I know it seems counterintuitive that I would create a recipe for chicken parmigiana baked ziti when I have a recipe for neither chicken parmigiana or baked ziti on this site.
Yet, somehow, here it is. In all it's baked, mozzarella cheese-y glory. You see, ziti and I go way back. When I was in high school my family moved to a new house and while we were waiting for the construction to be completed at said new house, we lived in a rental. We were supposed to be in said rental for about a month, which stretched into six, but in the meantime, did very little unpacking of belongings. Kitchen-related belongings, like the kind used to cook large meals of food, were among them.
So, 2-3 times per week, we would either eat at or bring in takeout from a local Italian restaurant and pizza joint. Sometimes it was a large, plain cheese pizza and an antipasti salad for the family, other times it was a chicken caesar salad in all it's fatty dressing-ed glory but mostly, I would order baked ziti. Baked ziti is simple, easy and safe.
While you can't necessarily ruin baked ziti, I've certainly experienced my share of less than stellar baked ziti in restaurants. And there's nothing more disappointing than ordering a takeout favorite with high expectations (and a high calorie count) and being disappointed.
So my solution? Make your own. And if you happen to chicken tenders in the fridge that you accidentally bought, thinking they were chicken thighs, ahem, you can make a quick batch of chicken tenders to give your ziti some real personality.
Chicken Parmigiana Baked Ziti
What You Need:
1-16 ounce box ziti (whole wheat, if possible)
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken tenders
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup flour, for dredging
1 cup whole wheat breadcrumbs
1 Tablespoon olive oil
3 cups tomato sauce (you can use your favorite tomato or marinara sauce)
2 cups part-skim mozzarella cheese
Prepare the ziti according to package directions, cooking until just al dente. Drain in a colander and set aside.
Dredge each chicken breast in the flour and tap off excess. Then, dip the chicken in the egg and let the excess drip off. Dip chicken in bread crumbs and dredge on both sides.
Heat oil over high heat for about 2 minutes. Place chicken tenders in the pan and cook until golden brown on each side. Transfer to a baking dish and cook chicken for about 15 minutes or until juices run clear when sliced.
Let chicken tenders cool for about five minutes. Cut each tender into small, bite-sized pieces, about 1-inch each. In a deep 9×13 baking dish, toss chicken with al-dente pasta, marinara sauce and mozzarella cheese.
Bake until cheese is melted and dish is heated throughout, between 25-30 minutes. Let cool before serving and garnish with Parmesan cheese, if desired.