Fresh. Simple. Wholesome. Delicious. Make-Ahead. These are just a few words I like to consider when making dinner. Serving a hot meal for my family is such a challenge most days with sports practices, carpools, school events, a traveling spouse, and other unexpected surprises. I know we have all heard it, “Mom, do we have any magenta posterboard and lime green glitter????” “Mom, remember, I’m in charge of snack for 25 tomorrow for my advisory group and it has to be homemade.” Or how about my personal favorite, “Mom, don’t forget, tomorrow I have to bring in a hot appetizer that showcases my heritage and our family traditions.”
If I can make dinner ahead and have it ready to go, I feel so much more organized and accomplished. I can handle the unexpected tasks and requests without hitting Chipotle for dinner three nights in a row (not that we don’t love Chipotle). This recipe is perfect to make ahead on Sunday and have it ready to go Monday night to start the week on the right foot.
One package thinly sliced chicken breast filets
One pound bag of large elbow macaroni
Progresso “Italian Style” bread crumbs
16 ounces of “Precious” brand Mozzarella cheese + 1/4 cup
One, 28 ounce can of Trader Joe’s Tuscan Marinara sauce +1/4 cup
2 to 3 eggs, lightly blended in a medium sized bowl
one package fresh basil
salt and pepper to taste
Large muffin tin (yields 6 large muffins)
recipe makes about dozen “Mini Chicken Parms”
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place about 2 cups of bread crumbs in a shallow dish. Dip each thinly sliced breast filet in the egg and then dredge in the bread crumbs. Place on a slightly oiled baking sheet. Bake chicken for about 25 to 30 minutes (be careful not to overcook or the chicken will be dry). While the chicken is baking, cook the pasta according to the directions on the package. Drain and set aside.
Shred the 16 ounce block of Mozzarella cheese and chop the entire package of basil, which should yield abut 1/2 cup, maybe a little more.
Once the chicken is baked through, remove from the oven and let cool. When the chicken has cooled, chop into cubes (1/2” to 1” is fine).
In a large mixing bowl add the pasta, cubed chicken, Marinara sauce, Mozarella, basil and salt and pepper to taste. Mix all ingredients together gently until just combined.
Lightly spray or grease each muffin well and add a hearty scoop of the mixture. Top each filled muffin well with a teaspoon of Marinara and an extra sprinkle of Mozzarella. Put back into 350 degree oven and bake for an additional 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from oven and let sit for 10 minutes. Use a pie server to scoop out each individual “Mini Chicken Parm.” Top with a sprig of basil and serve with organic greens and Italian breadsticks.
*If you make this meal ahead of time, remove all individual “Mini Chicken Parms” from the muffin well. Let cool completely on a large platter and cover tightly. When ready to serve, place on a large baking sheet and re-heat gradually at 350 degrees.