I could eat Italian food every day. It’s my favorite cuisine. This recipe starts with a spicy marinara sauce that simmers for a few hours. Combine the sauce with flavorful chicken and eggplant, and you have a perfect comfort food meal.

PANKO CRUSTED CHICKEN AND EGGPLANT WITH SPICY MARINARA SAUCE
Let’s start with the marinara sauce.

• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• 4 large cloves garlic, minced
• 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
• 1 cup minced yellow onions
• 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
• 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
• 29-ounce can tomato purée
• 15-ounce can tomato sauce
• Parmesan cheese rinds (if available)

In a 3-quart Dutch oven or large saucepan, add olive oil over low heat. Toss in the garlic and let cook on low heat for several minutes. Add the red pepper flakes, stir to combine with the garlic and cook for 2 minutes.

Next, add the onions with the salt and pepper. Stirring frequently, let cook for 5 to 7 minutes.

Add the tomato purée and the tomato sauce. Cover and let cook for 20 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

When you finish grating Parmesan cheese, you are keeping the rind, aren’t you? It’s so simple to just drop the rind into a freezer bag and keep it for a recipe such as this. Put the rind(s) into the sauce, stir and cover the pot. Let gently simmer for several hours, stirring every now and then.

When ready to serve, taste and add additional salt and pepper if desired.

While the sauce is simmering, you can prepare the chicken and eggplant.
• 3 Italian eggplants (about 1 pound)
• 1 pound chicken cutlets, pounded thin
• 1 cup self-rising flour
• 2 eggs, lightly beaten with 1 teaspoon water
• Salt and pepper to taste
• 4 cups Italian style panko bread crumbs
• Olive oil nonstick spray
• Sliced provolone cheese
• Parmesan cheese for grating on top
• Chopped basil for garnish

Slice eggplants about a quarter-inch thick and place on paper towels. Sprinkle with salt. The salt will draw out the water, which will remove a lot of the bitterness that is sometimes found in eggplants. Let rest for 30 to 45 minutes, and then rinse off the salt.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Place chicken cutlets between layers of plastic wrap and using a meat mallet, pound to a thickness of a quarter inch.

In a shallow dish, add the flour; in a second shallow dish, pour the eggs and water and lightly salt and pepper; in the third shallow baking dish, pour the panko bread crumbs. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Spray with the non-stick spray.

Taking one piece of a chicken at a time, lightly dredge in flour, then dip in the egg wash and coat with the panko crumbs. Press the chicken into the crumbs and make sure chicken cutlets are entirely covered. Place on prepared parchment paper. Repeat with remaining pieces of chicken.

Place in oven and bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and, using a metal spatula, carefully turn the chicken over and return to oven for another 10 minutes.

While the chicken is baking, repeat the coating process with the eggplant slices dredging first with flour, then egg wash, and panko. Place the pieces on another parchment paper-lined baking sheet.

Let the eggplant bake for 10 minutes, remove from oven and using a metal spatula, carefully turn the eggplant slices over and return to oven for another 10 minutes.

Place one piece of chicken onto a plate and spoon the spicy marinara sauce over the chicken. Place one slice of provolone cheese over the sauce. Now place several portions of the eggplant on top of the cheese.

Add a little more sauce over the top and grate fresh Parmesan over everything. Ladle additional sauce around the plate, if desired, and sprinkle with chopped basil.
Repeat with remaining chicken and eggplant for the remaining servings.
Laura Tolbert, also known as Fleur de Lolly, has been sharing recipes, table decor ideas and advice for fellow foodies and novices on her blog, fleurdelolly.blogspot.com for more than eight years. She won the Duke Mayonnaise 100th Anniversary nationwide recipe contest for her Alabama White BBQ Sauce. You can contact her at facebook.com/fleurde.lolly.5, on Instagram and fleurdelolly@yahoo.com.