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The Monte Bene Blog

The Story Behind the Staple: Chicken Parmigiana

The Story Behind the Staple: Chicken Parmigiana


It’s another Italian staple…or is it?


As a sauce company that blends Italian with American grown tomatoes, we love recipes that have been born out of a blending of cultures. We also love recipes that use a few, simple ingredients to create authentic, hearty flavors. Chicken Parmigiana is one of those recipes.

While the delicious medley of breaded chicken, warm tomato sauce, and gooey cheese seems like an Italian staple, it actually isn’t. Not exactly anyways. Chicken Parmigiana has its origins in the United States, where it was popularized among Italian-American communities. Italian immigrants created the meal, which quickly became conceived as an authentically Italian dish. Of course, it does take its inspiration from Italy. Eggplant Parmigiana, or Mellenzana alla Parmigiana, is the original Italian recipe. Eggplants are lightly breaded, fried, topped with fresh tomato sauce and Parmesan cheese, and then baked. The switch to chicken in the United States might have been due to several reasons – Italian restaurant owners saw the American preference for meat over eggplant, Italian immigrant workers were able to afford meat now that they had higher paying jobs, or eggplants just weren’t as common a produce in the United States.

The origin of the Mellenzana all Parmigiana is also debatable. According to some, it originated in the northern Italian city of Parma – hence the name, which means “In the style of Parma.” Others say the dish came out of southern Italy where eggplant is grown widely. Most early Italian immigrants also came from southern Italy, so it would make sense that they brought the recipe over with them. Today, Chicken Parmigiana often has its name simplified to Chicken Parmesan – referring to the delicate cheese made in and around the province of Parma. Interestingly, “Parmesan” is actually the French simplification of Parmigiana. The cheese became popular among the French nobility in the 1500s. It’s uncertain if the French had an influence on the eventual American classic, but it is clear that Chicken Parmigiana is truly a global dish.

Try some of our recipes for delicious Parmigianas.


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