Our chicken parmigiana recipe makes a delicious chicken parma in the Italian Australian style that appeared in the 1950s and became a popular mid-week pub counter meal special in the 1980s. In our homemade parmy, succulent chicken breast fillets with a crunchy breadcrumb coating are topped with a rich tomato sauce and melted parmesan cheese and mozzarella.
If you made and enjoyed our chicken schnitzel recipe and my rich Italian tomato sauce recipe then I guarantee you’re going to love this endearingly old-fashioned chicken parmigiana recipe for a home-cooked chicken parma in the Italian Australian style of the parmies that were popularised in Aussie pub bistros in the 1980s.
My chicken parmigiana recipe will make you a scrummy home-cooked take on the chicken parma served as a mid-week pub special that often left a lot to be desired, frankly. While there were some fantastic chicken parmas with crunchy coatings, moist chicken, and mouthwatering melted cheese, there were also soggy parmas with insipid sauces and a mound of grated vegetables masquerading as a ‘salad’.
Indeed, it’s the sides, a good fresh garden salad and crunchy potato fries or wedges, that distinguish an Italian Australian chicken parmigiana from its cousins in the USA, which are typically served with spaghetti or another pasta. Another differentiation is that so many chicken parmigiana recipes don’t include the Parma ham or Parmigiano cheese that give the dish its name.
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Chicken Parmigiana Recipe for a Classic Chicken Parma in the Italian Australian Style
Growing up in Sydney in the 1970s, as a little kid I regularly helped my mum in the kitchen with the dredging, dipping and crumbing of the dishes of the day – chicken Kiev, Russian kotleti (chicken cutlets) and Wiener schnitzels (veal rather than chicken schnitzels, which originated in Vienna, Austria) – but, curiously, despite a chicken parmigiana recipe having been published in Australia in the 1950s, we didn’t make chicken parmas at home.
In Australia, chicken parmigiana was initially served in charmingly old-fashioned Italian restaurants started by Italian immigrants who arrived post-World War II, long before chicken parmas became a popular pub bistro counter meal – alongside fish and chips, steak and chips, and Sunday roasts.
A mid-week special, particularly on quieter nights, the chicken parmigiana was promoted on blackboards and signage outside pubs as a ‘pot and parma’ deal, for a cold beer and chicken parmigiana with chips (potato fries) and salad on the side, for as little as $7. No wonder nobody made it at home!
Whether served up in Australian pubs or cooked in American homes, there’s no denying that chicken parmigiana has a special place in the hearts and stomachs of lovers of the food of the Italian diaspora, which we all embraced and made our own (who could blame us?!), all around the world.
Look hard enough and you’ll find chicken parmigiana everywhere from Australia to Argentina, from Spain – where it’s typically called pollo a la parmesana and tends to swim in an orange-red tomato sauce with a light sprinkling of parmesan cheese – to Japan, where a Japanese katsu (cutlet) style chicken Parmesan is made with mirin, the tomato sauce includes soy sauce, and it’s eaten with rice.
Which is fine. Food evolves. It doesn’t stay the same. Sure, breaded meats that are fried have existed since Roman times, and can be found all over Europe and Asia, as well as ‘New’ World regions such as Australasia and North America, but I assure you they have not remained exactly the same over the centuries. I’ll be trying the Japanese version next.
Tips for Making our Chicken Parmigiana Recipe for a Classic Chicken Parma
As usual, I only have a few tips to making this chicken parmigiana recipe, because despite the detail below it’s actually a relatively straightforward dish to make.
Just like when you make chicken schnitzels, getting organised will make your life so much easier, especially if you’re using your fingers as I like to do, which will quickly get sticky with dough.
Line up a flat plate, two bowls large enough to hold a chicken breast fillet, and a fourth plate for the breaded chicken breast fillets: pour the flour onto the first plate; whisk the egg and milk in the second bowl; and combine the breadcrumbs, half a teaspoon of sea salt, Pecorino parmesan, finely chopped celery leaves and lemon zest in the third dish.
