Parmigiana here in Australia is a bit of an iconic dish. There isn’t a pub bistro worth it’s salt that doesn’t have this retro classic on its menu. I can totally understand the allure – what’s not to like about a breaded piece of meat covered in an Italian style tomato sauce and lots of cheese! But like all such dishes there are the great, the good and the very mediocre. There aren’t too many ingredients in a Parmigiana so it’s important to use the best quality items you can. In this recipe I’ve used a veal cutlet which makes it a little more “fancy” but I also find the meat to crumb ratio is more satisfying on a thicker piece of meat. The tomato sauce also plays a starring role, so the extra step of making your own is worthwhile. Now onto the cheese. I like to use a mixture of fresh mozzarella, buffalo if I’m feeling flush, and parmesan. If you want to make this ahead of time you could have the meat breaded, the sauce made and the cheese sliced but I would only assemble it just before baking. As far as side dishes go I like to continue down the retro route with some spaghetti. You can serve it plain, with some extra tomato sauce stirred through it or as I’ve done here, make a fonduta of butter, cheese and some cream – hey, I never said this was going to be a lean meal!
Ingredients – Serves 2
2 veal cutlets
1 cup bread crumbs – I like to use half fresh and half panko
A pinch of chilli flakes
1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese, divided
1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
½ cup flour
1 egg, lightly beaten with a little milk
1 medium size ball fresh mozzarella, or about 10 bocconcini, sliced thinly
Tomato Sauce – makes more than you need but freezes well
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, finely diced
¼ cup diced pancetta or speck
2 cloves garlic, minced
A pinch of chilli flakes
2-3 medium size, ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
½ cup tomato passata
1 teaspoon tomato paste
½ teaspoon sugar
A pinch of dried oregano
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
To make the sauce, place a saucepan over medium heat and add the olive oil. When hot add the onions and pancetta along with a pinch of salt and cook until lightly golden. Add the garlic and chilli flakes and cook for another couple of minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook stirring for a few minutes until they start to break down a little. Add the passata, tomato paste, sugar, oregano and a good pinch of salt and some pepper. Stir well and bring to a simmer. Partially cover and cook on low heat for at least 30 minutes. Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary. Set aside to cool.
To make the veal, place the breadcrumbs on a large plate with the pinch of salt, chilli flakes, half of the parmesan cheese and the parsley and mix well to combine. Place the beaten egg and milk in a large shallow bowl and the flour on another plate. Season the veal well with salt and pepper. Place the cutlets first into the flour, shaking off any excess, then into the milk mixture and finally into the bread crumbs, making sure to press down well and cover both sides generously. Place a large non stick skillet or frypan over medium-high heat and add enough olive oil to cover the base. When the oil is hot add the veal cutlets and cook until each side is golden brown. Remove and set aside.
To assemble the dish: preheat the oven to 180C. Place the fried cutlets onto a baking sheet and top each one generously with the tomato sauce. Then lay the sliced mozzarella over each cutlet making sure to cover the entire area. Finally sprinkle over the remaining parmesan and bake for about 15-20 minutes or until the cheese is melted, golden and bubbling.