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Fried Italian Mozzarella Fritta in Tomato Basil Sauce

You can’t go wrong with breaded, fried mozzarella. With all it’s stringy cheese goodness, I have made traditional Mozzarella Fritta even better by combining it with a easy to make creamy tomato sauce that’ll take this delicious Italian Antipasto to the next level!

An overhead view of four mozzarella frittas on a wooden board with fresh tomatoes and basil leaves. Above the board there is a bowl of creamy tomato basil sauce with a ladle sat inside it.

What Makes This Recipe Great!

  • Classically Italian – Mozzarella is Carrozza is a popular recipe in Italy. You can bring authentic Italian flavours right to your home with this recipe.
  • Freezer-Friendly – Providing you use cooking Mozzarella and not fresh, for ease and convenience, you can freeze both the unfried cheese and the tomato basil sauce before adding the cream.
  • Simple Ingredients – We use simple ingredients that you should be able to find in most supermarkets and grocery stores to make this fried mozzarella recipe.

About This Recipe – In More Detail

In Italy, you’ll find fried Mozzarella often being called Mozzarella Fritta or Mozzarella in Carrozza. Depending on the region, you will find it served in different shapes and in different ways, sometimes on it’s own or with a sauce.

I have combined panko-breaded mozzarella squares with an easy-to-make, creamy tomato and basil sauce which is perfect for dipping or pouring over the top of the fried cheese, whatever your preference.

This breaded Mozzarella recipe is great for making ahead and freezing. The breaded Mozzarella can be frozen once prepared in its breadcrumb coating and fried straight from the freezer. The tomato and basil dipping sauce can also be frozen without the added cream. You’ll simply need to add that in when you defrost it and reheat before serving.

For ease and the best results, I use a cooking Mozzarella for this recipe as it isn’t as liquid filled. You can find cooking Mozzarella in the supermarket or grocery store usually being sold in a rectangle block.

Another great cheesy starter are these Halloumi Nuggets, and these Chilli Cheese Nuggets, check them out now!

An overhead view of two hands stretching out the mozzarella across the  length of the photo. There are more mozzarella frittas in the background and a saucepan full of tomato sauce.

Equipment Needed

  • Bowls (x3): You’ll need three bowls for coating the mozzarella, one for flour, one for beaten eggs, and one for breadcrumbs. This is called a breading station.
  • Knife and Cutting Board: For slicing the cooking Mozzarella and chopping the red onion and garlic.
  • Large Frying Pan: To fry the mozzarella pieces.
  • Food Processor or Stick Blender: Optional but useful for processing the tomato basil sauce.
  • Small Saucepan for Tomato Basil Sauce: A pan to sauté onions and garlic and prepare the tomato basil sauce.
  • Digital Measuring Scales: For accurate measurements of ingredients.
  • Serving Plate, Small Bowl and Utensils: For serving.

Ingredients

A labells photo of all the ingredients needed to make mozzarella fritta.
  • Mozzarella Cheese: This is the primary ingredient for making Mozzarella in Carrozza. It’s sliced into thick slices and coated to create the crispy outer layer. Use a cooking Mozzarella block for best results.
  • Plain Flour: The all purpose flour acts as the first coating for the Mozzarella, helping the egg to adhere.
  • Eggs: The beaten eggs are used for coating the mozzarella pieces, allowing the breadcrumbs to stick to them.
  • Panko Breadcrumbs: These provide a crispy and crunchy outer layer for the Mozzarella.
  • Dried Basil and Dried Oregano: These dried herbs are mixed with the breadcrumbs to season the coating for the mozzarella and we adding them to the tomato basil sauce for flavour too!
  • Olive Oil: I recommend using Olive Oil for frying, but if you prefer using a different oil, that’s ok. 
  • Red Onion: Finely chopped red onions add a sweet and slightly tangy flavour to the sauce.
  • Garlic: Crushed garlic complements the onion, adding depth to the tomato sauce.
  • Butter: Butter is used for sautéing the onion and garlic in the tomato basil sauce, providing richness and flavour.
  • Chopped Tinned Tomatoes: These are the base of the sauce, providing the rich tomato flavour.
  • White Sugar: A touch of sugar balances the acidity of the tomatoes and enhances the overall flavour.
  • Sea Salt and Black Pepper: These seasonings help to balance and enhance the taste of the sauce.
  • Double Cream: Cream is added to the sauce at the end, giving it a creamy and luxurious texture.

