1 1/2 cups Italian-style dried breadcrumbs or Panko
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1 teaspoon salt
2 (16-ounce) blocks pasteurized mozzarella cut into 4 by 1/2-inch sticks
4 large eggs, beaten to blend
large basil leaves
1 1/2 cups vegetable, canola, or high heat oil
4 cups Marinara Sauce
In a large skillet or wide shallow pot, heat 11/2-2 inches of vegetable oil to about 360 degrees F. (If you don’t have an oil thermometer, drop a few bread crumbs in and if they sizzle but don’t burn, the oil is ready.) If they burn, turn it down a tad.
Cut mozzarella into 4 slabs, then cut each slab in 4 pieces to get 16 sticks per block. Spread flour and bread crumbs mixed with parmesan cheese on 2 separate plates. Put eggs in a shallow bowl and lightly beat them with a touch of water. Season egg with salt and pepper.
If using the basil, dip the leaves in the beaten egg and let the excess drip off back into the bowl. Stick a leaf on each of the mozzarella sticks, down the length of the leaf and press to adhere. Don’t worry if the leaf doesn’t stick completely, it will stay on once you begin the breading process.
Working a few at a time, dredge mozzarella in flour, then eggs, then bread crumbs. Once all of the mozzarella sticks have been breaded, repeat dipping in the egg and then bread crumbs so that no cheese is visible.
Place coated sticks on a sheet pan and freeze for at least an hour. Alternatively, you can keep frozen until ready to fry another time.
When the oil is ready, add 2-3 of the mozzarella sticks. Fry until golden on all sides, about 3 to 4 minutes in all. Remove mozzarella sticks with a spider or slotted spatula to drain on brown paper. Season with salt. Repeat process with remaining mozzarella sticks. Serve warm with marinara sauce for dipping.