Peyton Manning Shares His 'Ultimate' Chicken Parmesan Sandwich Recipe

The former NFL star's sandwich — on the menu at his Saloon 16 restaurant — has a "strong chicken-to-sauce-to-cheese ratio"

Photographer: Jen Causey, Food Stylist: Emily Nabors Hall, Prop Stylist:Christina Daley
Photo: Jen Causey

Peyton Manning might be best known for being a two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback but he has another passion: chicken Parmesan sandwiches.

"It's the perfect blend of all things," raves the NFL star about his "ultimate" sandwich. "You need a quality sub with a bit of crunch and a strong chicken-to-sauce-to-cheese ratio, and you're set."

COLLEGE Bowl -- Season 1 -- Pictured: Peyton Manning
Kevin Mazur/Getty

Manning made sure that Saloon 16, a western-style restaurant he opened at the Graduate Knoxville Hotel, had a sandwich up to his standards on the menu — and is now sharing it with PEOPLE.

The former QB for the Indianapolis Colts and Denver Broncos helped design the Graduate Knoxville Hotel, which is just steps from his alma mater the University of Tennessee. Both the hotel and the restaurant are filled with Tennessean details and personalized touches related to Manning's time as an undergrad in Knoxville.

"When my friend Ben Weprin, Graduate Hotels CEO and University of Tennessee alum, approached me with the idea for Saloon 16 at Graduate Knoxville, it was a total no-brainer," Manning tells PEOPLE. "From the restaurant design to building the menu, we worked together to create a super unique experience tailor-made for Tennessee fans."

"Knoxville is a special place in my heart, the way the community and town embraced me, it will always feel like home sweet home to me," he adds.

Peyton Manning's Chicken Parmesan Sandwiches

2 Tbsp. olive oil

1 small (6-oz.) white onion, chopped

3 garlic cloves, minced

1¾ tsp. kosher salt, divided

1 (28-oz.) can whole tomatoes with basil

¾ tsp. freshly ground black pepper, divided

1 cup all-purpose flour

1½ Tbsp. dried basil

3 large eggs, beaten

2 cups Italian-style seasoned panko

Canola oil

3 (8-oz.) boneless, skinless chicken breasts, halved horizontally into cutlets

6 (7-in.) fresh hoagie rolls, split

2 (8-oz.) pkg. shredded mozzarella

1. Heat olive oil in a large heavy saucepan over medium high. Add onion, garlic and ¼ teaspoon of the salt; cook, stirring often, until softened and fragrant, about 2 minutes. Stir in tomatoes and ¼ teaspoon each of the salt and pepper; bring to a simmer, stirring to crush tomatoes with the back of a spoon. Cover and reduce heat to medium low. Simmer until thickened, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, stir together flour, dried basil, 1 teaspoon of the salt and remaining ¼ teaspoon of the pepper in a shallow bowl. Place beaten eggs in a second shallow bowl. Place panko in a third shallow bowl.

3. Dredge chicken in flour mixture; shake off excess. Dip in beaten egg, allowing any excess to drip back into the bowl, then dredge in panko, pressing lightly to coat.

4. Pour canola oil to depth of ½-inch in a large skillet; heat over medium to 350°. Cook chicken in 2 batches until lightly golden brown and a thermometer inserted in thickest portion registers 165°, 2 to 4 minutes per side. Transfer to a rack set over a rimmed baking sheet, and sprinkle with remaining ¼ teaspoon salt.

5. Preheat broiler to high with oven rack in center position. Place rolls, cut sides up, on a large rimmed baking sheet. Broil until lightly toasted, about 30 seconds. Remove from oven, and spread ¼ cup tomato sauce on bottom of each roll. Top each with chicken, 3 tablespoons tomato sauce and ⅔ cup mozzarella. Broil until cheese is melted, lightly browned and bubbling, 1 to 3 minutes. Serve immediately.

Serves: 6
Active time: 50 minutes
Total time: 50 minutes

Quick tip! Mix some finely grated Parmesan cheese with the bread crumbs before coating. It will give the chicken extra crunch and another layer of flavor.

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