A 5-Ingredient Caprese Grilled Cheese That’s as Crispy as It Is Melty

August 21, 2018

A Big Little Recipe has the smallest-possible ingredient list and big, BIG everything else: flavor, ideas, holy-cow factor. Psst: We don't count water, salt, pepper, and certain fats (say, olive oil to dress greens or sauté onions), since we're guessing you have those covered. This week, we’re taking two Italian classics and turning them into your new favorite sandwich.

I’ve read that the best thing you can do to a caprese—the classic Italian salad of mozzarella, tomato, and basil—is not mess with it. Over at Serious Eats, J. Kenji López-Alt writes:

“Get the best damn tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil you can find, put 'em on a plate, sprinkle them with salt and pepper, drizzle them with the best damn olive oil, and stop right there.”

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But I couldn’t help myself. I kept going—and going—and ended up with a melty, gooey, olive oil–fried sandwich. Oops.

Photo by Ty Mecham

The inspiration, ironically, wasn’t a caprese at all. It was another, lesser-known, equally-great Italian recipe starring mozzarella: mozzarella en carrozza. Or, as it literally translates, mozzarella in a carriage.

Basically, it’s a mozzarella grilled cheese. But instead of smearing the outside with butter or mayo, you dip it in eggs and/or milk, like French toast, and maybe dredge it in crumbs, too, like a breaded cutlet. The result is enriched, custardy bread with an ultra-golden, crispy crust.

In her 2001 book Nigella Bites, Nigella Lawson describes mozzarella en carrozza as “one of the easiest, most gratifying laptop dinners imaginable.”

Yes, please, and thank you.

Photo by Ty Mecham

This rendition ups the ante in some places—and cuts corners in others. Instead of just mozzarella, we’re caprese-ifying the middle of the sandwich with August-ripe tomatoes and fresh basil.

The dredge, meanwhile, streamlines things. On one end of the carrozza spectrum, you could roll the sandwich in flour, dip in egg and milk, then tumble in crumbs. But, a Big Little Recipe isn’t interested in all that. After frying many sandwiches, I realized: All you need is egg.

I love it as a throw-together lunch or laptop-dinner or late-night snack. Because, yes, caprese is hard to improve upon. But bread always makes things better, right?

What’s your favorite way to make a caprese? Tell us in the comments!