If you missed my love story about focaccia, you can read it here. The love is real. So real, in fact, that my recipe makes 2 whole loaves of the magical bread. That’s stupendous if you are having guests for dinner. It might even be stupendous if you are super duper hungry and plan to eat an entire loaf in one sitting. Don’t judge, please. I can neither confirm nor deny that this may or may not have happened.
However, since it’s currently just Travis and I typically eating the focaccia recipe at our house, we usually have plenty of leftovers. Perfect for creative leftover recipes like this focaccia grilled chicken sandwich! I’d like to say that this is a totally Italian take on a chicken sandwich…But then I threw some guacamole in there and made it a bit of a mutt of a recipe. Sorry I’m not sorry about that. It’s too delicious to be sorry.
Why is this focaccia chicken sandwich a winner? The bread is salty and rich, the cheese and guac are creamy, and the chicken and veggies are fresh and delicious. Oh, and then throw some herbs/spices on there and BOOM! You have a taste explosion. In your mouth.
So, first make the focaccia and enjoy it for all it’s worth with some pasta or whatever you may desire. Then, take what’s left and make yourself a sandwich that will leave you asking for more.
Focaccia Grilled Chicken Sandwich
Chicken sandwich with an Italian twist...focaccia bread, mozzarella cheese, and Italian herbs
Slice the focaccia loaf into quarters. Slice each quarter in half so there is a top and bottom half.
On a parchment lined baking sheet, place the bottom halves of the focaccia topped with the grilled chicken, mozzarella cheese, oregano/Italian herb blend, and red pepper flakes. Put the top halves of bread on the baking sheet next to the bottoms halves, cut side up (so they can toast).
Broil on high until the cheese melts and the bread is lightly toasted, about 3-5 minutes.
I’ve had a handful of meals that I would consider particularly memorable in my life. The meal after Travis and I got married in Savannah, Georgia immediately comes to mind as well as the meal Travis and I ate in a revolving dining room overlooking Niagara Falls. Then there’s the meal I shared with my family at Pinocchio’s restaurant at Disney World overlooking the It’s a Small World ride. Hey, just because I was probably 8 and eating chicken fingers doesn’t mean it wasn’t life changing.
I’d have to say that definitely in the top 5 most memorable meals in my life so far was the meal Travis and I shared in Rome in a little plaza overlooking the Pantheon. There are things that just don’t fade in your mind such as the red gingham tablecloth, the fact that it was probably 45 degrees but the heat lamp next to us kept us warm, the view (of course), and the FOOD. Focaccia was served along with my entree of Fettuccine Alfredo in a Parmesan cheese bowl. Yes, best day ever.
prepared biga (I could have used a larger bowl)
Let’s think about this a little longer to let it sink in. There was a basket of focaccia served to us, perfectly crisp from being smothered in olive oil before baking. There was Fettuccine Alfredo, possibly one of my most favorite dishes. There was a BOWL made out of Parmesan cheese. A BOWL, people. It was wonderful and I loved it. I ate it all. You don’t let focaccia and Parmesan bowls go to waste when you’re in Italy. You just don’t.
I won’t pretend that this focaccia can come close to the memory that I have of that meal. I have to face the fact that I do not live in a plaza next to the Pantheon so it’s a bit hard to recreate the mood. BUT, I will say that the time that goes into this bread is worth every last mouth-watering bite. You will not be disappointed. The ingredients are so simple but scrumptious when combined the right way. The bread isn’t greasy from the olive oil. It’s rich and crisp and wonderful. I have nothing more to say than go now. Go now, and make this bread. Now. Please.
Prepare the biga the night before baking the focaccia - combine 3/4 cups of lukewarm water and 1/4 teaspoon yeast in a medium bowl. Stir to dissolve. Mix in 1 1/2 cups of the flour. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rise in warm spot for at least 8 hours.The biga should be light and airy when it's ready.
Combine the remaining 1 3/4 teaspoons of yeast and 1/4 cup water in the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the biga, 1 cup of water, 3 cups of flour and 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Mix for about 2 minutes on low, add 1 1/2 teaspoons table salt, and mix for another 3 minutes on low. If the dough is sticky, add the remaining 1/2 cup of flour in small increments until it is no longer sticky.