And I have an extra tip: a finger bowl of clean water and a hand towel at the end of the line will come in very handy. Do that and you’ll thank me later.
I haven’t incorporated my recipe for a rich tomato sauce (link above) into the chicken parmigiana recipe below, as not everybody wants to spend an additional thirty minutes making a tomato sauce. Although if you do, I guarantee you will not be disappointed. It’s so delicious and has myriad uses.
If you don’t, you could use a canned Italian-style tomato sauce intended for pastas, or even a store-bought bottled passata, or a combination of canned tomatoes and tomato paste. It won’t be as rich and flavourful as my tomato sauce but it will be just fine.
Chicken Parmigiana Recipe for a Classic Chicken Parma
- 2 300 g chicken breast fillets - halved
- 4 tbsp plain flour
- 1 egg - whisked
- 60 g milk
- 80 g Panko breadcrumbs
- 30 g Pecorino cheese - finely grated
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 5 g celery leaves - finely chopped
- ½ lemon - finely grated zest only
- 1 cup olive oil for shallow frying
- 200 g smoked ham - wafer-thin slices
- 400 g tomato pasta sauce
- 80 g Parmigiano Reggiano / parmesan cheese - grated
- 200 g mozzarella - grated
- 10 g fresh basil and flat leaf parsley - finely chopped and combined
- 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil for drizzling
- Sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper – to taste
- ½ lemon - cut into quarters for serving
- Wrap the chicken breasts in cling wrap and use a kitchen mallet to beat each of the chicken breasts into an even flat-ish fillet with a thickness of 1-2cm.
- Line up a flat plate, two bowls large enough to hold a chicken breast fillet, and a fourth plate for the breaded chicken breast fillets: pour the flour onto the first plate; whisk the egg and milk in the second bowl; and combine the breadcrumbs, half a teaspoon of sea salt, Pecorino parmesan, finely chopped celery leaves and lemon zest in the third dish.
- Press a chicken fillet into the flour, one side then the other, so that it’s completely covered in flour; dip the flour-dusted fillet into the milky-egg wash; press the fillet onto the breadcrumb mix, one side then the other, ensuring it’s completely covered in crumbs; then move the fillet to the empty plate, and repeat with the other fillets.
- Refrigerate the chicken breast fillets for 30 minutes and, if you don’t have a favourite tomato pasta sauce to hand, you could make our rich tomato sauce recipe in 30 minutes. (link above).
- Pre-heat your oven grill/broiler to high and line a large rimmed oven tray with baking paper, as you’ll be taking the shallow-fried chicken fillets direct from the fry pan/skillet to the grill/broiler.
- In a fry pan or skillet just large enough to hold two chicken breast fillets, heat 1cm of olive oil until hot, then shallow-fry the first two fillets for around 4-5 minutes a side (no more) until golden-brown. Transfer to a rack to drain off any excess oil and repeat with the next fillets.
- Space your chicken fillets evenly apart on the baking tray. If using ham, lay wafer-thin slices on top of the fillets. Use a tablespoon to spread on generous scoops of our rich tomato pasta sauce so the fillets are smothered in the stuff.
- Sprinkle on the grated Parmigiano Reggiano (parmesan cheese), a little of the mix of finely chopped fresh basil and flat leaf parsley, and the grated mozzarella so that the cheeses completely cover the sauce, drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil, and sprinkle on some sea salt.
- Slide the tray onto the top shelf close to the oven grill/broiler and don’t go away: grill for 5 minutes or so, just until the cheese has melted, then remove and serve immediately.
- Sprinkle more of the mix of fresh basil leaves and flat leaf parsley onto the chicken parmas, grind some fresh cracked black pepper on top, and serve with lemon wedges, and a simple side salad – or potato fries for the true pub experience.
Please do let us know if you make this chicken parmigiana recipe for our classic Italian-Australian chicken parma, as we’d love to know how it turns out for you.