You know that one recipe you can make with your eyes closed because you've made it so many times before? The dish that always gets rave reviews? Well this one's mine. There's nothing fancy about it—most of the preparation can actually be completed ahead of time—but it's really appealing visually, and absolutely delicious. The tried and true combination of crispy, golden brown chicken cutlets, ripe cherry tomatoes, and peppery arugula also takes a mere 45 minutes to prepare, from start to finish.
This dish actually evolved after I lived in Milan, Italy. At that time, my favorite dish to order was Cotoletta alla Milanese, which is a slice of bone-in veal loin that's pounded thin, breaded, and fried in butter. It is a typical dish found across the region of Lombardy that's most likely derived from Wiener Schnitzel. During warmer months, many restaurants also top this dish with a tasty tomato salad; I found the combination of a crispy, tender chop and juicy tomatoes intoxicating. When I returned to North America, I did my best to try to replicate it, but it was virtually impossible to find bone-in veal chops anywhere, and it just didn't work well with veal scallopini. I ultimately decided to try using boneless, breaded chicken breasts topped with tomatoes and arugula, and I've been making it the same way ever since.
What makes this dish extra special is the homemade mixture of breadcrumbs seasoned with Pecorino cheese, lemon zest, chili pepper, parsley, salt, and pepper. I've been making my own breadcrumbs for years, and it really is a great way to use up day old bread. When I have slightly stale bread on hand, I simply cut it into cubes and store it in bags in the freezer. When I need breadcrumbs, I throw some of the frozen bread cubes in my food processor and pulse until finely chopped. You do want a little texture, but you also want crumbs ground small enough to use as breading. Once my crumbs are the right size, I throw in my preferred seasonings, and pulse until everything is mixed.
I know it may sound redundant that I keep preaching fresh, seasonal ingredients, but this is truly what makes Italian food so good. The tomatoes used in this recipe should be very fresh and sweet, the arugula crisp and peppery. I dress the tomato mixture with a little minced garlic, olive oil, lemon, salt and pepper, and then serve the dish with additional lemon wedges—the additional citrus really helps the flavors pop.
About the Author: Deborah Mele is the owner of Italian Food Forever, an Italian recipe blog, as well as Recipe Rebuild, a healthy recipe blog she shares with her daughter Christy, an RD. Deborah lives 6 months a year in Umbria, Italy where she oversees her guest house Il Casale di Mele.