Place the dough in a large bowl coated with olive oil and cover with a damp kitchen towel.
Let it rise is a warm place until doubled, about 45 minutes. Knock down the dough and fold it over a few times before covering again and letting it rise another 45 minutes.
Coat two 9" metal* cake pans with olive oil (about 1/2 tablespoon each). Split the dough in 2 and place half in each of the cake pans. Spread the dough out until it reaches the edges. Cover with a damp kitchen towel and let rise for about 45 minutes.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Use your fingers to poke indentations in the dough. Pour 2 tablespoons of olive oil over each focaccia (this will pool in some of the indentations). Sprinkle the rosemary and sea salt (I used pink sea salt but regular sea salt is good too) over the focaccia and bake for about 20 minutes, until golden brown.
Cool on wire racks before serving.
Make sure to start the biga for this recipe the night (or at least 8 hours) before trying to make the bread. It's a long process, but worth it!
Pretty much everything in this recipe is divided! Please note the amounts needed for the biga and for the bread-making process in the directions.
*I tried this recipe in a glass baking dish and it did not come out as crispy as when I used the metal pans. However, you could use an 8x8" or 9x9" metal baking dish if you do not have round cake pans.
I’m approximately 0% Italian by blood. My husband is also 0% Italian I’m pretty sure. We are both pale, blue-eyed, and blonde-haired. I’m cool with that. However that doesn’t stop me from channeling my inner Italian to cook dishes like this spinach and cheese manicotti that are oh so *delizioso*. Yeah. That was my inner Italian coming out. Sorry.
I actually didn’t have manicotti to make this manicotti recipe because that’s how I roll. BUT, I was able to make some homemade lasagna noodles that I rolled up with the filling inside and it worked great! You certainly can buy manicotti or use store-bought lasagna noodles cut in half. Honestly, I couldn’t find manicotti at the store after I put everything else for this recipe in my cart. Since I’m too lazy to go to another store or ask where the manicotti may be, I made the noodles. The truth comes out.
You are also more than welcome to make your own pasta sauce for this recipe. I often do have homemade sauce in my freezer but for this recipe I took the easy way out and bought a nice store-bought sauce. It did the trick!
One thing I love about this otherwise cheesy and carb-filled recipe is that it does sneek some veggies in there! Apparently now that I have a little one I think about hiding vegetables in food. Such is life. The little guy’s only a couple months old though so he pretty much has a one track mind and it’s focused on milk right now.
Spinach and Cheese Manicotti
Manicotti stuffed with a 3-cheese and spinach filling and topped with your favorite pasta sauce
Cook the frozen spinach according to packaging (I microwaved mine in a microwave-safe bowl). Place the cooked spinach in a kitchen towel and let drain. Squeeze the excess water out by twisting and squeezing the towel.
Mix the spinach, ricotta cheese, 1 cup of the mozzarella cheese (the remainder is for the top), Parmesan cheese, egg, and salt and pepper together in bowl. Transfer to a zip top bag. Seal the bag and cut a corner off to create a piping bag.
Squeeze the cheese mixture into the manicotti. This is easiest to pipe a little from each side to make sure you get the mixture all the way through the noodle.
Spread 1 cup of the pasta sauce on the bottom of a lasagna pan. Place the manicotti in the pan, top with the remaining pasta sauce and reserved 1/2 cup of mozzarella cheese.
Bake for 30 minutes.
*I used homemade whole wheat lasagna noodles that I cut in half and rolled up once I put the filling in them. Either way works!
Every once in awhile I get a hankering for a classic and simple dish like Chicken Parmesan. I mean, you can’t go wrong with a classic. It just so happens that this is a fairly classic recipe made oh-so-delicious with a panko breadcrumb and Parmesan coating. If you aren’t familiar with panko breadcrumbs, think breadcrumbs but lighter and crispier. You can find them in basically every grocery store, if not every one, so don’t worry that they’ll be hard to find. It’s worth it. For real.
