Monday, September 24, 2012

Mozzarella Sticks

When I was young, we lived in Southern California for a time. Our favorite spaghetti joint was a place called Vince's. I remember one of my cousins suggesting that instead of going to Vince's, we should change things up and go to Spaghetti Factory. I had never been to Spaghetti Factory, but I knew I wouldn't like it. I scoffed at her, "Spaghetti Factory? Who wants to eat at a factory?" In my mind it was as likely a restaurant name as Meat Factory, or Rice Factory. Completely unappetizing.  I mean, where would you choose to eat-Vince's or Spaghetti Factory? (Vince's is the obvious choice...would you eat at Tio Pepe's or Taco Factory??? Come on people!)
I didn't know it, but I was already a food snob. Or maybe I was just a snob.
The Old Spaghetti Factory isn't that bad, but that's really not relevant.

These days my husband can't stand spending money at places that sell pasta. I, on the other hand, love it. He feels like it's nothing special, and would rather eat at Texas Roadhouse than almost anywhere else.

For the nights when you want a carb feast, start off with these mozzarella sticks, throw in some spaghetti and chicken parm and a rich chocolate cake and you're all set. It's the best of both worlds. These are great for get togethers because you make them ahead and put them in the freezer. I am sure you could also bake them at about 400 for 10 -12 minutes and get delicious results.

Mozzarella Sticks

1 1/2 cups panko
3 Tablespoons Italian seasoning
1 1/3 cups freshly grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano
1 teaspoon salt
2 (16-ounce) blocks mozzarella cut into 4 by 1/2-inch sticks (to save time you could use mozzarella sticks and just cut them in half)
4 large eggs, beaten to blend
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
4 cups Marinara Sauce (recipe follows)
Stir the panko, 1 cup of Parmesan or Pecorino Romanoand 1 teaspoon of salt in a medium bowl to blend. Dip the cheese in the eggs to coat completely and allow the excess egg to drip back into the bowl. Coat the cheese in the bread crumb mixture, patting to adhere and coat completely. Place the cheese sticks on a baking sheet. Repeat dipping the cheese sticks in the egg and bread crumb mixture to coat a second time. Cover and freeze until frozen, about 2 hours and up to 2 days.
Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Working in batches, fry the cheese until golden brown, about 1 minute per side. Transfer the fried cheese to plates. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese and serve with the Marinara Sauce.

For the sauce:
1/4 cup olive oil
7 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon salt
2 24 oz cans tomato sauce
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup basil, chopped

In a large saucepan, saute onion and garlic in the olive oil until soft. Add the tomato sauce, Parmesan cheese, and salt. Bring to a boil and then reduce to simmer for 20 minutes. Add basil.

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