This is for those nights when you crave the unadulterated pleasure of old-fashioned red-sauce Italian. Slabs of melted mozzarella top chunks of soft, meaty eggplant, bits of still-crisp bacon, and tender chicken—all simmered in smoky tomato sauce. Serve it with Italian semolina bread to round out the meal.
Browning the ingredients in stages may seem like extra work, but it is worth it. The process enhances the distinct flavors and helps build the character of the final dish—and dinner will still be on the table in less than 45 minutes.
From Hero Dinners by Marge Perry and David Bonom. Copyright © 2019 by Marge Perry and David Bonom. Reprinted by permission of William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.
- 6 slices bacon, chopped
- 1 ½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, cut across into 1-inch-thick slices
- ¾ teaspoon salt, divided
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper, divided
- 1 medium eggplant (about 1 pound), unpeeled, cut across into ½-inch-thick rounds, and each round quartered
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped (about 1 cup)
- 6 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tablespoon drained nonpareil capers
- ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (or to taste)
- 1 (14.5-ounce) can diced fire-roasted tomatoes
- 4 ounces fresh mozzarella, cut into scant ¼-inch-thick slices
- ¼ cup fresh basil leaves
- Preheat the oven to 400 °F.
- Cook the bacon in a large ovenproof skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until lightly crisped, 6 to 7 minutes. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels to drain.
- Season the chicken with ½ teaspoon of the salt and ¼ teaspoon of the pepper. Increase the heat to medium-high and add the chicken to the skillet; cook, turning once, until it is lightly browned, about 4 minutes. (It will not be cooked through at this point.) Transfer the chicken to a medium bowl.
- Reduce the heat to medium and add the eggplant to the skillet; cook until it is tender and golden, 5 to 6 minutes. Transfer to the bowl with the chicken.
- Heat the oil in the skillet; add the onion and cook until it just begins to soften, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the garlic, capers, and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Stir in the tomatoes and cook until the sauce starts to thicken, about 3 minutes. Return the chicken and eggplant (And any juices in the bowl) to the pan; add the remaining ¼ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper and stir well.
- Bake for 10 minutes. Stir in the bacon and top with the mozzarella; bake until the cheese melts, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from the oven and top with the basil.