Since it’s finally cooling off in New Orleans (that means days under 70°F), we’re finally in the mood for more warm, hearty dishes!
Italian is one of my favorite cuisines, so that’s usually where I get my inspiration. However, in an effort to keep the meal lighter I'm going to skip the pasta and opt for a baked chicken parmesan over spaghetti squash.
The goal is to deliver the coziness of a hearty meal, but with a couple simple tweaks we create a lower calorie dish. And to complete the meal I’m paring it with a glass of our 2016 Jewels of the Earth Merlot.
2 chicken breasts, pounded thinly
2 tsp Italian seasoning
1 small to medium spaghetti squash, cut in half lengthwise and seeds removed
1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated
½ cup grated or about 2 of the larger Mozzarella Bocconcini’s sliced into medallions
1 cup Marinara sauce
Shallot, garlic clove and 8oz diced mushrooms, optional
Fresh basil, optional
Salt and pepper
To Prepare for two people:
- Pre-heat oven to 400°F
- Prepare the squash by spraying it with oil and seasoning it with about 1 tsp of the Italian seasoning and a little salt. Place flesh down on a baking sheet. Bake at 400° for about 25-35 minutes until fork tender (the small one I cooked only took 25 minutes). Remove from the heat and set aside until cool enough to handle.
- While squash cooks, drizzle chicken with olive oil and season with the other tsp of Italian seasoning, salt and pepper. Then sprinkle and pat Parmigiano-Reggiano on both sides of each piece of chicken. Place a cooling rack over a baking sheet lined with foil and spray rack with cooking spray. Place chicken on the rack.
- If using fresh mushrooms, shallot and garlic warm a medium pan over medium heat. Add a little olive oil to the pan and sauté shallot for about 3-4 minutes until translucent. Grate one garlic clove into the shallot, cook one more minute. Then add mushrooms and cook until softened. Add your preferred marinara to pan and let simmer.
- If not using shallot, garlic and mushrooms, simply pour your preferred marinara sauce in a medium pan and warm over medium-high heat.
- Once squash is done cooking, put chicken in the oven and cook for about 25 minutes. Remove and top each chicken breast with about 2 tbsp marinara and cover with mozzarella cheese. Put back in the oven and cook for about another 5 minutes until cheese is melted.*
- While chicken cooks, use a fork to remove squash from the shells. Toss with additional marinara sauce and divided between two plates.
- Top each plate of spaghetti squash with one chicken breast.
- Uncork the wine, pour two glasses and enjoy!
*Internal temperature of chicken needs to reach 165°F
Why this wine pairing:
Although I generally believe that “what grows together goes together” and thus, would typically serve an Italian wine with an Italian dish, I’m pretty sure Italians would not classify this as a true Italian dish. Therefore, Jewels of the Earth Merlot gets my vote for this pairing!
Marinara sauce, because of its acid component, does not pair well with big tannic wines — like Cabernet Sauvignon. This Merlot has soft tannins along with bright fruit flavors that will complement the marinara, but it also has enough complexity and body to hold up to the flavors and hearty texture of this dish.