A pretty penne

[Recipe 1] PENNE ALL’AMATRICIANA transforms into
[Recipe 2] CHICKEN PARMIGIANA
……………..
Our Easter break has been lovely so far. What have you been up to? We’ve spent an inordinate amount of time making Thunderbirds and Lego movies with imotion and yesterday we hung out at the newly restored – and highly recommended – St Kilda Adventure playground. Last weekend we visited Heide (one of my Top Ten Melbourne galleries) for three great exhibitions; Sid Nolan’s early experiments, Albert Tucker’s non-Western art and Louise Bourgeois + ten Australian artists (including Patricia Piccinini whose challenging work always goes down a treat with my boys).
I also dined with a lovely lady friend at Il Solito Posto. It’s a bit of a Melbourne institution and I love it. Simple Italian food; friendly waiters, dim lighting, comfy decor and a great subterranean alley location. My dinner date had Bucatini all’Amatriciana – I’d forgotten how fabulous that dish is! I spied some beautiful bright red Doncaster tomatoes at the local greengrocer last week, so a pot of all’Amatriciana sauce was in order.
Recipe 1 yields two lots of Amatriciana sauce, allowing for planned-overs to be used for Chicken Parmigiana. Crumbed chicken, topped with tomato-based sauce and slathered with molten mozzarella – is there better comfort food than that? An Aussie-style ‘parma’ features a layer of ham. By replacing the traditional sauce with Amatriciana, there is no need for ham though as the sauce is laden with pancetta, and to my mind this is much tastier.
The chicken parma is a much-revered pub meal in Australia. If you live in Melbourne, you must check out parmadaze; which is part of the eparmony network, ‘connecting people with parmigiana’. If there’s a local restaurant or pub serving parma, you can guarantee it will be featured and reviewed meticulously (and hilariously) on this site.

Penne alla matriciana[Recipe 1] Penne all’Amatriciana

Sauce ingredients (makes 2 batches, ie. serves 4 for 2 meals):
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 small red (purple/Spanish) onions, finely chopped
300g (10½ oz) medium-thickness (about 2mm) pancetta, finely sliced
2 kilos (4½ lb) very ripe tomatoes, peeled, de-seeded, chopped
¼ teaspoon dried chilli flakes
½–1 tablespoon tomato paste (tomato concentrate), if required (see notes in recipe)*
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
To serve (serves 4):
400g (14 oz) dried penne
Fresh basil leaves, torn, to serve
Pecorino cheese, grated, to serve

Heat oil in a large heavy-based saucepan over low–medium heat. Cook the onion and pancetta for 10 minutes, until onion is softened and transparent.
Add tomatoes and chilli. Simmer gently, uncovered, for 20–30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until thick. Season to taste.
*Taste the sauce – it should be rich and flavorsome. If you’ve used tomatoes that aren’t super ripe, you may need to add ½–1 tablespoon tomato paste (tomato concentrate); or even a dash of sugar to counter the acidity.
♦ Divide the Amatriciana sauce into two lots of about 2½ cups (600–650g/1.3–1.4 lb) each. Reserve one lot for the Chicken Parmigiana (see Recipe 2 below).
Meanwhile, for tonight’s dinner, cook penne in boiling water until al dente. Drain and return penne to pan.
Add one serve of Amatriciana sauce to the penne, and toss together. Serve, scattered with basil and Pecorino.

  • Pancetta is Italian salted pork belly, available from delicatessens and large supermarkets. If you can find it, guanciale (cured pork cheek) is even tastier, and a more authentic addition to Amatriciana sauce. Substitute for bacon, rind removed, if neither is available.
  • Pecorino is a hard, salty Italian sheep’s milk cheese, also available from delicatessens and large supermarkets. Substitute for Parmesan, if unavailable.
  • Amatriciana sauce can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days, or frozen for up to 3 months.

Chicken parmagiana

[Recipe 2] Chicken Parmigiana

Ingredients (serves 4–6*):
3 large skinless chicken breasts (about 750g/1½ lb)
½ cup plain (all-purpose) flour
½ teaspoon salt
2 eggs, whisked
1 cup dry breadcrumbs, laid out on a plate for coating
♦ 2½ cups (600–650g/1.3–1.4 lb) reserved Amatriciana sauce (see recipe 1)
¼ cup olive oil
50g (1¾ oz) Parmesan (or Grana Padano), grated
150g (5 oz) Mozzarella cheese, grated
Fresh basil leaves, torn, for serving

Preheat oven to 200°C (390ºF).
Carefully cut the chicken breasts in half horizontally, so you end up with 6 thin pieces. Working with one chicken piece at a time, place between two layers of baking paper and bash crazily with a meat mallet or rolling pin until flattened.
Place salt and flour into a large plastic bag. Add the chicken breasts and shake to coat. Remove from the bag and shake off excess flour.
Dredge the chicken breasts one piece at a time in the egg until well-covered, then coat both sides in breadcrumbs, pressing firmly.
Heat half the oil in a large non-stick frying pan and fry the chicken pieces in two batches until golden brown, about 4 minutes each side. Wipe the pan clean and add a little more oil before cooking the second batch. Drain chicken pieces on kitchen paper.
Line a tray with baking paper. Arrange the cooked chicken pieces on the tray, and top with Parmesan.
♦ Spoon the reserved Amatriciana sauce on top, and scatter with mozzarella.
Bake for 15–20 minutes, until the cheese is bubbling.
Serve immediately with a simple green salad.

