Mozzarella on Wheels

Ingredients to serve 4

For the tomato sauce

85ml extra virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
2 anchovy fillets
500g peeled tomatoes (the Italian tinned plum tomatoes will do)
1 dried red chilli, crushed
2 tbsp dried oregano
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

For the wheels

2 125g mozzarella cheese balls, cut into 1cm slices
16 slices of white bread
flour, for dusting
1 egg, beaten
Extra virgin olive oil, for deep frying

This dish is by far the most popular at my restaurant, La Famiglia, which is wonderful for me because it's a dish that both my mother and my grandmother would make for me while I was growing up. I've no idea which of them made it first – but it doesn't matter. It's simply delicious.

To make the tomato sauce, heat the olive oil in a frying pan. Add the garlic and anchovy fillets. Fry until the garlic begins to brown, then add the peeled tomatoes and crush with a fork to obtain a pulp. Add salt and pepper to taste and the chilli. Cook for a further 10 minutes, remove from the heat and add the oregano. Keep the sauce warm.

Place a slice or two of the mozzarella (see cook's tip, below) between two slices of white bread, to make a sandwich. Repeat with the remaining mozzarella rounds and slices of bread until you have 8 sandwiches. Using the blunt edge of a round cutter with a diameter of 10cm, cut through the sliced bread and the mozzarella, being careful not to cut yourself on the sharp edge (use a tea towel to press down safely). This seals the edges of the bread around the mozzarella, creating a wheel. Repeat for the remaining mozzarella sandwiches. Coat each wheel with flour and beaten egg.

Heat a good quantity of oil in a deep saucepan. Add the mozzarella wheels and deep fry for 4 minutes. Drain well, place the wheels on a plate and serve with the warm tomato sauce on the side.

Cook's tip: use the slice of mozzarella from the middle of each ball as a guide to how much cheese you need to fill each wheel. From the middle, one slice will be enough, but if the mozzarella slices have come from the ends of the balls, you may need two.

Taken from 'La Famiglia: The Cookbook' by Alvaro Maccioni (Palazzo Editions, £25). Photograph by David Loftus