Alex Guarnaschelli, the chef and star of Food Network's Alex vs America uses a clever shortcut in her recipe: string cheese! "Making mozzarella sticks from scratch is so satisfying," she says. "I love them hot right out of the pan."
½ cup all-purpose flour
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups panko (Japanese-style bread crumbs)
2 tablespoons dried oregano
4 oz.s Parmesan cheese, grated (about 1 cup), divided
18 mozzarella string cheese sticks
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 large cloves garlic, grated
2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 (14.5-oz.) can whole peeled tomatoes
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
½ cup heavy whipping cream
1 quart canola oil
1 tablespoon garlic powder
¼ cup fresh basil leaves, torn
Step 1Add flour to a shallow bowl; add eggs to a second shallow bowl. Stir together panko, oregano and ¾ cup Parmesan in a third shallow bowl. Working with one mozzarella stick at a time, coat in flour, dip in egg and roll in panko mixture. Dip in egg and then panko mixture again. Place on a large baking sheet. Repeat with remaining mozzarella sticks. Chill, uncovered, for 1 hour or up to 12 hours.
Step 2Heat olive oil and garlic in a saucepan over medium. Stir in 2 tablespoons water and ¼ teaspoon salt. Simmer until water cooks out and garlic is tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in tomato paste and another 2 tablespoons water; cook, stirring constantly, about 1 minute. Add whole tomatoes and sugar; cook until tomatoes break down, 12 to 15 minutes. Stir in cream and ¾ teaspoon salt. Remove from heat, and cover until ready to serve.
Step 3Heat canola oil to 350° over medium in a deep, heavy-bottomed pot. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with paper towels and fitted with a rack. Fry 6 mozzarella sticks at a time until browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer from oil to rack. Repeat with remaining mozzarella, and season with garlic powder and 1 teaspoon salt.
Step 4Spoon tomato sauce into a bowl; stir in torn basil. Arrange mozzarella sticks on a platter, and sprinkle with ¼ cup Parmesan; serve immediately.
If you prefer to use the oven, place the breaded string cheese in the freezer for at least 2 hours or up to overnight. Bake the frozen sticks at 400° for 6 to 8 minutes, until browned and melty.