Confession: until recently, I had never eaten a mozzarella stick. I was curious, enthralled and appalled. Not because I am appalled by the freezer aisle, far from it, more that I really love to cook. But I was also pleasantly surprised. These are an excellent shortcut. The bite of sauce is a great contrast to the crisp crunch of the crumb and a beautiful marriage of creamy sauce and creamy, oozing mozzarella.
10 frozen mozzarella sticks
basil leaves to scatter
¼ cup olive oil
2 shallots, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, finely diced
½ tbsp dried oregano
125ml tomato paste
1 cup cream
1. Preheat oven to 190C fan-forced (210C conventional).
2. Place mozzarella sticks on an oven tray lined with baking paper and bakefor 25 minutes or until golden. You might have some mozzarella explosions out the sides – don't panic, this is part of the appeal.
3. While the sticks are baking, start the vodka sauce. Add the olive oil to a frying pan over medium heat. Once hot, add the shallot and garlic. Turn the heat to low and cook until pale, soft and translucent – about 15 minutes.
4. Add the oregano and tomato paste, stirring until the paste comes away from the sides of the pan and darkens in colour. Add the vodka and stir thoroughly then add the cream. Simmer gently until the mozzarella sticks are ready. Season generously with salt and pepper.
5. Scoop the sauce into serving dishes. Top with mozzarella sticks and a few basil leaves. Season again with salt and pepper and serve.