When I was the lone middle schooler rushing home with the sole focus to cook pastas and crab legs, one of the absolute first dishes that I would venture to say I "mastered" was Rachael Ray's Roasted Red Pepper Sauce.
It is, genuinely, a perfect recipe. As a kitchen neophyte, I diligently practiced mincing garlic and shallots and experimented with the timing of the dish. I purchased different types of canned tomatoes, compared fresh and dried herbs, selected grated cheeses and so on and so forth. I felt empowered by the customizations, was confident in Ray's particular, helpful instructions and pleased by my family's enjoyment of the dish.
Each time I made the dish, I felt more and more emboldened by my intuitive grasp of the cooking process and the flavors, as well as the varying applications for which I could use the sauce. In most instances, I merely paired it with my favorite pastas (Ray paired it with gemelli, which is one of my absolute favorites, too).
At some point, though, I graduated to using the red pepper sauce in chicken parmigiana — which absolutely blew my mind. I was already a "stan" of all things chicken parm, but something about the roasted pepper flavor permeating the dish brought it to new heights.
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To this day, it's one of my favorite dishes.
I hope you'll like it as much as I did.
Extra virgin olive oil
2 shallots, peeled and minced
5 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 large jar roasted red peppers, pureed
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 cup dry white wine, stock or broth
2 cans or boxes crushed tomatoes or tomato puree
2 bay leaves
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 eggs, mixed with about 2 tablespoons milk, cream, or water
1 cup panko bread crumbs
Freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups grated Parmesan, divided
1 lb. short-cut pasta of your choosing
3 cups shredded mozzarella, divided
1 cup "Italian blend" shredded cheese, divided
1/2 stick butter, cubed
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
- In a large skillet or pan over medium-low heat, warm olive oil. Add shallots, sauté until translucent and then add garlic, toasting about 30 seconds or until fragrant. Do not burn.
- Add pureed roasted peppers and tomato paste and cook until 4 to 5 minutes. Add liquid and reduce for another 5 minutes.
- Add tomatoes and bay leaves. Season with salt.
- Lower heat to low and cook 20 minutes or until bubbling, slightly thickened and fragrant.
- In a large pot, bring water to a boil.
- Prepare your breading station. Put the flour, egg and liquid mixture and bread crumbs in 3 separate bowls or shallow dishes. Season the bowl of flour with salt and pepper. Season the bowl of egg and liquid mixture with salt and pepper. Finally, season the bowl of bread crumbs with salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder and 1/2 cup Parmesan. Mix well.
- In a large skillet over medium, heat neutral oil for a shallow fry.
- Dredge all chicken in flour, then egg, then bread crumbs. Once oil has come to temperature, begin shallow frying all chicken, in batches, turning often. When deeply browned and crisp, transfer to a sheet pan lined with a baking rack. Season with salt immediately after removing from the oil.
- Once your water has come to a boil, cook your pasta, removing it about 2-3 minutes prior to the box instructions. Drain well, but do not rinse.
- Add pasta to the pan with the sauce and mix well.
- In a large casserole dish or cast-iron pan, spoon a good amount of sauce over the bottom. Top with some shredded mozzarella and some shredded Italian blend, then a layer of sauced pasta, followed by about 1/3 of the chicken, then more cheese, repeating until you've either used up all of the ingredients or the dish itself is full. Top with all remaining cheeses and dot with little cubes of butter.
- Transfer to oven and cook until cheese has melted, about 20 minutes. Broil for another 5 minutes or so, until the melted cheese has browned and crisped. Keep an eye on the broiler so you don't burn anything.
- Remove from broiler and let rest 5 minutes. Serve immediately.
-If you'd prefer to save on time or dishes, feel free to opt for a jarred sauce. In addition, feel free to buy pre-breaded (or even pre-fried) chicken cutlets if you don't feel like frying it yourself.
-If you're not a cheese-hound, feel free to cut down on the amount here.
-The butter cubes on the top is a trick I learned from Giada back in the day, which supposedly helps to further the browning and add a deeper flavor to the crispy top layer.
-If you want to skip the oil and have an air-fryer on hand, you can most definitely cook the chicken that way!
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