Tender, juicy chicken kissed by the smoky char of fire topped with sticky sweet fresh burst tomatoes and a molten crown of cheese…this is how you celebrate longer days and warmer weather. Grilled Chicken Parmesan with Cherry Tomato Sauce is a fresh take on the Italian-American classic that brings this beloved favorite straight to the grill.
Chicken Parmesan is truly a comfort food. Whether it’s slathered in a thick Rustic Tomato Sauce or baptized by fire on the grill, it’s family friendly yet perfect for a special occasion or date night. It’s all about that combination of juicy chicken, sweet tomatoes, and glorious cheese.
Why You’ll Love This Recipe
Skip the breading station and fire up your grill. Cooking al fresco not only makes this grilled chicken parmesan recipe more fun, it also takes out a lot of the steps of making traditional chicken parmigiana.
- Fresh Ingredients – Unlike many recipes that have you crack open a jar of marinara, this chicken parmesan recipe utilizes a quick cooking and fresh cherry tomato sauce. With just a handful of ingredients you’ll have a restaurant worthy dish.
- Quick Cooking – Despite making a tomato sauce from scratch, this recipe doesn’t take long. You don’t even need to chop the cherry tomatoes. Unlike traditional chicken parm recipes that have you bread and fry your chicken, these quick cooking chicken cutlets are marinated and then quickly grilled. You can even make your sauce at the same time.
- Familiar Flavors – All of the flavors of chicken parmesan are in this dish, with the bonus flavors of pesto marinated chicken and the smoky kiss of char.
- Healthy – This lean chicken breast is grilled instead of being breaded and fried.
What is Chicken Parmesan?
We’ve all seen it, ordered it, and devoured it. Whether it’s piled onto crusty warm bread of a chicken parm sub or part of a never-ending breadsticks Tour of Italy, this is a beloved Italian-American dish. It began appearing in restaurants and family tables somewhere in the early 20th century. It’s believed to be a combination of the Italian classics parmigiana melanzane, or eggplant parmesan, and cotoletta, a breaded veal cutlet served without cheese or sauce.
It wasn’t until the 1950’s that this dish became popular and began showing up in restaurants. Just like the Cuban sandwich is an entirely American creation born out of what was available combined with the familiar flavors of home, so it chicken parmesan. The affordable meat market prices allowed Italian immigrants to begin incorporating chicken into their parmigiana recipes.
Ingredients for Grilled Chicken Parmesan
This grilled chicken parmesan recipe requires only a handful of fresh, easily accessible ingredients. Make sure that you pick high quality ingredients as each component plays a part.
- Chicken – You can buy boneless skinless chicken breasts or chicken cutlets for this recipe. This lean, quick cooking protein is a great canvas for the pesto marinade and is the chicken cut of choice for this dish.
- Pesto – I used a homemade Lemon Arugula Pesto but you can use your favorite storebought pesto for this recipe. It brings bright, herbaceous flavor to the chicken without competing with the fresh cherry tomato sauce.
- Lemon – Waters down the pesto for the pesto grilled chicken and adds a bright, sunny note.
- Olive Oil – Used both in the pesto marinade and also to make the cherry tomato sauce.
- Cherry Tomatoes – You can also use grape tomatoes. These are easily available year-round, often hothouse grown, and are naturally sweet. They have higher pectin than other types of tomatoes making this quick cooking sauce thick and luscious.
- Aromatics – Sweet shallots and bright, pungent garlic build the first layer of flavor in the sauce. Make sure to slice your garlic Goodfellas thin.
- Basil – Adds an herbaceous sweetness to the sauce and the perfect garnish for the chicken. It also echos the flavors of the pesto in the marinade.
- White Wine – Helps break down the tomatoes a little faster while adding a slight pop of acidity to balance the sweetness of the tomatoes.
- Parmigiano-Reggiano – You can’t have the chicken parm without the snow flurry of freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. This adds both saltiness and nuttiness to the dish.
- Fresh Mozzarella – Mild, creamy, and the ultimate melting cheese, this is the crowning glory on the chicken.
- Spices – No need for anything fancy here. Kosher salt, dried oregano, and crushed red pepper flakes are all that you need.
How to Make Grilled Chicken Parmesan with Cherry Tomato Sauce
This dish is special enough to serve to at a party or for date night, but easy enough to prepare you can take a Tuesday and make it an occasion. Just chill the rosé and get your charcoal going.
- Marinade – Mix together your pesto, olive oil, lemon juice and zest, and crushed red pepper flakes. Add it to a plastic bag with your chicken and allow the chicken to marinate from 30 minutes up to eight hours.
- Light Your Fire – Prepare your grill for two zone cooking. If you are using a charcoal grill bank your coals to one side leaving a cooler zone. If you’re using a gas grill make sure you have a spot on low heat. This will allow you to both sear your chicken and then move it over to a cooler spot to finish cooking, and also let your melt your cheese without risk of burning the sauce.
- Grill – Remove your chicken from the marinade and lightly pat it dry. Season both sides with salt, pepper, and oregano. Place the chicken over the direct heat and allow the first side to grill for 3-4 minutes. It should easily release from the grates when ready. Flip your chicken and cook it another 3-4 minutes. If your chicken is 155 degrees remove it from the grill and lightly cover with foil. If it’s under move it over to the cooler side of your grill.
