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Italian Grilled Cheese

Italian Grilled Cheese
Susan Russo for NPR /

I don't remember the first time my mom made me this breaded and fried Italian grilled cheese sandwich, but I do know that it's my all-time favorite. When you break the sandwich open with your hands, hot melted mozzarella comes oozing out all over the crunchy breadcrumb-coated bread. Though it's wonderful as is, take my advice and dunk it in your favorite marinara sauce.

Makes 2 sandwiches

4 thin slices Italian bread

4 ounces shredded mozzarella or very thinly sliced fresh buffalo mozzarella

4 large fresh basil leaves

1 large egg

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup plain breadcrumbs

1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 cup marinara sauce of your choice

Place 2 bread slices on a clean work surface. Place half the mozzarella cheese on each slice, then top each with two basil leaves. Place a second slice of bread on each, forming two sandwiches.

In a wide, shallow bowl, lightly beat 1 egg with salt. In a separate wide, shallow bowl, mix breadcrumbs and red pepper flakes.

In a large skillet over medium-low heat, warm the olive oil. Carefully place one sandwich at a time in the egg mixture, making sure to coat the sandwich completely. Allow excess egg to drip back into the bowl. Dredge the sandwich in the bread- crumb mixture until completely coated. Place in the skillet. Cook 2 to 3 minutes or until the underside is golden brown. Flip the sandwich with a spatula, pressing lightly to flatten. Cook 1 to 2 minutes or until it is sizzling and golden brown. Serve hot with a side of your favorite marinara sauce for dunking.

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