What to Serve with Chicken Parmesan: 13 Sides to Boost Your Banquet
Originating in the culinary traditions of Southern Italy, Chicken Parmesan made its debut in America in the early 1950s.
How did it get there?
It came over with Italian immigrant families to make its home in the northeast U.S.
The food of southern Italy and Sicily shaped the cuisine we know as Italian-American today.
Many classic dishes from the old country have become American favorites.
First publicized in the New York Herald Tribune in 1953, Chicken Parmesan rose to fame and graduated to the big leagues with a recipe printed in the New York Times in 1962.
Chicken Parm is not just famous in the States.
Aussies are wild about it too, and “Parmy” is a pub food staple. It’s even as the subject of eating contests at some restaurants!
So what to serve with chicken parmesan?
It’s traditionally served over pasta or as a sandwich in a french roll.
The chicken is breaded and fried, then it gets a blanket of cheese, which is delicious, of course, but it can get a little heavy.
Today I’d like to give you some ideas for Chicken Parmesan sides that you might not have considered before.
Whenever I’m pairing or thinking of novel ways to serve a dish here’s the process I go through:
- Think of taste. The flavors have to be compatible.
- Think of texture. You want textural contrasts to make it enjoyable.
- Think of color and presentation. You want it to look appealing.
- Think of ways to add more vegetables. We don’t get enough veg as a rule.
- Think of ways to make the dish lighter or healthier without sacrificing flavor.
- Think of new preparations. It’s the joy of creativity in cooking.
So what are the best side dishes for Chicken Parmesan?
Since pasta is the popular pairing, let’s look at why.
Pasta works well because it complements and doesn’t compete with the richness of the chicken and cheese. It holds the tomato sauce beautifully too.
What Goes With Chicken Parmesan: These Sides Will Blow Your Mind
The shape of pasta shouldn’t affect how it tastes since it’s all made with the same dough.
I swear it does.
I love most kinds of pasta, but can’t stand macaroni or angel hair. Go figure.
There’s an endless variety of pasta shapes to choose from, so let’s take a look at some choices beyond spaghetti.
1. Fusilli or Rotini
Fusilli and Rotini are both curly pasta with lots of crannies for the sauce to collect in.
They’re going to be a little heartier and chewier than spaghetti.
They both have intriguing curly shapes that would provide visual interest.
They also come in exciting colors. The green comes from spinach, the orange from tomato paste.
You can also buy tri-color fusilli, which would make for a pretty and colorful dish.
Never heard of these kinds of pasta?
They’re not mainstream, so I wanted to introduce you!
Orzo translates as barley, and Riso as rice, but they are not grains.
They are small football-shaped pasta, scarcely more substantial than a grain of cooked rice.
Look for them in your grocery store in small boxes, not bags.
These pastina will create a beautiful base for your Chicken Parm and soak up that tomato sauce like a champ.
3. Whole Wheat Pasta Choices
Have you tried whole wheat pasta yet?
It has more than twice the fiber of traditional pasta, and it’s lower in calories.
You’ll get more protein, potassium, magnesium, and phosphorus with whole grain pasta.
Choose from spaghetti, penne, ziti, or fusilli. They will be a little heavier and chewier than traditional pasta but look at the differences in nutrition.
These whole wheat pasta choices are worth a try!
Going for traditional spaghetti and made too much? We have a great list of spaghetti leftover ideas to help you change round two up a bit!
4. Herb Crushed Potatoes
I recently came across this idea, and I think it’s genius.
You smash the potatoes just enough to crush them, giving you more surface area to hold butter and sauces.
I like red potatoes best.
These herby crushed potatoes are just as good or better than pasta as a base for your Chicken Parm.
You can get creative by trying different potato varieties and experimenting with herbs.
With Chicken Parmesan, I think oregano, Parsley, and rosemary are naturals.
Chop them finely, mix them with butter, and toss.
Blushing Cook is the first on my list when it comes to hearty meal and side dish ideas, so check them out!
5. Garlic Mashed Potatoes
This recipe will give you the basic how-to’s, but you might want to substitute whole milk for the half and half and cut back on the cheese since this is already pretty rich.
If you’re looking to mix it up:
You can experiment with adding roasted rutabaga or boiled cauliflower, or both.
Puree these additional ingredients and mix them in small batches to see what you like best.
Trying out new ideas is fun!
6. Sourdough Chicken Parm Sandwich
A good chicken parm sandwich is traditionally served on a hero or kaiser roll.
Let’s take a look at a couple of different bread choices that might create more interest.
I love a good sourdough roll, and it brings the Chicken Parm sandwich to a new level.
Toast it for extra texture if you like or leave it as is if you’ve used Panko on the chicken.
You’ll have plenty of options for crunch either way.
Check out the California Gold Miner for sourdough ideas for your repertoire.
7. Savory Waffles
You may think I’ve lost my mind but stay with me on this one. Everyone loves waffles, and you can incorporate savory ingredients into the batter.
No rule says you can’t!
Why not try whipping up your batter with minced garlic or fresh herbs? Finely minced Parsley and garlic will be a natural starting point if you’re unsure.
When serving, a couple of different plating ideas come to mind.
You can place the Chicken Parm on top of the waffle and let the red sauce ooze into the crannies.
Alternatively, you can slice the waffles into “soldiers,” long and narrow strips for dipping in the red sauce.
Don’t have a waffle iron?
They’re pretty inexpensive at most stores.
8. Roasted Veg Base
We need to get more vegetables into our diets, and this would be a delicious and healthy way to do it.
Potatoes, onions, and garlic are obvious choices to start with.
You can try roasting carrots, rutabaga, and tomatoes to see what you like. Coat the veg in olive oil, salt, and pepper before you begin.
