Mozzarella and marinara turn grilled chicken and vegetables into a summertime hit

Ellie Krieger

THE WASHINGTON POST – Tossing some chicken and vegetables on the grill and calling it dinner is a perfectly fine summer meal strategy, but it doesn’t exactly elicit ooohs and ahhhs. This recipe pulls those familiar elements together but in a way that surely will, from its gorgeous presentation on the plate to its multiple layers of savoury flavour.

The infusion of allure starts with a marinade for the chicken, an Italian-dressing-style mix of olive oil, vinegar, garlic and dried oregano. Just a 30-minute marinade is needed, but it can go for up to eight hours for more-intense flavour and do-ahead convenience.

Once grilled, the chicken becomes the platform upon which the other ingredients are piled high. A spread of marinara sauce goes on first, followed by an array of colourful grilled vegetables. Here, I used eggplant, red bell pepper and onion, but other vegetable combinations are welcome to the party: mushrooms, asparagus and zucchini, to name a few.

Blanketing the vegetables, and bringing the dish together, is a melted layer of fresh, luscious mozzarella. And finally, some fresh basil adds a summery note as well as a bright pop of colour.

To make the four servings indicated, only half of each vegetable is needed, but, while you are at it, you should grill all the vegetables at once – the extra vegetables will keep for several days and can be added to sandwiches, grain bowls or salads.

Grilled Chicken and Vegetable Mozzarella Melts. PHOTO: THE WASHINGTON POST


Active: 40 minutes | Total: 40 minutes, plus 30 minutes to eight hours marinating time

Four servings

These tasty towers of marinated grilled chicken layered with marinara, grilled vegetables and melted mozzarella not only look gorgeous on the plate, but also brim with savoury flavour in each bite. To make the four servings indicated, only half of each vegetable is needed, but it’s a good idea to grill all of the vegetables at once, because it can be done ahead and the extra vegetables can be used in sandwiches, grain bowls or salads.

Make Ahead: The vegetables may be grilled and refrigerated in an airtight container for up to four days.


Five tablespoons olive oil, divided, or more if grilling the entire vegetables

One and a half tablespoons white vinegar

One teaspoon dried oregano

Three-quarter teaspoon kosher salt, divided, or more as needed

Half teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided, or more as needed

Two cloves garlic, coarsely chopped

Four skinless boneless chicken breasts pounded to half-inch thick

One small globe eggplant, trimmed

One medium red bell pepper, stemmed and seeded

One medium sweet onion

Quarter cup prepared marinara sauce, at room temperature

Two ounces fresh mozzarella, very thinly sliced

Four fresh basil leaves


In a small bowl, whisk together three tablespoons of the oil, the vinegar, oregano, half teaspoon of the salt and quarter teaspoon of the pepper. Transfer the marinade to a zip-top plastic bag, add the garlic, then the chicken. Seal the bag, pressing out excess air, and squish the contents around with your fingers to distribute the marinade evenly. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to eight hours.

Slice the eggplant, pepper and onion in half horizontally. Cut each into eight quarter-inch thick slices or rounds. (You’ll use about half of each vegetable for this recipe. You can cook all the slices and reserve the unused portion for other uses, or reserve them uncooked. If using entire vegetables, brush with additional oil and season with additional salt and pepper.)

Preheat a grill or grill pan over medium-high heat. Brush the sliced vegetables on both sides with the remaining two tablespoons of oil and sprinkle with the remaining quarter teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Grill the vegetables, in batches if necessary, until they are tender and have grill marks, three to four minutes per side.

Remove the chicken from the marinade, shaking off any pieces of garlic that are clinging to the chicken. (Discard the marinade.) Reduce the grill heat to medium and grill the chicken, until nearly cooked through, three to four minutes per side. Transfer the cooked chicken to a cutting board or large plate.

Spoon one tablespoon of the marinara over each piece of chicken. Top with two slices each of the grilled eggplant and pepper, and then add a few grilled onion slices. Distribute the cheese on top of each, then return the stacks to the grill, cover and grill until the chicken is cooked through and the cheese is melted, three to five minutes. Top each piece with basil and serve.

Nutrition | Calories: 435; Total Fat: 24g; Saturated Fat: 5g; Cholesterol: 118mg; Sodium: 600mg; Carbohydrates: 13g; Dietary Fibre: 5g; Sugars: 7g; Protein: 42g.