I don’t know if you’re like me, but sometimes an evening can fall apart for lack of a few groceries and a simple dinner to prepare. But I’ve ready plenty about the value of a regular family dinner time and seen the importance of it too. With the crazy and amazing schedules that most families live with though, the more tricks you can have up your sleeve to make dinner happen well, the better. This is the first of my Suppertime Save posts on how I try to keep our family dinners happening as much as possible by using staple ingredients and minimizing the need to plan.
This easy and delicious recipe is adapted from The Family Dinner By Laurie David. The book is a great read and resource if you believe in the value of family dinnertimes. Part education, part conversation, part recipe and part inspiration…it’s like an entire blog bound in hard cover. And she does also write a foodie blog here. This recipe is called Bang Bang Chicken Parmesan in the book for reasons you can read if you are able to pick up a copy.
Where dinner prep can go off the rails for me is the lack of ingredients and the need for a last-minute grocery shop which may or may not happen. What I love about this recipe is that it uses only five staple ingredients which are easy to keep stocked all the time. If any of these items are ever running low or used up they go straight onto the grocery list and I know I always have ingredients for a meal on hand: frozen breaded chicken breasts, penne, pasta sauce, shredded mozzarella and grated parmesan. I happened to shop at Costco so this chicken is the Pinty’s brand which we all really like. Plus at Costco nobody bats an eye when you pile up four boxes of chicken, a twelve-pack of pasta, a case of tomato sauce and a double bag of cheese on the conveyer. And you’re stocked up for quite a while!
So the dish goes together in two stages and will be done within half an hour which is about right for a weeknight. Preheat the oven to 425 F (or to the temperature directed on your brand of frozen breaded chicken). Put on a large pot of salted water to boil for the pasta. Then set out the chicken pieces in a single layer in a large casserole dish you’ve sprayed with cooking spray and put them in the oven. Set the timer for fifteen minutes. Empty the pasta into the water to boil and pour the pasta sauce into a small saucepan over low heat. Now you can walk away for about ten minutes and tend to other things that might happening in the house, or chop up a few vegetables for a side salad.
Then when the timer rings you’ll be at the second stage. Remove the chicken from the oven and reserve the pieces on a separate plate. Drain the pasta and pour it into the casserole dish. Add most of the pasta sauce (reserving a little to dollop onto the chicken later) and stir to combine.
Then layer the chicken pieces on top of the pasta/sauce mixture and sprinkle half a cup of parmesan over the chicken. Divide the remaining sauce by spoonfuls onto each chicken piece and spread a cup of shredded mozzarella over the whole dish. Put the casserole back into the oven for 10-15 minutes, or to complete the cooking time per the chicken instructions, and the cheese is melting.
So that’s one of the ways I know I can get a weeknight family dinner together without much thought about groceries or time spent at the stove. Stay tuned as this will be an occasional series of Suppertime Saves…manageable recipes to help keep your family dinners happening.