Don Tano Bongiorno’s Slightly Sicilian Twist on Chicken with Mozzarella

Chicken is, and has always been, a popular nourishing dish. There are about as many ways to prepare a delicious chicken dinner as there are countries with their different recipes and tastes.

Today, I’ll share with you a recipe for chicken my mama used to make for us when we were little. She smiles down on us from heaven today knowing she did a good job. None of us turned out to be criminals and none of us ever got mixed up in the Mafia. Besides, I always reassure concerned tourists to Palermo that the Mafiosi no longer carry tommy guns. They carry briefcases stuffed with hundred dollar bills and they buy what they want instead of killing people for it.

Where was I? Oh yes, my Mama’s chicken recipe – Chicken with Mozzarella.

Okay, first you pick up some boneless, skinless chicken breasts. If you have big eaters you may want to consider one and a half per person, or perhaps even two, and unless you have your own little vegetable garden at home, you should pick up some fresh basil leaves. (Hey, if it ain’t got basil in it, it ain’t Italian. What can I say?) And last but not least, a small block of mozzarella cheese. You could get the slices but that’s not as good as the way I’ll show you.

Now, on a clean cutting board, you lay out the chicken breasts, smooth side up, and cut several slits horizontally across the top, about half an inch deep.

Get that oven going at about 400º.

You can line a pan with aluminum foil, if not, at least spray it with non-stick spray. Lay the chicken breasts out and insert a basil leaf in each open cut, half a slice of fresh tomato (Roma is great, but any tomato will do.) Add a nice thick slice of mozzarella cheese. And as a final touch, slip in a thin slice of fresh garlic.

Now you gently brush or spray a thin coat of olive oil over the chicken. Some people like what they call Italian seasoning, but I prefer just salt, pepper, a little sugar and maybe a hint of oregano.

Marsala (practically Sicily’s national beverage!) goes great with this, but don’t drink the entire bottle because you may burn up your chicken.

After about twenty minutes, you should check the chicken. I use one of those little metal skewers they test cakes with. If it comes out clean, your chicken is done. If not, by that time you can just turn the oven off and let the chicken remain inside for another ten or fifteen minutes.

While this is going on, you can boil any choice of pasta: spaghetti, rigatoni, mostaccioli or maybe good old elbow macaroni. Kids love that and I bet Dad loves it too.

For a nice sauce, throw a handful of lightly chopped garlic into a pan with olive oil, and while that’s getting really hot, throw in some sliced onion and celery and green peppers. Once that looks pretty much done, add either some broth or, if not available, use some powdered beef or chicken or tomato broth powder with a cup of water per teaspoon. Not too much. Just what you think you’ll need for the family.

Once that’s boiled for a few minutes, strain it, add a can of tomato paste and maybe a can of diced tomatoes and boil again for a few minutes.

Served with a green salad and Parmesan cheese grated freshly at the table, you’ve got a great dinner and the family will think you really love them, even though it’s just routine to cook.

Ingredients:

1. Chicken Tano

  • One or 1-1/2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts per person
  • One pound Mozzarella cheese
  • Two/three fresh Roma tomatoes
  • Three/four cloves fresh garlic
  • Olive oil
  • Quarter pound fresh basil leaves

2. Pasta

Pasta of choice according to package directions for quantities

3. Sauce

  • One pint of broth (canned broth, beef, chicken or tomato, is fine). 

Bring to boil and add:

  • chopped celery
  • chopped onion
  • chopped peppers
  • finely chopped fresh basil (using whatever is left over from the chicken stuffing
  • one small can of tomato paste
  • one can of diced tomatoes

The sauce should be simmered until it slightly thickens.