Additions and Substitutions

Substitutions:

  • Mozzarella: You can use fresh Mozzarella if you wish, but it’s important to allow it time to drain sufficiently due to the excess moisture. Slice the fresh mozzarella and place them in a sieve or drainer with a sprinkling of salt. Place in the fridge to drain for a few hours before breading. Please note, fresh Mozzarella Fritta isn’t suitable for freezing.
  • Olive Oil: You can choose a different oil for frying if you prefer.
  • Butter: You can use oil in place of the butter.
  • Panko Breadcrumbs: Regular breadcrumbs or Italian-style breadcrumbs can be used as an alternative for the coating.
  • Dried Herbs: You can use a different combination of herbs if you prefer, or choose fresh basil and fresh oregano instead. You will need to increase the amount of fresh herbs you use to achieve the same flavour as they aren’t so concentrated.
  • Double Cream: To reduce the creaminess, you can use half-and-half, or single cream. You can also leave it out altogether.
  • White Sugar: Substitute with honey, or an alternative sugar.
  • Marinara Sauce: Instead of the tomato basil sauce, serve the Mozzarella Fritta with marinara sauce for a classic Italian pairing.

Additions:

  • Chili Flakes: If you like a little heat, add red pepper flakes to the tomato sauce for a spicy kick.
  • Garlic Butter: Brush the fried Mozzarella with garlic butter just before serving for extra flavour.
  • Green Salad: Serve with a simple green salad dressed with balsamic vinaigrette for a refreshing side.

Step-By-Step Guide – How To Make Fried Italian Mozzarella Fritta in Tomato Basil Sauce

For the Breaded Mozzarella

Step 1: Prepare Coating Stations

  • Place the plain flour in one bowl.
  • Lightly beat eggs in another bowl.
  • And finally, mix panko breadcrumbs with dried basil, dried oregano, and black pepper in a separate bowl. Prepare your breading station.
An overhead view of three bowls containing flour, beaten egg and panko breadcrumbs with seasoning sat on top of them.
An overhead view of the breading station with a hand mixing the seasoning into the panko breadcrumbs in the third bowl with a wooden spoon.

Step 2: Coating Process

  • Cut the Mozzarella block into 10 equally sized pieces.
  • Dip each Mozzarella piece in flour, ensuring a light coating. Shake off any excess back into the bowl.
  • Submerge the floured Mozzarella cheese in the beaten egg for complete coverage.
  • Coat the Mozzarella with the bread crumbs mixture, pressing to evenly cover all sides.
  • For a final coat, dip breadcrumb-coated Mozzarella back into the egg mixture and seasoned breadcrumbs for a second time.
A hand is coating a mozzarella piece in flour at the breading station.
A hand is using tongs to coat a mozzarella piece in egg at the breading station.
A hand is coating a mozzarella piece in seasoned breadcrumbs at the breading station.
A hand is coating a mozzarella piece in the second coating of egg using tongs at the breading station.
A hand is coating a mozzarella piece in the second coating of breadcrumbs at the breading station.
A hand is holding up the breaded mozzarella above the breading station to show the finished piece.

Step 3: Chilling

  • Place the coated cheese pieces on a plate and chill in the fridge while preparing the sauce.

Step 4: Frying the Breaded Mozzarella

  • Once the sauce has been prepared, heat some olive oil in a large frying pan.
  • Once the oil is hot, add the Mozzarella without overcrowding the pan and fry for 1-2 minutes on each side until golden brown. Take care when flipping the fried cheese so that they don’t break apart or lose the breadcrumb coating.
  • Transfer to paper towel lined plate to blot away the excess oil.
  • Serve immediately with the sauce while hot.
An overhead view of a black frying pan containing four pieces of mozzarella that has been breaded.
A hand is using a spatula to turn the mozzarella fritta in a black frying pan.

For The Tomato Basil Sauce

Step 1: Preparation

  • Finely chop the red onion and crush the garlic cloves.

Step 2: Sauce Preparation

  • Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat.
  • Sauté chopped onion until soft and transparent, then add crushed garlic.
  • Combine chopped tomatoes, dried oregano, dried basil, sugar, salt, and pepper in the saucepan. Mix thoroughly.
A hand is using a knife to finely chop the garlic on a wooden board that also has finely chopped red onion on it.
An overhead view of a saucepan that has butter, red onion and garlic inside it.
An overhead view of a saucepan containing all the ingredients for the tomato basil sauce, the seasonings are sat in piles on top of the chopped tomatoes in this picture.
A hand is using a wooden spoon to stir the tomato basil sauce in a saucepan.

