I don't need to say much about this dish because, well, you know it was too good to describe. I had thought about making fried mozzarella over a week ago and had happened to find fresh mozzarella cheese on sale (50% off!) at the grocery store. I promptly picked it up and made these sticks the very next day.
This recipe is based on three different recipes. Because the cheese melts quickly, you have to freeze them for at least 2 hours. I suggest freezing the mozzarella and preparing the sauce the day before you need them to save time.
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 small onions, finely chopped (I used one medium onion)
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped (I didn't have this)
2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon sea salt, plus more to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
1 (32 ounce) cans of crushed tomatoes (I used a box of Pomì)
2 dried bay leaves
In a large casserole pot, heat the oil over a medium-high flame. Add the onions and garlic and sauté until the onions for about 5 minutes. Add the celery, carrots, and 1/2 teaspoon of each salt and pepper. Sauté until all the vegetables are soft for about 5-10 minutes. Add the tomatoes and bay leaves, and simmer uncovered over low heat until the sauce thickens for about 1 hour. Remove and discard the bay leaves. Season the sauce with more salt and pepper to taste.
STORE: This sauce can be made 1 day ahead. Cool, then cover, and refrigerate. Rewarm over medium heat before using.
adapted from various sources mentioned above, primarily from Giada de Laurentis
14-16 ounce block of mozzarella (I cut this block in flat, 1/4-1/2-inch thick strips)
1 cup oil for frying (I used vegetable oil)
1 cup of Italian Breadcrumbs
1/2 cup of shredded Parmesan
1/2-1 cup of flour
2 eggs, beaten
CAN DO THIS STEP THE DAY BEFORE: Cut the mozzarella into strips, if not separated already. Flash freeze the cheese sticks by laying them flat on a cookie sheet or jelly roll pan and placing them in the freezer for 1 to 2 hours. If not making the fried mozzarella until the next day, place the frozen mozzarella in a freezer bag after flash freezing them, and leave them in the freezer.
On the day of preparation, heat up the oil in a cast-iron skillet or dutch oven to 365 degrees.
While the oil is heating up, mix the the breadcrumbs with the Parmesan cheese. Then, coat the mozzarella with flour first, then egg, and then breadcrumb mixture (you can double-coat the cheese if you like; I didn't). Once a few have been coated, place them in the hot oil carefully, but don't crowd the skillet. Fry them for about 2-3 minutes each side. The cheese melts fairly quickly, so be careful.
Enjoy these sticks with marinara sauce!