I’ve only ever actually made Chicken Parmesan maybe a couple times in my life. This is a dish that’s so easy to order at a Italian restaurant and it’s pretty much always delicious. Where can you really go wrong with breaded chicken, cheese, and pasta? It’s like you’d have to *try* to make those ingredients taste bad. Even though I’ve made it before, I for some reason was convinced that it would be hard to make and would be a disaster. False. Totally false. This recipe is not hard to make at all. And it totally was not a disaster. Note to future Steph thinking Chicken Parmesan is hard to make…IT IS SO EASY!
The main advice I have for anything breaded is just to prep well. As you may or may not know, I am a very experienced cook so you should all listen to any and all advice that I have. That’s a joke…my experience is limited. However, you can be assured that any advice I post is from personal experience. So that’s a win for you! Once you have the 3 pans (flour mixture, egg mixture, and breading) ready to go, you’re basically golden. The rest is just a little cooking on the stove top and in the oven. Easy peasy.
The moral of the story is that no matter how delicious Chicken Parmesan can be at a restaurant, you can easily make it just as (if not more) delicious in your own home. Your own home, folks.
Simple and delicious Chicken Parmesan with a light and crispy breading
Place chicken (1-2 breasts at a time) in a plastic zip top bag. Use a rolling pin to pound each chicken breast to about 1/2" thick. Set aside.
Mix together the flour and salt and pepper, to taste. Pour mixture onto on a plate or large flat pan and set aside. Have another pan (with edges) ready with the whisked egg and salt and pepper, to taste. In a 3rd pan, mix the panko breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese. Dredge the pounded chicken in the flour mixture, coat with the egg mixture (let extra slightly drain off), and finally coat in the breadcrumb mixture.
Heat the olive oil and butter in a large saute pan over medium to medium high heat. Once the oil is heated, add the dredged chicken into the pan and cook 2-3 minutes per side, until just golden brown.
Place the chicken on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Cover each piece of chicken with about 1/4 cup of pasta sauce, mozzarella slices, and basil.
Bake in a preheated oven for 10-15 minutes, until cooked through and the cheese is melted.
Serve over pasta.
Flavor From Scratch http://www.flavorfromscratch.com/
Lasagna is something that everyone seems to love. It’s ooey and gooey and saucy and full of flavor. Plus it feeds a lot of people! Don’t worry, I won’t be mad if you don’t like lasagna. Everyone has their own preferences. With that said, let’s be real…it would be rare that you have someone over for dinner and they are disappointed when lasagna shows up on the table. Seriously.
This recipe came from Travis’ family. It’s slightly adapted but it’s more or less the same as when I got it. Delicious as always! The main difference is that I typically use ground turkey instead of ground beef. Both add a good flavor. Plus with the sausage in there I honestly can’t tell the difference between ground beef and turkey. So use what you like or what you have!
Lasagna is a little bit of a process but in the end it is definitely worth it! One wonderful thing about lasagna is that you can easily freeze and thaw it before baking it so if you make it, you might as well make a lot of it so that you can have it more than once! Or, if you have company coming this is a great make-ahead dish so that all you have to do is pop it in the oven. Easy peasy.
Travis and I have been making homemade pasta for awhile now so we made homemade lasagna noodles for this. So. gosh. darn. good. Don’t get me wrong, this lasagna is scrumptious with or without the fresh noodles. BUT, lasagna with fresh pasta is like eating pillows of noodles covered in gooey cheese and meaty tomato sauce. Yeah. Just stop and think about that for a minute…pillows of pasta. gooey cheese. meaty sauce. Enough said.
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese + 1/2 cup for topping
16 ounces grated mozzarella cheese
1 box lasagna noodles, cooked and drained
Brown ground turkey and sausage in a large pan over medium heat. Drain any excess fat and add the garlic to the pan. Sauté 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and tomato paste. Slightly break apart the tomatoes as you stir. Stir in the basil, oregano, salt, and pepper. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Preheat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.
In a bowl, stir together the cottage cheese, 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, and grated mozzarella cheese.
In an ungreased 9 x 13" pan, alternate layers of sauce, noodles, and cheese, starting with a little sauce on the bottom. End with a layer of sauce and sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese on top.
Bake uncovered for 45 minutes. Let stand 15 minutes before cutting.
This recipe can easily be frozen after assembly then thawed and baked as directed!
Flavor From Scratch http://www.flavorfromscratch.com/