Macaroni Grill 1 Million Meals Recipe: Deconstructed Chicken Parmesan Bake

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1 in 5 AMERICAN children struggle with hunger. Take a moment to let that stat sink in. We have children. Can you imagine? But there is hope.

This month, Romano’s Macaroni Grill, in partnership with Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign is doing something pretty spectacular.  You see, for writing this post and sharing a favorite Italian recipe, Macaroni Grill is donating 500 meals to children who need them for participating bloggers. Soooooo awesome!

Want to know what you can do to help?  There are three easy ways!

1. Give: Go into a Macaroni Grill restaurant (you can click here to find a location closest to you) and with a $2 donation, and you will receive $5 off your next visit now through 9/30/12.

2. Share: Share an image from their Facebook Gallery, and for every image share, Macaroni Grill will connect a kid with a meal.

3. Tag: Tag an Instagram photo or tweet of your Mac Grill experience with #macgrillgive and for every tag, they’ll connect a kid with a meal.

For more about this campaign, visit  Now here is our recipe!

We have been lucky enough to have my mother-in-law, a.k.a Lorayne (maiden name Paoletti=Italian!) in town visiting this past week and she made this delicious dinner for our family.  With the back to school madness upon us this Deconstructed Chicken Parmesan Bake is an easy weeknight dinner (no breading or heavy labor involved!)  Serve it with some simple spaghetti and salad and it’s great for entertaining as well!

Her recipe called for boneless skinless chicken breasts but we subbed in boneless skinless chicken thighs – if you haven’t tried them, do!  They are less likely get dry as chicken breast can and are more nutrient dense.  Their fat content is a bit higher but only a little bit of that is the unhealthy saturated fat.

What you Need:

2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (or less if you don’t like spicy)

12 boneless skinless chicken thighs (or 6 boneless skinless chicken breast if you aren’t feeling adventurous)

2.5-3 cups prepared Marinara Sauce

1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped

1 8 oz package shredded mozzarella cheese, divided

1/2 cup grated parmigiano reggiano cheese, divided

1 5 oz package garlic croutons (she used the big artisan ones which I really liked, but you could use smaller croutons to make it easier to cut)

Ready, Set, Cook!

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Coat the bottom of a 9×13 casserole dish with olive oil and sprinkle with garlic and red pepper flakes.

Arrange chicken in bottom of the dish and pour marinara sauce over the chicken, then sprinkle basil over the marinara sauce and top with half the mozzarella cheese, followed by half of the parmesan cheese.  Sprinkle on the croutons, then top with the remaining mozzarella and parmesan cheeses. Make sure to cover the croutons enough with the cheese to protect them from burning.

(If making ahead: at this point you can put in the fridge until you are ready to bake but be sure to pull out of fridge at least 20 mins prior to baking to let come to room temperature a bit).

Bake in preheated oven uncovered until croutons are golden and the chicken is cooked through about 45mins – 1 hr (depending on how big your chicken pieces are).  An instant read thermometer should read 160 degrees in the thickest part of the chicken. Enjoy!

{Noni got her orig recipe from but we made some edits.}


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£10 and Scarpetta at Montage Beverly Hills

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In June my husband and I had the rare pleasure of visiting the Montage Beverly Hills property for an absolutely stellar overnight stay. After a deliriously great day at the rooftop pool, treatment at Spa Montage and blowout at Kim Vo Salon, we had reservations for a pre-dinner drink at £10 followed by dinner at their world renowned Italian restaurant, Scarpetta.

Feeling relaxed and happier than I had been in forever, we headed off hand in hand to £10. I had no idea what was in store and just the name intrigued me.

Hidden above Scarpetta in a private lounge area, this unique bar requires a host to let you in using a private key card ~ 007 style. Oozing with style, £10 invites true spirit connoisseurs to enjoy specialty cocktails and their selection of the world’s most precious whisky, The Macallan Single Malt.

[Photo credit: Montage]

This sort of place is right up my husband’s alley.

Once seated by our gracious and jovial bartender, we were educated on the history of the whisky, and told that every handcrafted cocktail is composed only of the freshest ingredients.

Not only do you get to select your drink of choice, but the drinks came with a choice of specialty ice spheres (translation ~ ice cubes.) But these are not your typical ice cubes that can melt and water down your drink, but ice spheres made from a special ice machine using imported Scottish water so that your sphere is made to fit perfectly in the glass and melt slowly. Pretty cool, right?

My husband opted for a glass of whisky, of course. He would typically not drink whisky on the rocks, but this was not any whisky, or any rocks, and it went down so smoothly he had to order a second.

[Photo credit: Montage]

Our drinks were hand poured table side by our bartender. I am not much of a hard alcohol drinker, but I do enjoy a good martini every now and then, so our  bartender asked me what kind of drinks I like, and custom made a specialty cocktail just for me.

I am not even sure of exactly what was in it, but I do know that there was a top shelf vodka, hint of pomegranate and rose, and other delicious yumminess served in a fabulous crystal glass.  The perfect start to an evening of fine dining.

If you have any spirit connoisseurs in your family, £10 would be their mecca. The perfect spot for a special ocassion or celebration.