- Saucy – Heat a cast iron skillet over the direct flames with the olive oil. Add the shallots and garlic and keep them moving to prevent burning. Let them cook for a minute. Add the crushed red pepper flakes, oregano, a pinch of salt, and tomatoes. Stir to combine. Let your tomatoes cook until the skin is beginning to split. Add the wine and stir. Continue allowing your tomatoes to cook until you see them begin to slump. Give them a stir and move them over to the cooler side of your grill. Stir in your basil and taste to see if you need any additional salt.
- Melty – Nestle your chicken cutlets into the sauce and spoon some of it over the chicken. Top with freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and slices of fresh mozzarella. Cover your grill and let it cook for 10 minutes or until the cheese is melted and your chicken is 165 degrees.
Sliced Garlic, Paulie Had It Right
This recipe for grilled chicken parmesan with cherry tomato sauce calls for sliced garlic. You might be wondering why? How you cut your garlic directly affects amount of garlic flavor infused into a dish. Minced and grated garlic will give you the strongest, most pronounced flavor while adding a whole garlic clove or smashed garlic will give you a fresh garlic flavor, but more mellow.
Sliced garlic infused the entire dish without overpowering it. As the sliced garlic cooks it slightly browns and gives you a flavor similar to roasted garlic. Plus, there is the bonus of getting the occasional bite of soft sliced garlic that pairs perfectly with the sweet tomatoes. This also means no garlic from a jar or toothpaste tube.
I used a homemade pesto in this recipe but store-bought pesto works just fine. In addition, grape tomatoes are also a great substitute for the cherry tomatoes. Use what looks good. You can even mix it up and use yellow or heirloom cherry tomatoes for a slightly different flavor profile.
Storage for Grilled Chicken Parmesan
The fresh cherry tomato sauce for this chicken parmesan recipe can be made ahead of time. It will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to five days. Just warm it up before serving.
The leftover grilled chicken parmesan with cherry tomato sauce makes for great leftovers. Keep them stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator and they will keep for 2-3 days. You can warm them up on the stovetop or in the microwave.
Tip From the Beach
Cast iron is the perfect vessel for cooking on the grill. It can handle the high heat while evenly distributing that heat. However it does get hot and your can go from pretty translucent shallots and garlic to totally burnt, acrid nuggets of yuck. Make sure that you don’t add your olive oil too early. You risk burning your oil. Also make sure that you leave yourself a cooler side. If your pan seems like it’s getting too hot just slide it over to the cooler side and keep stirring.Print
Grilled Chicken Parmesan with Cherry Tomato Sauce
- Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
- Yield: 4 1x
Pesto marinated chicken cutlets are quickly grilled and then nestled in a fresh cherry tomato sauce before being topped with melted mozzarella and freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.
- 1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts or cutlets
- 1/4 cup pesto, homemade or store-bought
- 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 tbsp lemon zest
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
- 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
- 1 ball of fresh mozzarella, sliced, about 3.5 ounces
- Fresh basil for serving
Cherry Tomato Sauce
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 shallot, diced
- 4 garlic cloves, sliced
- 4 cups cherry tomatoes (or 2 pints)
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 kosher salt
- 1/4 cup dry white wine
- 1/3 cup fresh basil, torn
- Slice your chicken in half. Place a piece of plastic wrap over the top and lightly pound it into an even thickness.
- Add your pesto, lemon juice and zest, olive oil, and red pepper flakes to a bowl and mix to combine. Add the marinade and the chicken to a zip top back and close it. Massage to combine.
- Let the chicken marinate for 30 minutes up to 8 hours. Because of the acid of the lemon juice you don’t want any longer than that.
- Prepare your grill for two zone cooking. If using a charcoal grill bank your charcoal to one side.
- Mix together your kosher salt, oregano, and black pepper.
- Remove the chicken from the bag and pat both sides dry. Sprinkle the seasoning over both sides of the chicken.
- Place your seasoned chicken over direct heat. Let the first side of the chicken grill for 3-4 minutes, or until it easily releases from the grates. Flip your chicken and cook it another 3-4 minutes. If your chicken is 155 degrees remove it from the grill. If it is under you can move it over to indirect.
- Once your chicken is 155 degrees nestle it into the sauce. Spoon some of the sauce over the top of the chicken. Top with shredded parmesan and mozzarella slices. Keep the skillet on indirect and cover your grill. Let the chicken cook for 10 minutes or until the cheese is melted and the chicken is 165 degrees.
- Garnish with fresh basil.
Cherry Tomato Sauce
- Heat a cast iron skillet over direct heat. Add the olive oil.
- Add the shallots and garlic and continually stir for one minute. You want them to be fragrant but not get color.
- Add the oregano, crushed red pepper, salt. Add the tomatoes and stir.
- Let the tomatoes be until the skin begins to split. Add the white wine and stir to combine.
- Allow the tomatoes to cook until they begin to slump and burst and the sauce begins to thicken.
- Remove from the heat and stir in the torn basil. Taste and add additional salt if needed.
- This same recipe can be made on the stovetop. Cook your chicken in a skillet on medium heat with a tablespoon of olive oil, allowing each side to sear for 3-4 minutes.
- Prep Time: 10
- Marinating Time: 30
- Cook Time: 30
- Category: Main Course
- Method: Grilling
- Cuisine: Italian-American
Keywords: grilled chicken parmesan with cherry tomato sauce, grilled chicken parmesan, chicken parmesan, cherry tomato sauce