Breaded and fried chicken smothered in tomato sauce and bubbling mozzarella is perhaps delicious enough to be your entire meal, but it's not the most nutritious thing to fill up on. Depending on your appetite, you might serve multiple side dishes with chicken Parmesan, or opt for just one flavorful side.
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Chicken parm is heavy, so salad is an obvious choice as a complement. A basic green salad topped with Italian dressing is a fine and popular side for this dish, but you can get more creative than that.
Echo the basil flavor of the tomato sauce by using a thinned-out pesto as salad dressing, or serve a simple tomato and basil salad tossed with balsamic vinaigrette. Make homemade Parmesan croutons using crusty bread. Another option is to go light and acidic -- serve a simple salad of arugula drizzled with lemon vinaigrette.
When choosing any side dish, pick those with flavors and textures that match those of the main course or contrast with the main course. For chicken Parmesan, you could embrace side dishes that all use flavors like tomato, basil and Parmesan, or choose only light and acidic sides -- or opt for a mixture of both.
Chicken Parmesan is a classically Italian dish, so it's only fitting to serve pasta with it. You can simply cook spaghetti or pasta of any shape and top it with the same tomato sauce used in the main dish. Tossing pasta with creamy Alfredo sauce will make for a side with the same creamy, rich texture as the chicken (though this isn't a pairing for those watching their calories).
If you're going for contrast, make a cold pasta salad packed with chopped peppers, steamed asparagus, cucumbers and any other fresh veggies. Season the salad with chopped parsley, salt, pepper and a drizzle of olive oil.
An oven-roasted vegetable side complements the warmth of chicken Parmesan. Bake a tray of chunked beets, sweet potatoes and carrots alongside the main dish, or roast broccoli and serve it with shaved Parmesan. Zucchini also pairs well with garlic and basil; sauté this vegetable with the former and sprinkle the finished dish with chopped basil.
Alternately, make a bright and refreshing coleslaw flavored with lime juice, or toss steamed green beans with balsamic vinegar and serve the beans cold.
If you only want to prepare one side dish, make it soup. Pasta e fagioli is a classic Italian soup, and it combines pasta with beans and vegetables -- serve this with the chicken and you'll have a complete meal.
In warm months, try making gazpacho. Top a bowl of this chilled, tomato-based soup with basil and it will echo the flavor of your main course, while the cold temperature will provide some contrast to the chicken.