Meatball Subs

After a long, dark, cold, snowy–did I say “long?”–winter, the sun has finally broke through the clouds and we are emerging from hibernation. Sprouting daffodils are a welcomed pop of color and buds on the trees promise good things to come.

This is the time of year when my itch to entertain returns (or maybe that’s hay fever?) and in my world, more often than not, that means having one, two or even seven families over for a casual supper.

It was in this laid back spirit that after our first lacrosse practice of the season, we had our good friends over for dinner. The kids rolled in wielding sticks, wearing muddy cleats and sporting hearty appetites which I was determined to satisfy with a make-ahead meal that would please everyone. The solution…Meatball Subs or sandwiches or hoagies or grinders or torpedos–depending on from where you hail.

I love entertaining with these sandwiches because not only are they a crowd pleaser but the meatballs can be made well in advance. As a matter of fact, I try to keep my freezer stocked with a ziplock bag of them that I can defrost as one big batch or several smaller ones. Best yet, the defrosting takes place in the sauce which also can be made in advance or just before serving. In a pinch, you could even use a good jarred sauce (I am partial to Rao’s Marinara). Another option is to freeze the meatballs in the sauce but you’d need some room in your freezer and for me freezer space is always at a premium.

Once you have the meatballs and sauce, you’ll only need to pick up some soft 6-inch rolls with a nice crust and fresh mozzarella. Pair the subs with your favorite salad and ta da, dinner is served. Enjoy!

Meatball Sub

Meatball Sandwich

Meatball Sandwiches
Serves 8
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For the meatballs
  1. 1 medium onion, peeled and minced
  2. olive oil
  3. 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  4. 1 lb ground beef (not too lean, I use 85/15)
  5. 1 lb ground pork
  6. 3 large eggs
  7. 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  8. 1/2 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
  9. 1 to 2 Tbls chopped fresh basil and/or oregano
  10. 2 tsp salt
  11. freshly ground black pepper
  12. 2 cups dried breadcrumbs
  13. 3/4 cup milk
  14. Additional salt and black pepper, for seasoning the onions
For the tomato sauce
  1. 2 medium onions, peeled and minced
  2. olive oil
  3. 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  4. 2-28 oz cans crushed tomatoes, ideally San Marzano
  5. 1 Tbls tomato paste
  6. 1 1/2 tsp salt
  7. 1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  8. 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  9. one bay leaf
  10. 1 tsp sugar
  11. Fresh mozzarella cheese
  12. Crusty Italian or French bread
To make the meatballs
  1. Sauté the onion in some olive oil in a large skillet, seasoning with a bit of salt and black pepper, stirring frequently, until the onions start to wilt. Add the garlic, and cook until the onions are completely soft and translucent. Remove from heat, scrape into a large bowl, and let cool to room temperature.
  2. To the bowl, add the ground beef and pork, the eggs, cheese, parsley, herbs, 2 teaspoons salt, a few generous turns of black pepper, breadcrumbs, and milk. Use your hands to mix everything together thoroughly.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper, or grease them with olive oil.
  4. Form meatballs approximately the size of unshelled walnuts, and place them evenly spaced apart on the baking sheets. Bake the meatballs for 15 minutes, then remove from the oven.
  5. Either set meatballs aside to cool before placing in a resealable plastic bag to refrigerate or freeze or slide them into the tomato sauce.
For the tomato sauce
  1. Sauté the two minced onions in a good pour of olive oil in a Dutch oven or very large saucepan, seasoning them with a bit of salt and a few generous turns of black pepper, stirring frequently – until the onions start to wilt. Add the garlic and cook until the onions are completely soft and translucent,
  2. Add the canned tomatoes, the tomato paste, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, dried oregano, red pepper flakes, the bay leaf and the sugar, and let simmer for 10 to 12 minutes over low heat, stirring occasionally. If you like a smooth sauce, remove the bay leaf and puree in the pot with an immersion blender. Set aside to cool and store for later or just add the meatballs to be warmed through.
To assemble the sandwiches
  1. Take crusty French or Italian bread, cut it open almost all the way through. Put 4-5 meatballs in each sandwich, pressing down with a fork to meld them with the bread. Top with some extra sauce, if desired, and slices of cheese. Heat in a hot oven (about 400F), or under a broiler, until the cheese melts.
  2. Serve with plenty of napkins!
Adapted from David Lebovitz
Adapted from David Lebovitz
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