Chicken Parmesan was one of the first dishes I learned to make when I went to college. After flipping through a newly bought cookbook, I saw these perfectly, golden brown chicken breasts atop a savory red sauce. I immediately set out to make it…except mine didn’t turn out so picture-perfect. Since I didn’t really know what I was doing, I burnt a few pieces of the chicken and had to trim off the edges. To hide my mistakes, I turned my dish into chicken parmesan casserole! My roommates loved it, and they had no idea I messed up!
The traditional chicken Parmesan uses a heavy breadcrumb coating and lots of frying oil. We wanted to make a healthier version of the classic that didn’t skimp on flavor, and this recipe certainly delivers. If you serve this for a dinner party, no one would know that it’s healthy!
Skip the Frying
Frying isn’t all bad, but it certainly adds unnecessary calories into your meal. Some people say that the oil doesn’t get absorbed into the food, but I would disagree. Have you ever fried a few batches of fritters? After three batches, you need to add more oil to the pan. Where did that oil go? Into the food.
We skip the frying for this chicken parmesan casserole because it’s completely unnecessary. You don’t need the chicken to be crispy because it would become soggy, anyway, after baking in the savory tomato sauce. And, you certainly won’t need to see the golden brown appearance because it will be hidden inside the dish.
It wouldn’t quite be chicken parmesan without a crispy bite, though, so we have a little trick up our sleeves to make that possible. We top the casserole with Panko breadcrumbs. This adds a crunchy layer on top of the dish. Who needs frying when we have tricks like this?!
Whole Grain Pasta
I’ve had a lot of people tell me they don’t eat pasta anymore because it’s unhealthy. With vegetable spiralizers and zucchini noodles becoming more and more popular, it’s easy to skip the pasta if you’re not into it. But, I’m going to make an argument for whole grain pasta.
There are two different types of carbohydrates: simple carbs and complex carbs. Simple carbohydrates (also called simple sugars) are easy for your body to break down. They provide little nutrition (other than energy to fuel your body), and they can raise your blood glucose level rapidly.
Complex carbohydrates, on the other hand, are composed of long saccharide chains that link together three or more types of sugars. Your body takes a long time to digest these carbohydrates, which means they provide lasting energy to your body. These complex carbohydrates have actually been linked to weight loss because they also contain fiber and other nutrients.
Long story short – whole grain pasta shouldn’t be considered a “bad” food to consume, especially if you’re trying to lose weight. Whole wheat flour has three parts of the grain – the bran, the germ, and the endosperm. The bran and the germ are the most nutrient-dense parts of wheat, and these are stripped out when refining flour to become white flour.
At the end of the day, this skinny chicken Parmesan casserole is not only healthy, but it tastes great, too! If you want to take it one step further, substitute this easy homemade marinara sauce in for the store-bought kind.
Skinny Chicken Parmesan Casserole
- 1 pound whole grain penne pasta Uncooked
- 3 cups marinara sauce no sugar added
- 1 can diced tomatoes
- 1 pound boneless and skinless chicken breast cubed small
- 1 cup fat-free mozzarella cheese shredded
- 1/2 cup whole wheat panko bread crumbs
- 2 tablespoons parmesan cheese grated
- 1 teaspoon Italian Seasoning
- Cook pasta according to the package directions, drain.Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a 9 x 13 inch casserole dish combine the cooked pasta, marinara, tomatoes, and chicken. Stir well. Cover and bake for 30 minutes.
- Uncover and stir the pasta mixture. Sprinkle the mozzarella on top. In a small bowl combine the panko, parmesan, and Italian seasoning. Sprinkle over the mozzarella. Return the casserole to the oven, uncovered, and cook for 10 to 15 more minutes or until the cheese is melted and top is golden. Serve hot!
For more skinny recipe ideas, check out the beautiful images on our Instagram page. You’ll get inspired (and maybe a little hungry, too) just looking at all of our healthy breakfast, lunch, and dinner recipes!