Italian American cuisine is a popular and delicious cuisine. It is a style of cooking adopted throughout the United States that was shaped by Italian immigrants and their descendants. However, what is known in America as Italian food is often not found on the table in Italy.
No one in Italy knows what marinara sauce is. There may be different variants of such a sauce that depend on regional or family traditions (with or without garlic, with or without onions, with or without carrots, with or without a pinch of sugar to counter acidity, etc.) but tomato sauce is simply called “salsa” or “sugo” depending on whether you’re from northern or southern Italy. What’s commonly called marinara sauce in America is tomato sauce in Italy that is the base for pizza, pasta, etc., but without garlic or onion or herbs that are not fresh basil.
Parmigiana in Italy is made with eggplant, tomato, caciocavallo cheese, and basil. No chicken or veal. At best, in some parts of Italy, they alternate the layers of eggplant with prosciutto or beaten eggs for added flavor.
Below is a classic recipe for chicken that I grew up on and it is still a big favorite in my family.
1 cup plain breadcrumbs
3 tablespoons fresh flat-leaf parsley, minced
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 egg, beaten lightly
2 chicken breast halves
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups Homemade Marinara, see recipe
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
4 slices of mozzarella cheese
4 oz thin Spaghetti, cooked al dente
Preheat the oven to 375˚F.
Combine breadcrumbs, parsley, 1/4 cup of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, a pinch of salt and pepper to taste. Place bread crumb mixture, flour, and egg in three separate dishes.
First, dredge the chicken breast halves in flour, making sure to shake off any excess. Dip in beaten eggs and, like the flour, make sure to let any excess drip off. Finally, dredge in the breadcrumb mixture to coat well. Allow breaded cutlets to rest for a few minutes on a plate before frying.
Heat olive oil in an ovenproof skillet on medium-high heat. Fry chicken until golden. Be sure to turn for even cooking, about 4-5 minutes per side.
Top each breast with Marinara, covering each piece, place the skillet in the oven and bake for 15 minutes, or until bubbling.
Place two slices of mozzarella on each piece of chicken and bake for another 5 minutes or until the cheese melts.
Serve with the cooked spaghetti mixed with the remaining marinara sauce.
Pasta alla marinara (“mariner style” pasta) does exist in Italy, but it’s usually prepared with shellfish and olives. In the United States, the term “marinara” refers to the simple tomato-based “red” sauce that’s a standard in Italian-American cooking.
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 large onion, chopped fine
1 carrot, chopped fine
1 celery stalk, chopped fine
1 tablespoon olive oil
One 6 oz can tomato paste
Four 28 oz containers Italian chopped tomatoes
1 teaspoon each dried oregano, dried basil, crushed red pepper, and dried thyme.
Salt and pepper
Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a Dutch oven and saute the vegetables and garlic. Add the tomato paste. Fill the empty can with water and add it to the pot.
Add tomatoes. Simmer, uncovered, for 1 hour.
Add 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon each black pepper and the dried oregano, dried basil, crushed red pepper, and dried thyme.
Simmer, uncovered, for another hour or until the sauce thickens.
Italian Leaf Salad
1 small head of lettuce, washed and dried
1 small red onion, cut into ring
Italian black olives to taste
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
Tear the lettuce leaves into small pieces.
Place the greens, olives, and onion in a medium salad bowl.
In a jar, combine the dressing ingredients. Shake well and pour over the greens. Toss and serve.