Sunday, March 31, 2013

A Taste of Italy - Prosciutto-Wrapped Chicken Stuffed with Grana Padano Cheese

I'm a cheese lover. There I said it. I'm not sure if reincarnation is real, but I think there is a possibility I may have been a mouse in a past life. Recently I was introduced to one of Italy's most popular cheeses at the mind-blowing Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival that made me believe this theory even more. Grana Padano, a healthy Italian pleasure, is lactose-free, lower in fat than other cheeses and high in calcium and protein. Nice, huh? And even though it's good for you, it tastes delicious; with a sweet, slightly nutty taste. In case you were wondering, "Grana" stands for the grainy and crumbly texture of the cheese and "Padano" refers to its origin in the Piadura Padana Valley.

This hard cheese has been a part of Italy's proud culinary tradition for over 1000 years (wow, that's a long time) and was created by monks in the Padana Valley. Then, in 1954, the Consortium for the Protection of Grana Padano cheese was founded to protect and promote the brand throughout the world. Right now it is the most widely sold PDO cheese in the world.

Grana Padano is aged from 9 to over 24 months and you can buy it in three distinct ages, depending on what you're looking for. You don't have to travel to Italy to get it either. It can be purchased at leading retailers across the country, including Central Market, Trader Joe's, Kings, Balducci's, Bristol Farms, Lunds & Byerlys, Costco and Eataly, as well as online at,, and One of the things I love about it is that it is very versatile; you can eat it on its own or you can use it in your favorite recipes. After tasting a delicious dish using Grana Padano at The SoBeWFF prepared by Chefs Fabrizio and Nicola Carro from Quattro Gastronomia Italiana, I decided to try my hand at one myself. So, I am going to bring you a taste of Italy (from my kitchen in Miami) using Grana Padano and I hope you like it. If you decide to try it yourself at home, I'd love to hear how it went in the comment section below. Buon Apetito!

Rocking my Faux Gourmet Tutu Fabulous Apron

Prosciutto-Wrapped Chicken Breasts Stuffed with Grana Padano

Serves 4

2 zucchinis, thickly sliced
4 tomatoes, quartered
1 large eggplant, cut into chunks
4 tablespoons olive oil
4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
4 teaspoons red or green pesto sauce
About 12 basil leaves (if you don't have on hand, Badia works just fine)
4 Garlic Cloves, minced
2 ozs Grana Padano cheese, finely grated
8 slices of Prosciutto
Salt and pepper to taste
Shavings of Grana Padano, to serve

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
2. Put the zucchinis, tomatoes and eggplant chunks into a roasting pan and drizzle with olive oil. Season and toss together to coat.
3. Cut a pocket into each chicken breast and fill each one with a teaspoon of pesto sauce, about 3 basil leaves, 1 garlic clove, and a quarter of the grated Grana Padano Cheese.

4. Wrap each chicken breast with two slices of prosciutto, then arrange them on top of the vegetables. Season, then drizzle with a little more olive oil.

5. Roast for 35-40 minutes, until the vegetables are tender and the chicken is done. (Time may vary depending on the oven). Check that the chicken is thoroughly cooked by piercing the thickest part with a sharp knife- the juices should run clear.

If you're not a poultry fan, you could also use skinless cod loin or sea bass fillets. Spread them with pesto and top with basil leaves and grated Grana Padano before wrapping them in the prosciutto. Reduce the cooking time to 20 minutes. Enjoy!

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