For the Tomato Basil Sauce:
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO)
2 tablespoons butter
3 cloves garlic, crushed
One 28-ounce can DOP San Marzano tomatoes, or add a sprinkle of sugar to other canned tomatoes
One 24-ounce jar passata, or 3 cups tomato puree
10-12 leaves fresh basil, torn
For the Zucchini Sticks:
1 ½ cups AP flour
Salt and pepper
2 cups breadcrumbs
About 1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, a few fat handfuls
1 ½ teaspoons fennel pollen or ground fennel seed, ½ a palmful
1 ½ teaspoons chili flakes or ground pepperoncini, ½ a palmful
1 ½ teaspoons granulated garlic, ½ a palmful
1 ½ teaspoons granulated onion, ½ a palmful
About ½ cup flat-leaf parsley tops, stemmed, then finely chop
1 small lemon, zested
3 medium zucchini, halved, then seeded if larger than medium size, and cut into sticks about 3 ½ inches long and ½-¾ inch wide
Frying oil, about 2 ½-3 quarts
Lemon wedges and red sauce, to serve
For sauce, heat a pot over medium heat with EVOO, melt butter into oil and when it foams, add garlic and stir a minute or 2. Add tomatoes and break them up a bit, add passata and stir, then bring the sauce to a bubble. Stir in the basil, and season with salt. Cook sauce down 30 minutes, then turn off until ready to serve, and reheat over medium-low heat.
For the zucchini sticks, set up a breading station and place a wire rack over a parchment-lined large sheet pan or 2 small pans. The breading station: flour in a shallow dish seasoned with salt and pepper, eggs beaten in a shallow dish seasoned with salt and pepper, breadcrumbs in a shallow dish with cheese, fennel pollen, chili flakes, garlic, onion, parsley and lemon.
Coat the zucchini in flour, then eggs, shaking off excess, then evenly in the breadcrumb mixture. Fry immediately or place them on wire rack-lined pans and chill for up to 1 hour.
Heat the oil in a Dutch oven or tabletop fryer over medium to medium-high heat, about 350˚F. Cook the sticks in small batches to avoid crowding until golden brown and crispy, about 4 minutes per batch.
Serve sticks with lemon wedges and red sauce alongside for dipping.