Recipe: Marinara, pesto & chicken cutlets

I grew up on Italian food. Good Italian food. Between my parents’ home-cooked meals and the plethora of amazing restaurants in northern New Jersey area, I never had a shortage of it. Northeast Florida isn’t exactly ripe with good (or even decent) Italian, so I make a lot of my favorites at home.

The core of any good Italian meal is the sauce — if the sauce ain’t good, no point in eating it. And, newsflash, good sauce doesn’t come in a jar.

I got some basil in my Black Hog Farm order this week, so I decided to whip up some pesto for chicken cutlets. Since I had fresh basil and already had a lot of marinara sauce ingredients out, I figured why not get a pot cookin’ at the same time.

Let’s start with the marinara.

Ingredients:

  • 1 can, Tuttorosso crushed tomatoes
  • Diced garlic (enough to spread across the bottom of the pot)
  • Diced onion (again, enough to spread across the pot)
  • Parmigiano Reggiano (no, that is not a typo for Parmesan. Get the good stuff, trust me)
  • Pecorino Romano (preferably grated)
  • Garlic powder
  • Pepper
  • Seasonings — parsley, oregano, dill, etc.
  • Olive oil

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I definitely recommend Tuttorosso if you can find it. Publix sells it here in Florida, though they don’t carry the blue can anymore (my favorite). You could crush your own tomatoes too, if you want, but that sounds like a pain.

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Start off with simmering the garlic and onion in olive oil until they start to lightly brown (and smell amazing. Love. That. Smell.). Feel free to have a beer or glass of wine at this point too (as I clearly did). Once you get to the that sweet spot of cooked but not burnt, add in the crushed tomatoes.

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Next, throw in a few handfuls of the grated romano, and grate a good amount of parmigiano in too. How much you put in is up to you, but I usually don’t go lightly. Once I mix that in, it’s spice time. Garlic powder, pepper, your typical Italian seasonings (I use Fresh Jax’s Italian seasoning mix) like basil, oregano, parsley, dill. Throw it all in and don’t be stingy. I had fresh basil so I threw some of that in too. Talk about a fragrant pot.

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Let it cook on low for at least an hour or so if you use one can, three or so if you use two. Stir occasionally. Refrain from licking the spoon after stirring like I did, or you’ll burn the crap out of your mouth.

Now, onto the pesto.

Ingredients:

  • Plenty of basil leaves
  • Parmigiano Reggiano
  • A little bit of pecorino romano for good measure
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • A few nuts (I used pistachios, pine nuts are more traditional)

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Of course basil is the main ingredient here, and I was eager to use the fresh basil I got from Black Hog. Cheese is really the other main ingredient and what gives it that creamy texture. I put plenty of parmigiano in and a bit of romano (why not?). I threw in some EVOO (my favorite is Pompeian) and some pistachios. Typically pine nuts are used but I didn’t have any of those, so pistachios it was.

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Blend it together in a food processor and you have an amazing sauce. I went a little heavy on the basil leaves so mine ended up more like a paste but it was still fabulous.

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The chicken cutlets go a similar route as the rest of the recipes, only with breadcrumbs. Combine the breadcrumbs, the aforementioned cheeses and a bunch of seasoning and you have a fabulous coating. Cook up the cutlets and add in some sauteed broccoli and you have yourself a meal.

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And, because nothing is complete without a random guest spot, here is my dog Miko staring at me from a few rooms away, hoping I might throw some cheese in her dog bowl. (I did.)

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