Big Italian Dinner aka Pregnancy Craving

Pregnancy craving has definitely kicked in – I’ve been hungry for Olive Garden’s Chicken Parm meal. I can’t remember the last time we went to the Olive Garden, but that’s all I could think of this weekend. To satisfy my craving the chef improvised and made a lighter version, “The Best of Clean Eating” Chicken Parmesan with Wheat Pasta. If you are looking for delicious yet healthy recipes, this is one cookbook you should definitely have on hand. Why is this lighter than Olive Garden’s – well, the chef lightened up this traditional dish by using whole-wheat breadcrumbs and making them stick with Dijon mustard instead of eggs. It was gooey, oozy, healthy and delicious!!! It was a true big Italian meal. This was the first time that the chef used the pan crumbs and I really liked it. The best part was the gooey mozzarella cheese – cheese just makes everything better. I really didn’t think I was going to eat it all, but the deliciousness made it very difficult to leave anything on the plate. Thankfully the chef knows me well, so he made a little extra and tomorrow’s lunch is ready. Gotta love leftovers! 🙂 !INGREDIENTS:

  • Olive oil cooking spray
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1/2 cup white onion, diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, seeded and diced 1 yellow pepper,
  • 2 to 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp dried oregano, divided
  • 1 28-oz jar crushed organic tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp sun-dried tomato paste or organic tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup whole-wheat panko bread crumbs
  • 1 tbsp reduced-fat Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 4 4-oz boneless, skinless chicken breasts, pounded to 1-inch thickness
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup part-skim mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 8 oz cooked whole-wheat penne (or your favorite pasta)
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped


  1. Preheat oven to 400ºF. Coat a large baking sheet with cooking spray.
  2. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, bell pepper and garlic and sauté 3 to 5 minutes, until vegetables are soft. Add 1 tsp oregano and stir to coat. Cook 30 seconds, until oregano is fragrant. Add tomatoes and tomato paste and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low, partially cover and simmer 20 to 30 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, in a shallow dish, combine panko, Parmesan, remaining 1 tsp oregano, thyme, salt and black pepper. Mix with a fork to combine. Brush both sides of each chicken breast with Dijon. Transfer each breast to panko mixture and turn to coat both sides. Arrange chicken on prepared baking sheet. Coat surface of chicken with cooking spray. Bake 20 minutes.
  4. Top each chicken breast with 2 to 3 tbsp tomato sauce and 2 tbsp mozzarella. Return chicken to oven and bake 10 minutes more, until crust is golden brown and cheese is melted and bubbly.
  5. Arrange pasta on a serving plate and top with remaining tomato sauce. Serve chicken with pasta on the side, garnishing both with basil.

The recipe definitely had more than 5 ingredients, but the chef said it was relatively easy, perhaps a little long, about 45 minutes – but perfect for a Sunday night.The sous-chef in action – patiently waiting for something to drop… Lucky girl, she did get a taste of chicken and she highly approved!

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