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.
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.
Next, what to layer atop the meatballs:
*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
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
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
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
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.