Step 3: Thickening and Blending

  • Heat the mixture until it slightly thickens.
  • Remove the pan from heat and briefly blend the sauce with a food processor or hand stick blender, leaving as much texture to the sauce to suit your preference.
A hand is using a stick blender to blend the sauce and make it more smooth.
An overhead view of the blended tomato sauce with the stick blender on the surface next to it.

Step 4: Finishing

  • Return the tomato basil sauce to the pan.
  • When ready to serve, add cream to the sauce over low heat, stir very gently to avoid separation.
  • Serve the hot sauce over the hot Mozzarella Fritta while the cheese is irresistibly melty.
A hand is pouing cream into the tomato sauce inside a saucepan.
A hand is using a wooden spoon to stir the cream into the tomato sauce.

FAQ

How do I prevent the mozzarella from oozing out during frying?

Make sure the mozzarella is cold, double coat it, and chill in the fridge for 15-20 minutes before frying. Alternatively, you can also fry it from frozen.

Is it essential to blend the tomato sauce with a food processor or stick blender?

Blending breaks up lumps but doesn’t need to make the sauce completely smooth. It’s optional but enhances the texture.

What’s the ideal frying temperature for Mozzarella Fritta?

Aim for around 175°C (350°F). Use a kitchen thermometer to maintain the correct heat.

A hand is holding a fried mozzarella square with tomato sauce on the end of it, having been just dipped into a white bowl containing the sauce.

Pro Tips and Guidance

  • Cold Mozzarella Handling: Keep the mozzarella pieces in the fridge until just before coating. Cold mozzarella is less likely to melt too quickly during frying.
  • Mozzarella Sticks: If you want to make smaller fried mozzarella, this is easily achievable. You can slice each portion into sticks and bread them in the same way. Fried Mozzarella sticks are perfect for parties or for little hands to hold.
  • Double Coating: The double coating process (flour-egg-breadcrumbs-egg-breadcrumbs) ensures a crispier crust. Make sure to coat each piece thoroughly.
  • Chill Before Frying: After coating the Mozzarella, place it in the fridge for about 15-20 minutes. This helps the coating adhere better and prevents it from falling off during frying.
  • Even Heating: Ensure the oil is at the right temperature before frying. It should be around 175°C (350°F). Use a kitchen thermometer to maintain the heat.
  • Non-Stick Pan: Use a non-stick frying pan or skillet to prevent the mozzarella from sticking to the surface. If you don’t have a non-stick pan, add a little more oil to prevent sticking.
  • Don’t Crowd the Pan: Fry the Mozzarella in batches, if necessary. Overcrowding the pan can lead to uneven cooking.
  • Gentle Flipping: When frying the Mozzarella, flip it gently to avoid breaking the crispy coating.
  • Blot Excess Oil: After frying, place the hot mozzarella on a paper kitchen towel-lined plate to remove excess oil. This keeps them crispy and less greasy.
  • Serve Promptly: Mozzarella is best enjoyed immediately while the cheese is melty and the coating is crispy.
A stack of three mozzarella fritta on a wooden board with fresh basil leaves and cherry tomatoes. There is the white bowl of tomato sauce in the background, some fresh tomatoes and a pepper mill.

Storage

Storage: Store any leftover mozzarella Fritta in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 days. Be aware that the breading may lose some of its crispiness upon refrigeration, so it’s best to enjoy these fresh.

Reheating: To reheat, preheat your oven to 175°C (350°F). Place the Mozzarella Fritta on a baking sheet and heat for about 5-10 minutes, or until they’re warmed through. This method helps restore some of the crispiness.

Freezing: Mozzarella Fritta is not ideal for freezing once baked but you can freeze the mozzarella in the breadcrumb coating before frying. If you use fresh Mozzarella in place of the cooking Mozzarella then it isn’t ideal to freeze. Freezing and thawing fresh Mozzarella cheese can cause it to release excess moisture, making the breading soggy upon reheating.

Frying From Frozen: You can fry frozen Mozzarella straight from frozen. Be sure to check that the middle of the cheese is cooked through before serving.


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An overhead view of three mozzarella fritta on a wooden board with fresh basil leaves and cherry tomatoes on it. There is tomato basil sauce to the upper left and more mozzarella fritta to the right as well as some decorative items and fresh ingredients.

