Marinara Sauce and Panko Mozzarella Sticks
I’ve always loved fried mozzarella sticks. It’s practically a requirement to get if we go to certain restaurants. They’re ooey gooey and so good. I’ve purchased frozen boxed variety to cook at home in the past. The outcome wasn’t horrible. It was a good quick fix for when I wanted mozzarella sticks. They still weren’t restaurant quality. There is something special and different, practically perfect, about restaurant fried mozzarella. I never tried to make my own for fear it would be a nightmare to make. I needed to try. Afterall, it doesn’t hurt to try at least once.
I’m on a timeline with young kids in the house. Cooking and baking when they’re being cooperative and noncranky. I have to play everything by ear. Will today be a good day to make stuff or not? How much time will I get before they’re demanding my attention or I have to explain that a certain little sister isn’t a doll and you have to be nice to her. Sometimes depending on how long a recipe is going to take, it’s done in parts. A little now, a little more later. Bit by bit it all gets done. Sometimes this works out quite well if items require sitting time.
On this particular day I really wanted to make mozzarella sticks. I had it in my head and it was going to happen. It would happen one way or another. The thing though was that I wanted them to be done when Josh was home so I had help eating these. Now as I’ve mentioned plenty of times, I’m not a tomato fan. At all. But he likes marinara with his mozzarella so I figured it’d be worth a shot at trying to make some from scratch.
The end result of the marinara was apparently pretty good. Not the same as what you’re get in a restaurant but still tasty. A different tasty. Making this from scratch, or almost scratch, proved to be pretty easy so I was hoping the final product would be good. As for the fried mozzarella, the process of getting the coating to stick was the most frustrating part. The rest was smooth sailing. In the future I may slice the mozzarella sticks in half before coating so they get more of a chance to heat up faster in the oil. I’m not sure if that would help or not but they weren’t super gooey after frying. They were good, but not pull apart stringy and gooey. Either way, it was a fun challenge and a tasty predinner snack. The panko gives it a good crunch that is slightly different from what I’m use to with mozzarella sticks. It’s my new favorite bread crumb.
1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 can diced tomatoes
1 tsp basil
1 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/4-1/2 tsp chili pepper
dash of hot sauce, optional
1/2 C flour
2 tbsp milk
2 1/4C panko bread crumbs
1 tbsp parsley
oil for frying
Peel 3 cloves of garlic. Place cloves on a cutting board. Using a large knife, place it flat side down ontop of the cloves and pound or push once. This will make mincing easier. Mince and set aside.
Heat olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Meanwhile prepare remaining ingredients. I find having all of the ingredients ready to go makes the process smoother. Toss garlic into heated oil. Cook for 1 minute. Carefully add tomatoes and juices to pan. Careful, this may splatter a bit. If you have a splatter screen, use this while leaving a gap to allow for pouring of the ingredients. Once the tomatoes are in and settled, the splattering will stop. Add in all remaining ingredients. Stir well. Cook 10 minutes. Use a fork to mash up any large pieces of tomatoes. To thicken up your sauce, add 1/2 tsp of cornstarch. Stir well. Repeat until you are satisfied with the thickness.
Transfer to a bowl. Or pour into an airtight container to store for up to several days.
You'll need three bowl. In the first add flour. In the second, whisk together eggs and milk. In the third combine panko bread crumbs and parsley. You may also had 1/2 C regular bread crumbs if you wish. I may do this in the future to fill in the gaps between the panko. Plus it will give it a unique texture and taste to have both.
Unwrap and slice mozzarella sticks in half, as many as you want. I unwrapped and sliced too many but ate the remaining as a presnack snack. Cheese is good and I didn't want it to go to waste.
Coat one or two sticks at a time starting with the flour. Transfer to the egg mixture, coating well. This is where I ran into problems. After transfering the flour and egg coated sticks to the panko bowl, my fingers pulled off part of the egg and flour leaving dry bare spots that panko would not stick to. Once the panko started to become sticky and wet it was easier to coat regardless of if I had the sticks completely covered or not. So play around with this. I even redipped occasionally trying to coat those final spots. Transfer coated sticks to a plate. Continue this process until they are all covered. Freeze tray of mozzarella for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat up 1 inch of oil in a skillet to 350. Or use a deep fryer. When your freezing time is up, carefully cook a few sticks at a time giving them plenty of room. Cook for 2-3 minutes or until golden on both sides but not leaking cheese. Remove from oil. Cool and drain of extra oil on a paper towel lined plate. Finally transfer all cooked mozzarella sticks to a serving platter with a bowl of marinara. Eat warm.