Italian immigrants brought this dish to America, and since then veal parmigiana has become a classic New York dish, and rightly so. I love it when it’s layered up like this, with the tomato sauce and cheese, then baked in the oven to gratinate. Feel free to swap veal for pork leg or even chicken that’s been battered out. If you want to spike this with a bit of extra flavour you could also add a few capers or olives to the tomato sauce.
Preheat your oven to 200ºC/400ºF/gas 6. Pick the leaves off the sprigs of basil and put them into a small bowl of water to keep them fresh. Finely chop the tender stalks. Put a pan on a medium heat and add a splash of olive oil, the chopped basil stalks, garlic and anchovies and cook for a few minutes. Prick the chilli a few times and add it to the pan. Allow everything to sizzle for a minute or so, then pour in the tinned tomatoes. Bring to the boil, then turn the heat down and simmer for 20 minutes. Season to taste with sea salt and black pepper.
Meanwhile, prepare your escalopes. Mix the breadcrumbs in a bowl with the thyme leaves and Parmesan. Finely grate your lemon zest into the breadcrumbs, mix again, then lay out three plates in front of you. Put the flour on one and season it with salt and pepper, pour the eggs on to the next plate and put the herby breadcrumbs on the third. Dip the escalopes, one at a time, into the flour until well coated. Shake off any excess, then dip into the egg. Let the extra egg drip off, then lay the escalope in the breadcrumb mixture. Sprinkle a handful of crumbs over the top and press them down. Make a real point of getting breadcrumbs on to every part of the escalope.
Heat a large non-stick frying pan over a medium heat and add a good splash of olive oil. Let it heat up a bit, then add your escalopes. If your pan isn't big enough, you may have to cook them in batches, adding a little extra oil if needed. Cook for a few minutes on each side until lightly golden, then transfer to a plate lined with kitchen paper to drain. Get yourself a snug-fitting, appropriately sized baking dish (approx. 30 x 20cm) and spread the tomato sauce in the dish. Lay your escalopes on top, side by side. Tear the buffalo mozzarella into pieces and dot these over the dish with a few basil leaves.
Bake in the oven for 20 minutes until golden, bubbling and deliciously cooked. Sprinkle the rest of the basil leaves over. Perfect with a crunchy zingy salad, but in America they’d also serve it with things like spaghetti, rice or mashed potatoes, polenta or crusty bread.