Jan 14, 2019

Meatball Subs with Spicy Beef and Pork Meatballs

Prep Time: 15 mins
Cook Time: 30 mins
It’s Italian-American comfort food at it’s finest with beef meatballs slathered in sauce and broiled until the mozzarella cheese topping melts and oozes down the sides of the meatballs.

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One of my favorite sandwiches is the warm, sloppy, melty, meatball sub (sometimes called a hoagie). It’s Italian-American comfort food at it’s finest with beef meatballs slathered in sauce and broiled until the mozzarella cheese topping melts and oozes down the sides of the meatballs. Coming from New Jersey this was always one of my favorite lunches on cold winter days.

Meatball Subs with Spicy Beef and Pork Meatballs

What’s in a meatball sub?

  • Meatballs
  • Mozzarella cheese
  • Provolone cheese
  • Marinara sauce
  • Rolls
raw spicy beef and pork meatballs ready for oven

What you need to make this recipe

Pork

Ground pork typically comes from minced pork shoulder meat and is incredibly versatile. I like the flavor using both pork and beef adds to the meatball sub recipe.

Beef

I use a blend of 80% lean/ 20% fat ground beef. The fat adds flavor to the meatballs while also keeping them moist. A large portion of the fat renders out as the meatballs cook.

Breadcrumbs

I use plain breadcrumbs rather than Italian in this recipe since the meatballs are seasoned with fresh herbs like oregano and parsley. I love making my own breadcrumbs out of leftover stale bread. Simply add to a food processor or blender and pulse until ground. They can be made ahead of time and stored in an airtight container.

Milk

The breadcrumbs are soaked in milk before they’re added to the meatball mixture to keep them moist as they cook.

Parmesan cheese

The cheese helps to hold meatballs together while adding a flavorful, gooey element.

Seasonings

The meatballs are seasoned with fresh chopped flat-leaf parsley, oregano, Calabrian chilies, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper.

Calabrian chilies

Calabrian chilies are little red Italian chili peppers that pack a punch and once preserved in oil (as used here), they are smoky, salty, fruity and spicy all at the same time. 

Italian rolls

The sub rolls are sliced horizontally and piled with the ingredients. Look for rolls with a crusty exterior. As a result as the bread absorbs some of the sauce without losing its structural integrity and becoming mushy in these meatball subs.

Marinara sauce

The sauce is flexible in this recipe. I use my recipe for marinara sauce. It can easily be made ahead of time and refrigerated until ready to serve with the meatballs. Swap with your favorite store-bought sauce as a shortcut.

Deli-sliced cheese

I use a combination of low-moisture part-skim mozzarella with provolone cheese for a melty layer over the meatballs tossed in sauce. The provolone adds a nutty flavor profile that complements the mild mozzarella cheese.

How to make meatball subs

  1. Mix the meatballs. Add the beef, pork, eggs, breadcrumbs, milk, Parmesan, parsley, oregano, Calabrian chilies, crushed red pepper, salt and pepper to the mixing bowl. Gently combine the mixture with your hands until all ingredients are just incorporated.
  2. Make the meatballs. Roll the mixture into 1½-ounce balls and place on a parchment-paper-lined baking sheet. Bake at 425ºF until golden brown and cooked through. Set meatballs aside until ready to assemble the sandwiches.
  3. Assemble the sandwiches. Working one at a time, spoon warmed sauce into the roll then add three meatballs. Spoon more sauce over the top. Alternate slices of the mozzarella and provolone over the top of the meatballs. Repeat with the remaining rolls and ingredients.
  4. Broil the subs. Move the sandwiches to the oven and broil until the cheese is bubbly and the bread is golden brown. Cut in half and serve immediately.
Meatball Subs with Spicy Beef and Pork Meatballs with melted mozzarella and provolone

Tips for this recipe

  • The trick to building a perfect sub is starting with good meatballs (I use equal parts ground beef and pork in this recipe) then adding them to good rolls of bread.
  • The bread can make or break the sandwich – if it’s too soft then the sauce can cause it to turn mushy fast, and if it’s too hard then you may never even get a bite of the sandwich without a meatball popping out the side.
  • I added Calabrian chilies to the meatballs to add a little spice and flavor in each bite. Calabrian chilies can be found at gourmet markets or online here. It’s one of my favorite ways to kick up the fire in any recipe. Omit if you don’t like spice!
  • The recipe makes more meatballs than you will need for the sandwiches – I like to freeze some for a night when I don’t feel like cooking and reheat as needed.
  • Don’t overwork the meatballs when mixing them with your hands.
Meatball Subs with Spicy Beef and Pork Meatballs recipe from cooking with cocktail rings

Meatball Subs with Spicy Beef and Pork Meatballs

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Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 30 mins
Serves 4 (6-inch) sandwiches (recipe makes about 2½ dozen meatballs).

Ingredients:

For the spicy beef and pork meatballs:

  • 1 pound ground beef 80% lean/ 20% fat
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup plain breadcrumbs
  • ½ cup whole milk
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan
  • 2 tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley
  • 1 tablespoon chopped oregano
  • 2 teaspoons crushed Calabrian chilies in oil
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For assembly:

  • 4 6-inch Italian rolls, sliced horizontally
  • 3 cups marinara sauce of choice, heated
  • 6 slices low-moisture part-skim mozzarella, halved horizontally
  • 6 slices provolone cheese, halved horizontally

Instructions:

For the spicy beef and pork meatballs:

  • Preheat oven to 425ºF.
  • Add the beef, pork, eggs, breadcrumbs, milk, Parmesan, parsley, oregano, Calabrian chilies, crushed red pepper, salt and pepper to the mixing bowl. Gently combine the mixture with your hands until all ingredients are just incorporated.
  • Roll the mixture into 1½-ounce balls (about 1½-inches in diameter) and place on a parchment-paper-lined baking sheet. Bake until golden brown and cooked through, about 20 minutes.
  • Set meatballs aside until ready to assemble the sandwiches.

For assembly:

  • Preheat oven to broil.
  • Working one at a time, spoon ¼ cup sauce into the roll then add three meatballs. Spoon another ¼ to 1/3 cup of sauce over the top and alternate slices of the mozzarella and provolone over the top of the meatballs. Repeat with the remaining rolls and ingredients.
  • Broil until the cheese is bubbly and the bread is golden brown, about 2 minutes. Serve immediately.

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  1. This recipe was easy and delicious! It’s worth it to buy the Calabrian peppers in oil–they added a spicy and flavorful kick but nothing that was overwhelming (even with the extra crushed red pepper). My family loved them! And they were a nice change from the traditional Italian meatballs I tend to make, with heavier spice and more cheese. These were perfect for a meatball sub, and a great dish for casual company–the presentation after broiling was impressive!