Veal parmigiana is an Italian-American classic that is a favourite here as well, though you may be more familiar with the Australian pub classic, chicken schnitzel parmigiana. Much of the preparation for veal parmigiana can be done ahead, like making the tomato sauce and crumbing the veal. If you're really pressed for time, buy the veal already crumbed from the butcher and buy a jar of good quality tomato sauce. Veal parmigiana is a great dish for entertaining as it can be completely assembled beforehand and baked when you need it.
For sugo di pomodoro (tomato sauce)
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1 carrot, chopped
1 stalk celery, sliced
2 bay leaves
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
*2 x 400g cans tomatoes with juice or 800g fresh tomatoes, peeled and deseeded
2 tsp tomato paste (optional)
1 generous pinch of sugar
6-7 basil or sage leaves or 2 sprigs of thyme
*Note: You can use half canned and half fresh tomatoes for a fresh tasting sauce. If you like, add a little tomato paste for a stronger tomato flavour.
4 veal schnitzels
1/2 cup plain flour for dusting
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
2 free-range eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups dried breadcrumbs
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil for frying
120g fresh cow’s milk mozzarella (4-5 bocconcini)
1 small bunch of basil, sage or thyme
1/2 cup (60g) freshly grated parmesan cheese
1 1/2 cups sugo di pomodoro (tomato sauce)
For tomato sauce
Canned tomatoes need only to be chopped, but fresh ones should be peeled and deseeded. Cut a little cross on the ends and place in boiling water for one minute. Lift out and plunge into ice-cold water. Slip off the skins and remove the stalk ends and core. Cut the tomatoes in half and flick out the seeds.
Roughly chop the tomatoes. Heat the oil in a saucepan with the onion, garlic, carrot, celery, bay leaves and salt. Partially cover and cook gently for 10 minutes until softened. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste (if using), sugar, two basil or sage leaves or a thyme sprig and pepper. Simmer with the lid askew for about 45 minutes. Stir from time to time and, if needed, add a dash of water. The sauce is ready when it thickens and the oil separates.
Remove the bay leaves and thyme sprig and puree the sauce with a hand-held blender or food processor. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Chop the basil, sage or thyme and add to the sauce. You will need 1 1/2 cups of sauce for the veal parmigiana.
Crumbing: Set out three shallow dishes for the crumbing. Put the flour with salt and pepper in the first, beaten egg in the second and breadcrumbs in the third. You could also add a little chopped herb or grated parmesan to the breadcrumbs if you wish.
Use one hand for dipping the veal into the beaten egg and the other for coating it with the dry ingredients. One at a time, dust the schnitzels lightly in the flour. Now dip in the egg and hold over the dish to drain off the excess. Then pat and press in the breadcrumbs to adhere and coat thoroughly. Place the crumbed veal on a plate, cover with plastic wrap and rest in the fridge for 30 minutes. The crumbed schnitzels can be frozen at this stage for later use.
Frying: For convenience, the veal can be cooked a couple of hours ahead of time. Heat a generous film of olive oil in a frying pan until fairly hot. Fry the veal in two batches for one or two minutes on each side until golden. Lift out and drain on kitchen towels.
Assembling and baking: The dish can be completely assembled beforehand and kept in the fridge until needed. Take out of the fridge 30 minutes before to come to room temperature. Slice the mozzarella as thinly as you can and set aside. Brush a large shallow baking dish with olive oil. Spread half a cup of the tomato sauce over the base of the dish.
Place the crumbed veal in one layer in the dish slightly overlapping if necessary. Sprinkle with a couple of tablespoons of parmesan cheese, salt and pepper.
Spoon the remaining tomato sauce over the veal to cover and scatter on a little chopped basil, sage or thyme. Lay the mozzarella slices on top of the veal and then sprinkle over the remaining parmesan. Cover the dish with foil so it will heat through more efficiently.
Preheat the oven to 180C. Bake the covered dish for 20 to 25 minutes, then remove the foil and bake for another five to 10 minutes until the dish is really hot and the cheese has melted and is golden. You could do this under the grill.
Garnish with the herb you have used in the dish. Serve hot with Italian bread and a green vegetable such as broccoli.
1. Crumb a few extra veal schnitzels to keep in the freezer for another day.
2. The butcher will have already pounded the schnitzels to about 6 millimetres thick (1/4 inch) to make them tender and so they cook quickly and evenly. Otherwise, place them between two sheets of plastic wrap and beat on both sides with a meat mallet or rolling pin.
3. This recipe can be prepared using chicken or pork schnitzels or crumbed eggplant slices.
4. Some recipes have a slice of ham or prosciutto under the mozzarella.