Italy's Deep-Fried Take On The Grilled Cheese

Cheese and bread is an unbeatable fat and carbohydrate combination that dates all the way back to Roman times, although cheese and bread with added heat is a more recent addition to the culinary scene. 

In the United States, grilled cheese first became a popular phenomenon during the 1920s and the first iterations of the sandwich classic were open-faced — a slice of bread with grated American cheese with toppings like tomato, bacon, egg, and even pineapple. During hard times, like the Great Depression and World War II, the easy-to-make and cheap sandwich was highly popular and the love for this sandwich has endured.

While America is famous for its grilled cheese, Italy has its own unique take on a hot bread and cheese sandwich and no, it's not the panini. Enter the mozzarella in carrozza, which takes the meaning of grilled cheese to a deeper-fried level.

The history of mozzarella in carrozza

Like the American grilled cheese, the mozzarella in carrozza sandwich doesn't have an exact date in history to pinpoint its origins to. The most commonly accepted history behind this sandwich is that Southern Italian housewives invented it as a way to make use of leftover stale bread and old mozzarella cheese. Traditional households in Campania also used black water buffalo milk mozzarella and some even made their own tomato dipping sauce.

The mozzarella in carrozza is no regular grilled cheese sandwich: The name translates to "mozzarella in a carriage" and it consists of mozzarella in an utterly irresistible vehicle consisting of two slices of bread, dipped in egg and breadcrumbs, which is then fried to finish. The traditional breads used in the South were pane pugliese or pane toscano, but a simple soft, pre-sliced white bread called pan carre is most commonly used today. What is distinctive about this sandwich is that the bread can be a few days old, and the mozzarella shouldn't be fresh, either.

What makes mozzarella in carrozza different from grilled cheese

There are many American grilled cheese variations out there, which involve everything from adding a bit of peanut butter to swapping out white bread and instead using naan as the carb base. What sets the mozzarella in carrozza apart from its American grilled cheese counterpart is the fact that the sandwich is dipped into a combination of a beaten egg and milk, which is a move that most Americans associate with making French toast. Afterward, the mozzarella in carrozza is fried in oil, resulting in a truly decadent sandwich with a crunchy and crispy exterior that no grill could accomplish. Traditionally, the crusts are also cut off the mozzarella in carrozza.

Instead of peanut butter, Italians choose to add toppings local to their country like anchovies or prosciutto. The mozzarella cheese also pulls apart into strands that resemble the reins on a horse when attached to a carriage, hence the name.

How to make mozzarella in carrozza

To make your very own mozzarella in carrozza at home, you'll need bread that is a day or two old, and the slices will need to be fairly thick — at least half an inch. Then you'll need to beat eggs until the whites are fully incorporated, season with salt and pepper, as well as flour to pre-coat the bread before dipping it in the egg. The flour layer will provide a barrier between the bread and the grease and give it a crisp crust.

For the mozzarella, drain well or use low-moisture and then slice it up before layering it on the bread and adding any toppings of your choice. Next, after adding the other piece of bread on top, place the sandwich in a pan with oil heated to around 325 degrees Fahrenheit and then cook it on each side for about two minutes.

Let the sandwich rest for a few minutes before cutting in and enjoying your Italian grilled cheese.