  • Chicken breasts can be crumbed in advance and refrigerated, raw, for up 1 day.
  • Unused mozzarella can be grated and frozen in ziplock bags for up to 2 months. Defrost overnight in the fridge.
  • If you’re pushed for time, you can of course make the Chicken Parmigiana with store-bought napoli sauce, in which case you could lay a thin slice of ham on each chicken breast.
  • *This recipe makes 6 pieces of chicken parmigiana. Leftovers can be reheated the following day, or sliced up and stuffed into a soft bread roll with rocket or baby spinach for lunch. Yummo.

37 thoughts on “A pretty penne

  1. Sounds like you’ve had a busy school holiday and Easter break! This penne and parmi look so delicious! A chicken parmi is one of my all-time favourite meals!

  2. Hey Sas
    No parma drama here! Made it 2 nights ago- I have never made parma before and I was quite surprised what a great result you get from what is an easy meal. My cuts of chicken breast were I think 1/2 breasts, so I was worried that cooking for 5 mins per side (or was it 4?) then in oven for 15 mins would end up producing somer lovely cardboard style meat (which I specialise in) however NO! It was tender and delicious and totally thumbs up (4 thumbs up- 2 adult thumbs and two kid thumbs).
    Another meal to do again.
    Fran

  3. You sound like you have been a busy girl. I have been slammed at work and everything is just a bit overwhelming! So much Italian going on. I LOVE pasta and my Mum made me eggplant parmies the other day and wow. I love crumbed things Saskia!

    • Oh no, being slammed at work is no fun. Hope it eases up. Agree – crumbed things are excellent. My boys are happy with just about anything crumb-coated. I love a good eggplant parmie too!

  4. Your Easter hols sound like they were amazing. We’re lucky to have a huge Maman by Bourgeois outside of the National Gallery of Art in Ottawa (we’re outside of the big city, but visit whenever we can). As always Saskia, your pictures are a feast for the eyes. I’ve never made Chicken Parmigiana, and must rectify that. My teenager will go wild for it. Your recipe looks divine!

  5. what a great easter week-end. i would’ve loved to see the louise bourgeois! i must admit, i have never ever made chicken parmigiana and my little calliope is a chicken crazy girl. i’m gonna try your recipe, looks sooo good!

    • The Louise Bourgeois was great – she’s incredible isn’t she. You must try Parmigiana at least once. So kid-friendly (and adult-friendly too)! Calliope will love it.

  6. Mmmm, our tomatoes are all threatening to ripen at once here … good to know there’s a recipe or two out there that will mean I can freeze some of them for future use 🙂

  7. I am so waiting for tomato season but first we have to have spring which is reluctant to arrive. Both of your dishes are so vibrant so summery. Good to know the Amatriciana sauce freezes well. As you know I like to take advantage of my freezer.

    • It’s quite strange to be whipping up Summery dishes at this time of year, but Autumn just refuses to kick in here! We were on the beach all day yesterday. Love my freezer too (the small free-standing one in my hallway cupboard is my favourite electrical item).

  8. YUM. Amatriciana was one of the first meals I made for the family when I was a kid. I love homemade Chicken Parmigiana, and your version looks so fresh that I could kid myself into thinking that it’s healthy and something I need to have for dinner tonight instead of the spag bol.

    • Amatriciana was one of my first ‘cooked it all by myself’ meals too! The parma is relatively (in italics) healthy: free-range chook, home-made sauce, pan-fried instead of deep-fried, and slathered in parmesan and mozzarella, which is…um… full of calcium (as is custard! and vanilla ice cream!).

  9. Sonds like you really enjoyed your Easter. You’ve shared 2 great dishes today, Saskie. Your tomato sauce looks so vibrant. Must be due to the fresh tomatoes. I love how they flavor a sauce and using it for your parmigiana must have been wonderful.

    • Thanks John. There are some really lovely tomatoes available around here at the moment. I’ve been making this sauce for years, but when I came to officially typing up my recipe for this post, I was faced with the perplexing task of selecting a version of ‘Amatriciana’ to use for the title! There are SO many spelling variations (I found at least SIX), for what is really a fairly simple dish. It’s commonly called ‘Matriciana’ here, but all’Amatriciana seems more ‘correct’ to me. With your expertise, can you enlighten me??

  10. Sounds like you had a lovely Easter on all fronts with a bit of everything — galleries, family time and dinner with a good friend. Did you have an Easter egg hunt at your place? We are choc-a-bloc with chocolate eggs right now….which is very dangerous, especially on the days that I work from home. Both of your dishes look delicious, as usual Saskia.

    • Yes, quite a few Easter egg hunts for my boys; here and at their Grandma’s house (the Easter bunny certainly gets around). Hah – I had the same conundrum as you a couple of days ago when I worked from home with a houseful of Easter eggs. Quite a satisfying conundrum though!

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