I like to roast them for the first 30 minutes under a sheet of foil, so they retain their moisture, then remove it and let them crisp up for the remainder of the cooking time.
9. Bed of Broccoli
Chicken Parm would be amazing on a bed of blanched broccoli since you’d get a counterpoint of delicious freshness and crunch.
This super easy preparation is suitable as a veggie base for lots of dishes, so keep it in mind.
Get a sharp paring knife and start peeling the broccoli.
Hold it from the base and peel toward the crown. You want to place your thumb parallel to the blade and peel toward you.
You can see the technique here at about 1:40 in the video.
Once you’ve removed the outer skin, cut the broccoli stems into bite-sized pieces — Reserve the florets, since we’re cooking those separately.
Get a pot of water boiling, add one cube of chicken bouillon and stir until dissolved.
Add the bite-sized broccoli stems and blanch them until they are bright green, then remove them with a slotted spoon.
Repeat this process with the florets.
Don’t overcook them!
We cook the stems and florets separately because even when peeled, the stems will take longer to become tender.
The delicate florets will cook quickly, so they need to be blanched separately.
Have a bowl of cold water nearby to dunk the stems and florets in after blanching to stop the cooking process.
The chicken bouillon elevates the taste and gives the veg some needed salt.
10. Blanched Cauliflower
Cauliflower can be prepared in the same way as the broccoli, blanched in chicken stock.
You’ll have to test it for doneness since it won’t change color.
You want it to be fork tender, but not more than that since overcooking creates an unpleasant odor.
Cauliflower is an excellent base for so many dishes. I often grate it and use it in place of rice when I’m trying to cut carbs.
It won’t compete and will let the delicious flavors of the Chicken Parm shine through.
It’s a sneaky and smart way to get more vegetables in.
You can also mix the broccoli and cauliflower for a gorgeous green and white contrast!
11. Zucchini Noodles
Zucchini is another veg that’s relatively bland on its own and can make a great base in place of starches like pasta or rice.
You can make zucchini noodles with a spiralizer, box grater, or corrugated peeler. You can also use your food processors grating blade.
Since the zucchini strands are thin, these cook quickly, so keep an eye on them and test for doneness frequently.
You want them to retain a firm texture, but not be too al dente or have a raw taste.
Check out this handy video on several ways to make zucchini noodles:
12. Caesar Salad
The crunchy romaine stands up to the richness of the dish, and the croutons add more textural interest.
Don’t settle for bottled dressing on this salad; make your own.
When you make your dressing, you can adjust the ingredients to your liking.
Garlic and anchovies are intense flavors, but don’t skip them entirely since they are essential components to Caesar’s character.
Many people think they don’t like anchovies, but I’m encouraging you to try a small amount.
The rich flavor and salt of the fish can be used sparingly and doesn’t have to be overwhelming.
You can buy anchovy paste in a tube and control the amount you put in. But don’t skip it if you want authentic Caesar flavor!
Here’s a 5-star recipe from one of my favorite blogs, Once Upon a Chef.
13. Classic Panzanella Salad
This gorgeous fresh salad is a great choice when you’re figuring out what to serve with chicken parmesan besides pasta.
Ripe tomatoes, cucumbers, chunky toasted croutons, onions, and vinaigrette provide freshness and acidity for contrast.
This salad lightens up the plate, and the flavors go together beautifully.
Serious Eats know their stuff when it comes to wowing your dinner guests, and you can find lots more on their blog.
What to Serve With Chicken Parmesan: More Ways to Complete Your Meal
Now that we’ve shown you what to make with chicken parmesan, let’s move on to rounding the meal out with some drink suggestions!
For wines, you can go with a Soave or other dry Italian white.
A dry Rose would work well too, or even a light Chianti. This dish has the richness to stand up to a light red wine.
Since this dish originated in Italy, you really can’t go wrong with Italian wines.
The concept that you can’t pair red wine with chicken is outdated.
If it’s a hearty dish, a light red with good acidity would be a lovely pairing.
Check out the local craft beer scene in your town to see what you might like and what you can take home in bottles.
If you’re looking for non-alcoholic pairing ideas, how about some infused waters?
They’re so refreshing and a welcome break from beer and wine.
They’re easy to make too!
You can use all kinds of things to make infused waters, fruit, vegetables, spices, herbs, and flowers.
I’d recommend trying an herbal-citrus combo first, like basil and lemon.
Other pairings that might be good would be cucumber and mint, or rosemary and lime.
Get some one-quart mason jars, clear some space in your fridge, and get to experimenting!
If you’re looking for something slightly sweeter, pineapple and basil are a divine combination.
There’s almost no end to the creative pairings you can make with this idea.
Building on this concept, you can make sparking infused sangrias. Use the wine to soak the fruit, veg, flowers, spices, or herbs, then add chilled club soda at serving time.
This idea works with rose or red wine, so think about your flavor pairings and go for it!
Cover the wine in a narrow-necked vessel to minimize oxidation.
Use one of those thick glass wine carafes with a stopper or lid would be ideal. Strain the wine before serving.
What to Serve With Chicken Parmesan: The Verdict
You’re up to speed now on what to make with Chicken Parmesan!
Whether you want to go with traditional pasta, sandwiches, veggies, or salads, we’ve given you some creative choices that you’ll enjoy trying.
These sides can also be added the next day when you reheat leftover chicken parmesan.
Many of these are ideas you can add to your cooking repertoire and use as lower-carb substitutions whenever you’re trying to lighten things up.
You can also try some other side dish ideas that we recommend for eggplant parmesan!
Now you have alternatives to the traditional pasta pairing, with exciting shapes and higher fiber choices.
We’ve snuck in lots of additional vegetables, but haven’t sacrificed a bit of flavor.