Chicken Parmesan is one of my go-to meals when we don’t have much around the house or I haven’t actually planned for a meal. Most of the time, I have the ingredients to make it, or at least enough to make a pretty close approximation. Plus, it’s quick, tasty, and you can serve it with pasta, which is always a good thing.
I wanted to change this up just a little bit and originally considered stuffing the chicken with pesto, but stuffing chicken can sometimes get messy and it’s a little harder to keep together and flip, especially when breading is involved. Instead, I decided to marinate the chicken in a pesto and buttermilk mixture, since I had some leftover buttermilk. Marinating chicken in buttermilk makes it incredibly tender, and adding the pesto just gives this familiar dish a little more oomph.
When I make pesto, I tend to make it thick, without much oil added. It’s healthier but more importantly, it’s easy to add oil when you need it, rather than take it away when you don’t. A thick pesto works well here, too, because the basil makes up most of it, and it sticks a little better to the chicken (plus, no worries about the marinade being too oily or the basil flavor not coming through as much).
I’ve also made this with a nutless pesto (which is probably not really called “pesto” but whatever), which works well, too.
Pesto Chicken Parmesan
1/3 cup pesto
3/4 cup buttermilk
4 boneless/skinless chicken breasts (about 5 oz. each), pounded to 1/2″ thickeness
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2/3 cup bread crumbs
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1-2 whole cloves garlic, peeled (optional)
1/2 cup pasta sauce
4 oz. mozzarella or provolone cheese, sliced or shredded
Mix the pesto and buttermilk together in a shallow bowl. Place the chicken in the mixture and allow to marinate for 30 minutes or longer.
Preheat the oven to 350.
Stir together the Parmesan cheese, breadcrumbs, and salt and pepper to taste. Remove the chicken from the buttermilk mixture, shaking off any excess, and dredge into the bread crumb mixture.
Heat the oil in an oven-safe nonstick or cast iron skillet. If desired, place the clove of garlic in the oil and cook over medium-low heat until golden and soft (this will infuse the oil with garlic flavor). With the heat on medium high, place the chicken into the skillet and cook until golden and crisp on one side, about 2 minutes. Flip, and brown on the other side. Place the pan into the oven until the chicken is nearly cooked through, about 12 minutes.
Preheat the broiler. Divide the sauce between the chicken breasts, and place an ounce of cheese on top of each piece. Place under the broiler until chicken is thoroughly cooked and cheese is melted and bubbly, about 2 minutes.