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TIP OF THE DAY: Gourmet Meatball Sub

Nice enough, but you can make a meatball
sub that soars to new heights. Photo
courtesy Earl of Sandwich.

 

As popular as meatball submarine sandwiches are, they’re pretty ho-hum. Even if you make the tastiest meatballs and marinara sauce, there’s still room for improvement.

Today‘s tip: Play around with different ingredients until you create your meatball sub masterpiece. You can turn the search into a build-your-own party buffet for the Final Four, Memorial Day, Father’s Day or just because it’s party time.

Your first decision: what to put in the meatballs (a basic meatball recipe is below). Every ingredient counts, as does the quality of the meat and cheese.

  • Meat: beef, chicken, pork, pork-beef blend, turkey or vegetarian.
  • Meatball filling: bread crumbs or rice, onion, garlic, heat (crushed red pepper flakes, minced jalapeno), herbs (chopped parsley and/or cilantro, rosemary, thyme).
  • Cheese: Argentine Sardo, grated Asiago, cotija, grana padano, Parmesan/Parmigiano Reggiano*, Pecorino Romano, Sbrinz or other hard cheese.
  •  

    Next decision: bread and toppings. Beyond the supermarket-variety “hero rolls,” consider:

  • Bread: baguette, garlic bread made on long rolls, semolina rolls…or think outside the elongated shape and pick up any good rolls offered by local bakers.
  •  
    Next, what to layer atop the meatballs:

  • Cheese: crumbled goat cheese, shredded Gruyère or mozzarella (room temperature or melted under the broiler), grated Parmesan/Parmigiano Reggiano, sliced Provolone or Fontina.
  • Greens: arugula, shredded lettuce.
  • Heat: cracked red pepper, pickled or sliced fresh jalapeños (in addition to what you may have put into the meatball mix).
  • Herbs: chopped fresh basil, cilantro, parsley; dried oregano.†
  • Sauce: marinara, mushroom gravy, Parmesan cream sauce (recipe below), pesto, spicy Bolognese.
  • Garnishes: bacon strips, beans, caramelized onions, giardiniera, fried egg, sliced gherkins or other pickles, mashed potatoes, onion rings, sliced olives, sliced tomatoes.
  •  
    *The difference: The product called Parmigiano Reggiano can only be made from local milk in the Emilia Romagna region of Italy, where it is carefully monitored for quality by a supervising consortium. The related product made in the U.S. is called Parmesan. More about Parmigiano Reggiano.

    †Oregano is the exception to the rule: It tastes as good fresh or dried.

     

    You can also elect to “go global” with creations like these (and others that spring from your mind):

  • Greek Meatball Sub: dilled lamb meatballs with crumbled feta and yogurt sauce.
  • Indian Meatball Sub: curried lamb meatballs (add almonds and raisins), grated paneer cheese and raita sauce.
  • Hawaiian Meatball Sub: pork meatballs, sliced ham, pineapple slices, sweet gherkins.
  •  
    EASY MEATBALL TEMPLATE

    Ingredients

  • 1-1/2 pounds ground meat or poultry
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1 cup Italian bread crumbs or panko
  • 1 medium onion, chopped fine
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves, chopped
  •  

    A glamorous and flavorful chicken meatball sub. Photo by Jill Chen | IST.

  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT oven to 450°F.

    2. PLACE ground meat in a large mixing bowl and with your knuckles or a large wooden spoon, punch a well into the center of meat. Fill the well with all of the other ingredients. Mix all ingredients until well combined.

    3. DIVIDE mix into 4 parts, and divide each part into 4 meatballs. Place on a nonstick or parchment-lined baking sheet and roast for 12 minutes. Cut one meatball open to check doneness.
     

    EASY PARMESAN SAUCE RECIPE

    Ingredients

  • 8 ounces cream cheese, cubed
  • 1/2 cup quality grated Parmesan or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 dash ground nutmeg
  • 1 dash pepper or more to taste
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  •  
    Preparation

    1. MICROWAVE cream cheese, milk and cheese on medium (50%) for 6-8 minutes or until sauce is smooth. Stir every 2 minutes.

    3. BLEND in seasonings. Serve.

      





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