If you like grilled cheese, then you’ll love mozzarella in carrozza, Italy’s version of the iconic American sandwich. The dish — melted mozzarella cheese hugged by two slices of crunchy deep-fried bread — comes from the Campania region and is frequently found as street food in Naples. Mozzarella in carrozza translates to “mozzarella in a carriage” and the origins of the dish vary, depending on your source.
Some say it’s called that because the bread originally used was round, like the wheels of a carriage. Others say it’s because the strands of melted mozzarella that pull from the sandwich resemble the reins of a horse and carriage. Still others claim that it was invented by housewives in Southern Italy as a means to use up leftover mozzarella and stale bread. Whichever version is true doesn’t matter. What matters is that it’s delicious and that you try it. Lots of people use a loaf of square white bread, with the crusts removed, but for this recipe, I used a loaf of Italian bread that produced slices more oval than square.
I trimmed the crusts and placed a piece of mozzarella in the center, with enough room to seal the edges using a paste made with milk and flour. It helps in keeping the melted mozzarella from escaping when you’re frying it. Don’t worry about using the finest quality mozzarella either. Most bufala mozzarella will be almost too liquid, even though you can pat it dry it with paper towels first if that’s what you have or want to use. Regular fior di latte mozzarella is perfect for this recipe, whether freshly made by an Italian deli or purchased from a supermarket. Just don’t use that yellowish industrial stuff that’s been injected with additives that belong in a chemistry lab. I used a slice of cheese about 1/4″ thick. A little bit of anchovy inside the sandwich would be a perfect marriage too, if you like anchovies, but alas I didn’t have any when I was making this.
Generally when I deep fry foods, I use a three-step process – flour, egg wash, then bread crumbs. But for this recipe, you really need only the egg wash and bread crumbs. Use the coarse Japanese bread crumbs called panko if you have them. They’ll give even more crunch. I added some grated parmesan cheese to the bread crumbs and a little minced parsley and black pepper.
After you’ve sealed the edges of the bread with a little flour and milk mixture (use your fingers dipped in the slurry and spread it around the rim, then press the edges together), dip the sandwiches into the beaten eggs and then the bread crumbs. Coat all around the sides too, not just the front and back.
Deep fry in plenty of hot oil. You don’t need to use olive oil unless you don’t mind spending the extra money. Peanut oil works very well for deep frying.
Flip them over carefully when they get golden brown. Be careful not to have the temperature of the oil too hot, or they’ll likely brown before the cheese melts. But you don’t want the temperature of the oil to be too low either, or the bread will be greasy.
If you’ve got a bit of tomato sauce on hand, serve it on the side.
It makes a great dinner, served along with a salad on the side. It’s also addictive, and once you try it, you’ll find out why.
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- 4 slices of mozzarella cheese (1/4" thick each)
- 8 slices of sturdy white bread, crusts removed
- ¾ cup panko bread crumbs
- ¼ cup grated parmesan or pecorino cheese
- 1 tablespoon minced parsley
- 2 eggs, beaten with 1 tablespoon milk
- 1 tablespoon flour mixed with a little water
- tomato sauce of preference
- peanut oil or another vegetable oil for deep frying
- Cut the slices of bread from a sturdy loaf and trim the crusts.
- Take one slice of mozzarella and place on each slice of bread.
- Cover with a second slice of bread.
- Mix the flour with the water until you have a loose slurry.
- Using your finger, spread a thin layer of the flour mixture all around the edges of the bread.
- This will help seal it when it fries.
- Press down on the sandwich with the palm of your hand.
- Beat the eggs with the milk.
- Dip the sandwiches in the eggs and coat thoroughly.
- Mix the panko with the parmesan or pecorino cheese and minced parsley.
- Dip the sandwiches into the panko mixture and press the coating firmly into the bread.
- Heat the oil in a cast iron skillet or heavy frying pan to a medium temperature, and sample the temperature using a small piece of bread dropped into the oil.
- When the piece of bread sizzles, the oil is hot enough.
- Carefully place the sandwiches in the hot oil, cooking long enough to brown each side.
- If the heat is too high, it could brown the bread without melting the cheese inside.
- Remove from the oil and drain on paper towels.
- Serve with tomato sauce on the side.