Fried Italian Mozzarella Fritta in Tomato Basil Sauce

5 from 2 votes
Also known as Mozzarella in Carrozza or simply fried Mozzarella, this is an Italian classic that everyone will love. With a creamy tomato basil sauce on the side, you can serve it up as a starter to an Italian meal or a hot plate at a party. You can also freeze this recipe for convenience, allowing you to make it ahead of time and serving it up with ease.
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Course: Appetizer, Side Dish, starter
Cuisine: Italian
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Servings: 10 Slices
Calories: 275kcal

Ingredients
 
 

For the Mozzarella

  • 400 g Block of Cooking Mozzarella
  • 2 Large Eggs
  • 30 g Plain Flour
  • 100 g Panko Breadcrumbs
  • 1 tsp Dried Basil
  • 1 tsp Dried Oregano
  • 1 tsp Black Pepper

For the Tomato and Basil Sauce

  • 1 tbsp Butter
  • 1 Small Red Onion
  • 1 Clove of Garlic
  • 400 g Chopped Tinned Tomatoes
  • 0.25 tsp Dried Oregano
  • 1 tbsp Dried Basil
  • 1 tbsp White Sugar
  • Sea Salt and Black Pepper, to taste
  • 100 ml Double Cream

Instructions

Mozzarella

  • Place the plain flour into a bowl and set it aside.
  • In a separate bowl, crack the eggs and lightly beat them.
  • In a third bowl, combine the panko breadcrumbs with dried basil, dried oregano, and black pepper. Mix well.
  • Take the mozzarella block and cut it into 10 equally sized pieces.
  • Begin coating each piece of mozzarella. First, dip it into the flour, ensuring it's lightly coated. Shake off any excess.
  • Next, dip the floured mozzarella into the beaten eggs, ensuring it's well-covered.
  • Finally, coat the mozzarella in the breadcrumb mixture. Press it into the breadcrumbs and turn it to cover all sides evenly.
  • After this, return the mozzarella to the beaten egg and coat it again. Be careful not to remove the existing breadcrumb coating.
  • For the final coating, place the mozzarella back into the breadcrumbs, ensuring both sides are coated well.
  • Place each piece of coated mozzarella carefully on a clean plate while you continue with the remaining pieces.
  • Once all the mozzarella pieces are coated, cover the plate and place it in the fridge to chill while you prepare the sauce.
  • Once the sauce is ready, heat some olive oil in a frying pan and add the breaded mozzarella pieces once hot. Leave space in-between each one for even frying.
  • Fry on both sides until golden brown and serve with the tomato sauce while hot.

For the Tomato Basil Sauce

  • Finely chop the red onion and crush the garlic.
  • In a pan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the chopped onion and sauté until it becomes soft and transparent. Add the garlic and continue to fry for another minute.
  • Add the chopped tomatoes, dried oregano, dried basil, and sugar to the pan. Mix everything together and season with salt and pepper.
  • Heat the mixture over medium heat until the sauce begins to thicken slightly.
  • Remove the tomato sauce from the heat and place it in a food processor or use a stick blender. Blend briefly to break up any large lumps but leave some texture.
  • Return the tomato sauce to the pan. When you're ready to serve the mozzarella fritta, add the cream. Gently mix the cream over low heat to avoid separation and heat it through.
  • Pour the tomato basil sauce over the Mozzarella fritta or serve it on the side. Serve while hot, when the cheese is melty and irresistible.

Recipe Notes

 
  • If you wish to use fresh mozzarella, allow it to drain, sliced with a sprinkle of salt for a few hours in the fridge before using. 
  • Don’t skimp on the double coating of breadcrumbs, it helps to keep the mozzarella inside the layer when frying. 
  • You can prepare the sauce ahead. Leave out the cream until you’re ready to serve it to prevent separation from occurring.
  • You can freeze the prepared mozzarella before frying. When you wish to use it, fry it straight from frozen over a slightly lower heat to allow it to cook through before the breadcrumbs brown too much. 
  • The tomato sauce can also be frozen, just omit the cream before freezing and add when reheating to use. 
  • Garnish your dish with fresh rocket leaves and finely sliced red onion. 

Nutrition Estimate

Calories: 275kcal | Carbohydrates: 18g | Protein: 13g | Fat: 17g | Saturated Fat: 10g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 5g | Trans Fat: 0.05g | Cholesterol: 84mg | Sodium: 426mg | Potassium: 235mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 670IU | Vitamin C: 5mg | Calcium: 267mg | Iron: 2mg

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