Shhh….this is a hidden gem of a find, and has limited availability to those in the know. Open Tuesday – Saturday 5:00pm – 1:00am. Call 310.860.5808 for more info. Private events and Scotch tastings also available.

And then we were off to dinner at Scarpetta.

Selected as one of the “Best New Restaurants in America” by Esquire magazine, Chef Scott Conant’s Italian cuisine is modern and made with fresh seasonal ingredients for a culinary experience to be remembered.

Located adjacent to the Beverly Canon Gardens, Scarpetta’s beautiful Mediterranean style patio is the perfect spot for a romantic dinner.

One of my favorite things to do in the summer (or really year round with good heat lamps in So Cal!) is to be able to dine al fresco.

Our server promptly greeted us and when presented with menus, my first thought was, how am I going to pick what to get? Everything sounded so amazing. Then he told me about their special Chef’s tasting menu, where Chef Conant will guide us through our experience.


Their tasting menus come with the choice of a 4 course or 5 course tasting, and additional wine pairing can be added on as well, which he highly suggested.


Our experience started with a presentation of fluke crudo, artichokes, preserved lemon & osetra caviar and  tuna ‘susci’ marinated vegetables & preserved truffles.

The fluke was light and luscious and the caviar added a nutty, rich flavor to cap off each delicious bite.

And I have to be honest, I am not a raw tuna fan, probably the only one in Southern California who isn’t.  However, of course I had to try a bite of the Chef’s creation (my husband was proud of me since he is an avid sushi fan), and it was a-mazing. Never thought I would say that!

The crunch of the greens and flavor of the marinated vegetables were light and refreshing. Have I been converted? It was my husband’s favorite dish of the night. He was in heaven.

Next we were on to the second course, fiori di zucca fritti, ricotta stuffed zucchini flower & baby stewed tomatoes and creamy polenta, fricassee of truffled mushrooms.

The fiori di zucca fritti was rich and had a little hint of a sweet surprise at the bottom.

And the polenta. Oh, the polenta. Every bite just melted in your mouth. I thought, “I should stop now,” there are more courses coming, but I couldn’t help myself, it was so delicious.

Here’s the polenta.  I miss you sweet polenta.  When can we get together again?

Just when I thought my experience couldn’t get better I was introduced to Scarpetta’s famous tomato & basil spaghetti.

I was told by our bartender upstairs we had to get their signature dish, the spaghetti. I somewhat expected it to be some kind of fancy-schmancy spaghetti, but when it arrived for our third course, I was a little taken aback by its simplicity ~ tomato & basil.

I have had tomato & basil spaghetti a thousand times, so I wondered what made this spaghetti so special?  And then I tasted it.

In a word: perfection.

Flavorful and delicious, the texture of the impeccably cooked pasta combined with the garlicky tomato sauce and sweet basil was just, well, the best I have ever had.

I asked our server ~ what makes it THIS good?

Homemade fresh pasta made daily using Sicilian flour, amongst other things, and a little secret somethin’ ~ somethin’ Chef Conant must use to sprinkle it with sheer brilliance.

Please hear me on this: if you dine at Scarpetta ~ you MUST order the spaghetti. It is not negotiable. This dish is something every person should experience in their lifetime.

I ate the entire bowl, I didn’t mean to, but I couldn’t help it.

And we still had another course on the way, the jidori roasted chicken, english peas, peanut potatoes & morel ragu.

I wish I would have had more room to enjoy this dish to the fullest, but after devouring the spaghetti, I was only able to manage a few bites.  But again, a masterpiece of flavors. Moist, delicate and divine, our server also raved about this dish, and he was right.

I also highly recommend going with the wine pairings for the tasting menu. Every selection was a perfect complement to each dish, making the flavors stand out just that much more. The wine really rounded out each course by tying a pretty little bow on it.

Scarpetta is the perfect location to celebrate a special occasion, romantic date night or fun dinner out with friends. The sort of special place to experience with the special people in your life. Beautiful location, impeccable service and succulent cuisine. Salud!

Dinner is served Monday – Thursday ~ 6:00 – 10:00pm, Sunday 6:00 – 9:00pm, Friday/Saturday 6:00 – 10:30pm.

Sunday Brunch (I heard their brunch is off the charts!!) is served Sunday from 11:00am – 3:00pm with bottomless Mimosas & Bloody Marys for + $22.

The Scarpetta Bar is open from 4:00 – 11:30pm featuring a Giro D’ombra Happy Hour Celebration featuring $4 beers & $8 cocktails, wines and apps every Monday – Friday from 4:00 – 7:00pm. Happy hour menu.

Gnudi Gnite ~ Every Tuesday night Chef Conant brings his famous fluffy ‘gnudi’ dish. For $36pp, guests can share family-sized portions of salad, porchetta, gnudi parmigiano & a seasonal vegetable. See menu here.

Reservations advised, call 866.743.7559 to reserve your table. And please promise me you will order the spaghetti?

[Disclosure: Our spirits & culinary experience was provided complimentary by Montage Beverly Hills to facilitate a review. Thank you for an evening to remember!] 

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