Mozzeria in San Francisco puts a different spin on an Italian favorite. Blocks of mozzarella are cut into larger rectangles, enveloped in pasta dough and coated with panko: a marriage of Italian and Asian.
Fresh pasta dough is available at Vace Italian delicatessen in Bethesda. You'll need a thermometer for deep-frying.
Make Ahead: The pasta-wrapped mozzarella sticks can be wrapped in plastic wrap and refrigerated overnight.
Servings: 4 - 6
- 16-ounce block good-quality chilled mozzarella cheese
- 8 ounces fresh pasta sheets or fresh pasta dough, rolled out as thin as possible (see headnote)
- 4 cups canola oil, for frying
- 2 large eggs, beaten
- 1 1/2 cups plain panko (japanese-style) bread crumbs
- Homemade or store-bought tomato sauce, warmed, for serving
- Fried basil leaves, for garnish (see NOTE)
Cut the cheese block into 1-inch-thick slices to yield 4 to 6 rectangles.
Use a knife to cut the pasta sheet into ribbons about 1 1/2 inches wider than the length of your cheese bars. Wrap each cheese stick securely in the pasta, much as you would a gift, folding in the ends and pressing on them to seal them. At this point you can tightly wrap each individual stick in plastic wrap and refrigerate them overnight.
Line a plate with several layers of paper towels.
Pour the oil into a heavy medium saucepan to a depth of at least 2 inches and heat the oil over medium-high heat to 365 degrees.
Place the beaten egg and panko in separate medium bowls.
When the oil is ready, working with cheese bar at a time, dip the bar into the egg and then roll it in the panko, pressing so the crumbs coat evenly.
Slip the cheese bar into the oil and deep-fry until it the cheese floats to the surface or until it is a dark golden brown, 2 1/2 to 3 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the cheese bar to the paper towels to drain. Repeat to fry all of the cheese bars.
Serve immediately, topped with a few spoonfuls of the warmed tomato sauce. Garnish with fried basil leaves, if desired.
NOTE: To fry basil leaves, dry whole leaves thoroughly to remove any moisture from the surface. Carefully toss the leaves into the hot oil you're using to fry the cheese blocks. Be careful: No matter how well you dry them, the leaves are likely to cause the oil to splash and sputter. Fry for about 30 seconds, until the leaves turn a deep green, then transfer them to paper towels to drain. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt.
From Melody and Russell Stein of Mozzeria in San Francisco.
Tested by Jane Touzalin.
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