Rachel Roddy’s recipe for Mozzarella in Carrozza | eat
Y.A few years ago, after a delayed flight and a terrible taxi ride from the airport, Vincenzo made me mozzarella in Carrozza. It wasn’t the first time he’d made mozzarella sandwiches (dipped in flour and egg and then fried) but it was certainly the most memorable because it was almost midnight and the only thing I’d eaten since noon was one half a Toblerone. Taking that first bite was like walking into a room filled with old friends – egg bread, fried bread, cheese on toast, toasted Breville sandwiches – and at the same time very different from anything I’d eaten before. It was also the most delicious thing I had ever eaten (again I was starving, such unfair advantage) and entertaining: the cheese string that stretched between my mouth and the bread triangle like an extendable dog leash and then stuck to my chin.
Carrozza is the carriage, hence the name means “mozzarella in a carriage”. It’s a dish that originated in regions of mozzarella – what is now Campania and southern Lazio – although it’s now common. As with all imaginative home cooking, there are just as many options for preparing mozzarella in Carrozza as there are with chefs. The strong feelings come from the fact that people feel very attached to what they grew up with and the psychological reassurance that there is a certain taste in it. I have a Neapolitan teacher named Daniela Del Balzo for whom Mozzarella in Carrozza is very emotional. A common thread with her childhood, which represents the abundance of home, so tradition, comfort and love. For them, one way to pass that bounty on and get the thread is to seal each triangle with flour and water paste, triple dip, and deep fry for their kids and grandchildren. Vincenzo has his own way of making them too, which is probably just as full of things, though he laughs at my attempts to get him to speak them out. But then he looks so much like his mother when he stands with a spatula.
Traditionally, mozzarella meant mozzarella di Bufala, those pearly white globes with a milky, mossy taste and once a cheap, everyday food item – so much so that it could be easily handled and dried for a day or two before being used in cooking. Something that seems extravagant these days when real Mozzarella di Bufala Campagna DOP is rare and expensive and is best eaten as it comes. For this dish, use mozzarella traditional or cow’s milk fior di latte – whichever you think is best.
If you have time, drain a 250g scoop of mozzarella or fior di latte by either placing it in a colander for a few hours so the excess milk soaks away and dries out a little, or if you don’t have a lot of time and just squeezed it gently. Cut the ball into eight thin slices (don’t worry if they’re shaggy). Cut the crusts from eight slices of bread, lay out four of them like playing cards and cover each with two slices of mozzarella and, if you like, an anchovy fillet, leaving a 1 mm edge around the edge. Top with the remaining slices of bread, squeeze and cut each sandwich diagonally in half.
Now the choice is yours. You can just dip the triangles in seasoned flour, then beat the egg and fry in butter or olive oil (or both) until golden brown. Or you can dip in flour, beaten egg, and then fine breadcrumbs and fry until golden brown in butter, olive oil, or both. The third option is deep-frying. In this case, it is worth making a thick paste of flour and water to seal the edges before dipping the triangles in flour, beaten egg and fine breadcrumbs. In a small, deep pan, heat a few inches of oil that is suitable for frying, and then, as soon as it is hot (a cube of bread should fry briskly for testing), add a few triangles at a time and fry, turning until deep golden brown. Lift out, dab on kitchen paper and serve immediately.
There are no night returns and luckily at the moment there are no traumatic taxi rides. However, I seem to have developed my own psychological need for mozzarella sandwiches, first dipped in flour, then dipped in egg, fried and given to me by Vincenzo late at night.