Meatball Subs

I’m not a meatball sub person.

At least I thought I wasn’t for the first 27 years of my life when my only exposure to them was when my guy friends would order them at Subway and I would try not to gag.  It’s hard enough for me to look at any of the meat at Subway and not turn around and walk away, but the meatballs especially have always bothered me. I don’t know if it’s the actual meat or the sauce or watching the person dig around in the sauce with a big spoon in search of a meatball, but you couldn’t pay me to eat one of those sandwiches.

In addition to my fear of weird meat, I have a strong belief that sandwiches are better when they’re packed with veggies.  I recognize some exceptions to this rule, largely due to my profound love for Potbelly sandwiches and the blue cheese, roast beef, and bacon stuffed Blue Cow from Caffrey’s, but in general I prefer sandwiches with lots of veggies and little to no meat, and the meatball sub doesn’t really fit into that equation.

Even with my meat issues, I try to keep an open mind about most foods, which is why I didn’t immediately click away when I saw Deb’s Meatball Subs with Caramelized Onions on Smitten Kitchen.  Instead, I stared, and I ogled. I had to have one.  I bookmarked the page, and a few weeks later, when I found myself with a baguette to make use of, I made meatball subs.  Man, have I been missing out.  Not on the Subway version, I’m sure, but on the homemade version.  The meatballs were tender, the sauce was perfect, and the bread was sturdy enough to keep it mostly contained (although I still wouldn’t recommend trying to consume one in public).  I kept mine simple and topped it with some provolone and giardiniera, while my boyfriend added provolone, sautéed onions and banana peppers to his.  He claimed that this was one of the top five meals we’ve ever made, and I can’t really argue with that.

Meatball Subs

Meatball Subs

from Smitten Kitchen, with a few adjustments

Serves 4-6 or possibly even 8

  • 2 baguettes (plus a few slices of bread for making breadcrumbs if your baguettes are really airy)
  • 1 1/2 lbs. ground meat (I used 1 lb. pork and 1/2 lb. bison)
  • 2 tbsp chopped parsley
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan
  • generous 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 egg
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 3-4 cups tomato sauce (I used the sauce from this post)
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups provolone cheese, shredded

Slice the baguettes almost all the way through, and scrape some of the bread from the insides.  Use a food processor to make breadcrumbs with the scraped-out bread, or use a few slices of sandwich bread if you don’t have much excess in the baguettes.  You’ll need about 1 cup or 1 1/4 cup of breadcrumbs, so scrape out a little more if necessary.

Transfer the breadcrumbs to a large bowl.  Add about 2/3 cup warm water and the rest of the meatball ingredients except for the tomato sauce and cheese.  Mix until everything is evenly distributed, but try to not overwork it.  Form the mixture into golf ball sized meatballs, and set aside on a plate.

Heat a few tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat in a large sauté pan with a lid.  Brown the meatballs in batches, making sure you don’t overcrowd the pan.  They’re pretty fragile, so don’t mess with them more than you have to and add a little more oil if necessary to prevent sticking.  We found that a fish spatula was the best utensil for gently flipping and handling the meatballs.

Once browned, transfer the meatballs to a plate lined with paper towels, and cook the remaining batches.

When all of the meatballs are browned, drain any remaining oil from the pan, and add the tomato sauce.

Return the meatballs to the pan, cover, and simmer on the lowest possible heat for 25-30 minutes, until the meatballs are cooked through.

You might want to stir them occasionally to ensure that they’re cooking evenly.  While the meatballs are simmering, prepare the toppings.

My 3-meatball sandwich with provolone and giardiniera.

Boyfriend’s 6-meatball sandwich with provolone, sautéed onions, and banana peppers.

On the first night of meatball subs, we ate the better part of a baguette.  There were plenty of extra meatballs and I was already looking forward to the leftovers, so I decided during dinner that I needed to make more bread.  I literally ate the last bite of my sandwich, put my plate in the sink, and start making the dough. It was a smart move that resulted in the discovery of my new favorite baguette recipe and three nights in a row of meatball subs.

I guess I’m a meatball sub person after all.