, and the edges of the pepperoni are slightly crisp, about 15-20 minutes. Transfer the chicken to plates, garnish with the remaining fresh parsley and basil, and serve.

  • Category: Chicken
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: Italian

Keywords: chicken parmesan, pepperoni, mozzarella, marinara

Cooking By the Numbers…

Step 1 – Preheat Oven, Pound Chicken Breasts, and Prepare Herbs and Cheese

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Wrap chicken breasts individually in plastic wrap and place on a cutting board or clean work surface. Using either the flat side of a meat mallet or the long side of a pestle (from a mortar and pestle set), starting in the center and working out to the edges, lightly pound the chicken until it reaches an even thickness of about ¾ inch.

A hand holds a stone mortar and uses it to flatten a boneless skinless chicken breast wrapped in plastic wrap on a purple plastic cutting board, on a beige kitchen counter.

You can also flatten two pieces at the same time by placing them side by side between two sheets of plastic or parchment paper.

Butterflying each chicken breast first (slicing it in half without cutting completely through, leaving a hinge along one of the long sides so it opens like a book) can help to facilitate turning your breasts into cutlets as well. Butterfly before pounding, and you’ll have less work to do!

Rough chop the parsley and gently tear the basil leaves, making sure not to bruise them. Grate the Parmigano-Reggiano and slice the mozzarella into chunks or slices.

Step 2 – Set Up Assembly Line

Set up an assembly line of three shallow, wide bowls with a large clean plate (or baking sheet lined with parchment paper for easier cleanup) ready at the end.

Horizontal closely cropped overhead image of three orange and white bowls filled with flour, breadcrumbs, and beaten egg, on a beige countertop.

In the first bowl, whisk the eggs with the half-and-half. In the second, mix the flour with 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and freshly ground black pepper. In the third bowl, mix together the breadcrumbs with 1/4 cup of the Parmigiano-Reggiano and 2 tablespoons of the fresh parsley.

Step 3 – Bread the Chicken

Season the chicken cutlets on both sides with the remaining salt and pepper, and then dredge each in the seasoned flour. Gently shake off any excess.

Horizontal overhead image of a chicken cutlet being dredged in flour, in an orange and white ceramic bowl on a speckled beige countertop.

Dip each piece of chicken into the egg mixture, and then into the breadcrumb mixture. Press gently, to help the crumbs adhere to the surface to create a uniform crust.

Horizontal overhead image of an orange bowl with beaten egg in the bottom, and a chicken cutlet coated in flower in the middle of the mixture, on a beige surface.

Going through the assembly line and breading one piece at a time using tongs, or keeping one hand wet and one hand dry, is the easiest way to avoid sticky fingers.

Vertical overhead image of a chicken cutlet in a seasoned breadcrumb mixture in an orange and white shallow bowl, on a beige kitchen countertop with a plate of uncooked chicken cutlets in soft focus in the background.

Place the breaded chicken breasts on the clean plate at the end of the assembly line.

Step 4 – Shallow Fry the Cutlets

In a large, heavy-bottomed skillet such as your favorite cast iron pan, heat the oil over medium heat until shimmering.

Working in batches, shallow-fry the chicken until it’s golden brown, about 3-5 minutes per side.

Transfer to paper towels to drain any excess oil, and then move the poultry to a wire rack while you fry the remaining pieces. This will keep the bottoms from getting soggy.

Step 5 – Assemble and Bake

Horizontal overhead image of one red and one yellow tomato, several leaves of basil, chopped fresh mozzarella, a wedge of Parmigiano-Reggiano, a few slices of pepperoni, and a white pie plate of chicken cutlets, on a wood surface.

In a large 9-by-13-inch casserole dish, or two 8- or 9-inch glass or ceramic pie dishes, add the breaded cutlets in a single layer.

Horizontal closeup image of breaded and pan-fried chicken cutlets in a white ceramic pie dish.

Top the poultry with marinara.

Horizontal overhead image of two breaded chicken breasts in a white ceramic pie dish with a fluted edge, topped with marinara sauce.

Add the mozzarella, tomatoes, and pepperoni, in this order.

Closeup horizontal image of chicken cutlets topped with chunks of fresh mozzarella and pieces of red and yellow tomato.

Sprinkle grated cheese and about 1 tablespoon of the basil on top.

Horizontal overhead image of a white ceramic pie dish of breaded chicken cutlets topped with slices of pepperoni, pieces of fresh tomato, and chunks of mozzarella cheese.

Bake until the chicken is cooked through, the cheese is melted and bubbly, and the edges of the pepperoni are slightly crisp, for about 15-20 minutes.

Vertical oblique overhead image of chicken parmesan in a white ceramic pie plate, topped with mozzarella, marinara sauce, grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, and torn leaves of fresh basil.

If you want the mozzarella to become even more golden and bubbly, preheat the broiler to low and – keeping an eye on the top because it will brown quickly – broil for about 1 to 2 minutes.

Step 6 – Plate and Garnish

Transfer the chicken to serving plates, garnish with the remaining fresh parsley and basil, and serve.

Each whole breast will feed one or two people as an entree, depending on what you serve it with. If you’re only feeding four, I recommend portining the ingredients into two pie pans, baking one for dinner tonight, and tightly covering and freezing the other for later.

Overhead horizontal image of chicken parmesan with pepperoni on a white plate, garnished with slices of red and yellow tomato and a sprig of green basil, sprinkled with grated hard Italian cheese.

Leftovers will keep in the fridge for 3-5 days.

Already baked, the frozen dish will keep for up to 3 months and makes a great reheated leftover meal. Straight from the freezer, bake covered with foil at 350°F to heat through, until the center of the cutlets are warm, about 45 minutes.

You’ll Never Make Pepperoni-less Parmesan Again

Once you’ve experienced the luscious, lip-smacking difference that adding pepperoni to homemade chicken parmesan makes, you’ll be spicing up all of  your favorite Italian dishes with deli meats before you know it.

Chicken piccata with pancetta? Salami lasagna? Go comfort food crazy. You deserve it.

Horizontal oblique overhead image of chicken parmesan with pepperoni on a white plate, garnished with grated parmesan cheese, on a wood surface with a glass of wine, a pie plate containing more of the dish, a small white cup of red pepper flakes, and a wooden cooking spoon.

Got Italian food on the brain now? Same. These recipes will steer you right in that delicious direction:

When it comes to the great parm debate, how do you take yours? Eggplant? Chicken? Veal? Give up your parm preferences in the comments below! And don’t forget to give this recipe a five-star rating if you loved it.

Photos by Fanny Slater, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published on March 14, 2011. Last updated: November 20, 2019 at 10:10 am.

Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.

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About Fanny Slater

Fanny Slater is a home-taught food enthusiast based in Wilmington, North Carolina who won the “Rachael Ray Show” Great American Cookbook Competition in 2014, and published her cookbook “Orange, Lavender & Figs” in 2016. Fanny is a food and beverage writer, recipe developer, and social media influencer. She was a co-host on the Food Network series “Kitchen Sink,” was featured on Cooking Channel’s longtime popular series “The Best Thing I Ever Ate,” and continues to appear regularly on the “Rachael Ray Show.”

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