Preheat your oven to 400F. 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 frying pan on a medium heat and add a splash of olive oil, the chopped basil stalks and garlic and cook for a few minutes. Prick the chile a few times and add it to the pan. Allow everything to sizzle for a minute or so, then pour in the canned tomatoes. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down and simmer for 20 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Meanwhile, prepare your chicken breasts. Mix the bread crumbs in a bowl with the thyme leaves and Parmesan. Finely grate your lemon zest into the bread crumbs, 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 onto the next plate, and put the herbed bread crumbs on the third. Dip the breasts, 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 breasts in the bread crumb mixture. Sprinkle a handful of crumbs over the top and press them down. Make a real point of getting bread crumbs onto every part of the breast.
Heat a large nonstick frying pan over a medium heat and add a good splash of olive oil. Let it heat up a bit, then add your chicken. 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 paper towels to drain. Get yourself a snug-fitting, appropriately sized baking dish (approx. 12x8 inches) and spread the tomato sauce in the dish. Lay your chicken 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 you may also like to serve it with things like spaghetti, rice, mashed potatoes, polenta, or crusty bread.
Wine suggestions: Italian red
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