Mozzarella Sticks

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Oh, the mozzarella stick- it is, for me, an irresistable food, and yet it's partially why America is increasingly obese.  I mean, breaded, fried cheese?!  Pass the plate, but stop me after one or two!  I love cheese, and the mozzarella stick is a wonderful way to eat it- melty, stringy cheese inside a crunchy shell of bread crumbs, dipped in marinara sauce.  Yum!  As before stated, however, these are really quite bad for you since they're fried.  What's a girl to do?  Make Rocco DiSpirito's version, that's what!

Chef Rocco has come out with a new cookbook entitled, Now Eat This.  It's filled with ways to make your favorite guilty pleasure foods less guilty, but every bit as pleasurable.  He appeared on the Rachael Ray Show back in March to talk about this new book and to make these mozzarella sticks.  His version is baked and uses Panko bread crumbs in place of regular ones.  His version actually uses whole wheat panko bread crumbs, but the grocery stores around here aren't quite that well stocked yet. 

These sticks take a few steps, but are easy to make.  They're also relatively fast.  First, take your average mozzarella cheese stick, a.k.a. string cheese.  You can leave them whole or cut them in half, depending on your own preference.  The ones I have pictured are left whole.  Put the sticks through a three stage breading process of flour, egg white, and bread crumbs.  Line them on a baking sheet, bake, and enjoy while warm.  I served them with marinara sauce. 

We had them for my brother in law's birthday, and they were very good!  The crunch of the panko mimics the crunch that is created when the stick is fried.  I would definitely recommend these for your next get together...or your next craving of mozzarella sticks, whichever comes first. 

Rocco DiSpirito's Mozzarella Sticks
from Now Eat This

1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
1 1/2 cups whole-wheat panko breadcrumbs, such as Ian's All-Natural
3 large egg whites
8 reduced-fat mozzarella sticks, such as Polly-O 2% Milk Natural Reduced-Fat Mozzarella
Garlic salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Nonstick olive oil cooking spray
1 cup fra diavolo pasta sauce, such as Victoria

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Place a wire rack on a foil-lined baking sheet, and set it aside.

Put the flour in a shallow dish. Put the panko in another shallow dish. In a medium bowl, whip the egg whites with a whisk until they are extremely foamy but not quite holding peaks.

Working in batches, dredge the mozzarella sticks in the flour, shaking off any excess. Add the mozzarella sticks to the egg whites and toss to coat completely. Add the mozzarella sticks, a few pieces at a time, to the panko and coat completely.

Spread the breaded cheese sticks out on the wire rack. Season them generously with garlic salt and pepper, and spray lightly with cooking spray. Bake until the breading is golden brown and crispy and the cheese is melted throughout, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the pasta sauce in the microwave or in a small saucepan for 2 minutes, or until it is hot.

Serve the mozzarella sticks with the sauce for dipping.

  • Since I never really know what to do when I separate an egg and don't use the yolk in the recipe, and I wasn't that super concerned about the added calories, I used two whole eggs in place of the white.
  • Since I haven't found whole wheat panko crumbs in the grocery stores around here, I used regular.  It slightly decreases the nutritional value and coloration, but the crunch effect is the same. 
  • I didn't have garlic salt, so I used granulated garlic instead. 

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