One of the greatest joys and frustrations of cooking and eating at home is that it’s not the same as dining at a restaurant. On the one hand, you can make your food exactly how you want, save money, control the ingredients and even improve on what you might get when dining out. On the other hand, most of us don’t have the time, equipment and staff at our fingertips to execute a restaurant-style dish we may particularly love.

As someone who has studied and worked with a number of chef recipes, I can tell you that they are not always the easiest to translate for a home cook and kitchen. But when it came time to find a great recipe for chicken Parm, we all immediately thought of the rendition being churned out by chef Michael Schlow and his team at Alta Strada, which has two locations in the Washington area.

This Spicy Chicken Parm eschews the chicken drowning in sauce and slick with cheese in favor of individually topped crispy cutlets, which makes it easy to dish up portions to each person, as well as slide one onto a pile of pasta or greens or — you know it — into a sub roll for a superlative sandwich. Adding crushed red pepper flakes to the sauce further elevates the light, bright sauce. (Feel free to adjust or eliminate to suit your taste.)

Schlow was generous enough to share the recipe with me. Save for a few small tweaks, mostly aimed at making it more friendly for home cooks (how many of us are going to pop our chicken into a deep fryer?), this recipe is true to the spirit of what you would find on Alta Strada’s Italian American menu.

Before you get started, here is a quick rundown of some helpful tips:

  • You can cut back on the day-of prep by making the sauce as much as one week in advance.
  • A small cast-iron skillet is great for pounding the chicken if you don’t have a meat mallet.
  • We liked the combination of regular and panko bread crumbs for the breading, which makes for a crispy-but-not-too-crunchy coating. It’s fine to use only one type if that’s what you have.
  • If you prefer the casserole experience, try doubling the sauce, adding to a baking dish and nestling the finished chicken in it. Top with the cheese and broil or bake to melt.

This is not the kind of dish most of us will throw together on a weeknight. Perhaps that’s for the best, because it is one you are going to want to savor with a glass of wine and, ideally, a few of your favorite people. You won’t miss the restaurant experience much — except maybe

having someone else to do the dishes.

Scale and get a printer-friendly version of the recipe here.


  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (8 to 11 ounces each)
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
  • Pinch dried rosemary
  • Pinch dried thyme
  • 1/2 cup dried bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 large egg, beaten with a splash of water
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 medium yellow onion, finely chopped (about 1/3 cup)
  • 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • One 28-ounce can whole San Marzano tomatoes, drained (reserve the juices) and coarsely crushed by hand
  • 10 to 12 basil leaves, torn into small pieces
  • 4 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil, or more as needed
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padano cheese
  • 4 thin slices fresh mozzarella (about 4 ounces total)
  • Minced fresh parsley, for garnish (optional)

Step 1

For the chicken: Use a sharp knife to cut horizontally through each breast half. Move the knife through so the meat eventually opens like a book. Separate the two halves. (Trim and discard any visible fat or skin.) Place a chicken cutlet between two pieces of plastic wrap. Then, using a meat tenderizer or small cast-iron skillet, pound the cutlets until they are 1/4-inch thick. Repeat with each cutlet. Pat the chicken dry and season both sides with salt and pepper.

Step 2

In a food processor, combine the panko, rosemary and thyme along with a pinch each of salt and pepper. Pulse to combine. The herbs and panko should be somewhat broken down, but not pulverized into a fine powder.

Step 3

Combine the panko mixture with the bread crumbs in a shallow bowl or dish (pie plates work well). Place the flour in another dish and the egg mixture in a third. Dip one cutlet into the flour, coating both sides and shaking off any excess. Then, dip it into the egg, coating both sides, and allowing excess to drip off. Drop the cutlet into the panko mixture and coat the chicken on both sides. The coating will be relatively thin. Place the cutlet on a baking sheet, and repeat with the remaining three cutlets. Then, place the baking sheet in the refrigerator to help set the breading while you make the sauce.

Step 4

For the sauce: Heat the 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the onion and cook for about 5 minutes, until softened and partially translucent. Add the garlic, salt, pepper and crushed red pepper flakes, to taste; cook for 30 seconds, stirring constantly, until fragrant.

Step 5

Add the crushed tomatoes and about 3 tablespoons of their juices, or just enough to make sure the mixture looks more saucy than dry. Allow to almost come to a boil (it should start bubbling almost immediately). Then, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the basil, and remove the sauce from the heat.

Step 6

For assembly: Position a rack a few inches from the oven’s broiler heating element, and turn the broiler to high.

Heat the 4 tablespoons of canola or vegetable oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Line a plate or baking sheet with paper towels.

Step 7

Once the oil shimmers — it will almost ripple — place 2 of the cutlets in the pan (laying them in away from you, so the end closest to you hits the pan first), leaving room between them. Cook for about 2 1/2 minutes, until they are golden brown and crisp on the bottom, gently pressing down on the cutlets with a wide spatula to help ensure even browning. If you get hot spots in the pan or if your oil is pooling on the sides, give the skillet a gentle shake to move things around.

Step 8

Use a fork to turn over the cutlets (tongs may dislodge the breading); cook until the meat feels firm and the second side is deep golden brown and crisp, 2 1/2 to 3 minutes, reducing the heat as needed to keep the breading from burning. The internal temperature of the meat should register 165 degrees on an instant-read thermometer; there should be no trace of pink in the center. Transfer the cutlets to the lined plate.

If you reduced the heat during the cooking of the first batch, return it to medium-high, adding more oil as needed; once the oil is shimmering, repeat with the remaining 2 cutlets.

Step 9

Transfer the cutlets to a baking sheet. Divide the sauce evenly among the cutlets, allowing some of the breading to peek through at the edges. (If the chicken pieces are on the smaller side, you may have extra sauce, which can be served for dipping.) Sprinkle each cutlet with 2 tablespoons of the Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padano, and place one slice of mozzarella on top. Broil for 1 to 3 minutes, or just until the cheese has melted and browned in a few spots.

Adapted from a recipe by chef Michael Schlow of Schlow Restaurant Group.

Tested by Becky Krystal; email questions to

Scale and get a printer-friendly version of the recipe here.

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Calories: 560; Total Fat: 34 g; Saturated Fat: 8 g; Cholesterol: 135 mg; Sodium: 570 mg; Carbohydrates: 20 g; Dietary Fiber: 4 g; Sugars: 7 g; Protein: 40 g.