Prep: 15 minutes
Total: 1 ½ hours
12 (1 ounce|30 gram) mozzarella cheese sticks, halved crosswise
3/4 cup|100 grams all-purpose flour
6 large eggs, lightly beaten
4 cups|400 grams panko bread crumbs, finely crushed
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 (28-ounce|800 gram) can whole peeled tomatoes, crushed by hand
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon chile flakes
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
canola oil, for frying
1. Place the flour, eggs, and bread crumbs in separate shallow dishes. Working with 1 piece of mozzarella at a time, dredge in flour, dip in eggs, and coat in breadcrumbs; repeat this process one more time, except don’t dredge them in the flour this go around. Lay on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and refrigerate for 1 hour.
2. Heat olive oil and butter in a 4-quart saucepan over medium-high; add garlic and onion and cook until soft, about 6 minutes. Add tomato paste and cook 2 minutes more, then add tomatoes, sugar, chile flakes, salt, and pepper; cook until thick, 15-18 minutes. Keep marinara sauce warm.
3. Heat the oven to 250°F. Heat 2-inches canola oil in a 6-quart saucepan until a deep-fry thermometer reads 365°F. Working in batches, fry the mozzarella until golden and crisp, about 1 ½ minutes. Transfer the mozzarella sticks to paper towels to drain and place in the oven to keep warm while frying the remaining sticks. Serve hot and with marinara sauce.