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Marvelous Meatball Sandwiches

Fan-freakin’-tastic.

I’ve never heard those words out of my husband’s mouth before.  Until I served him this meatball sub sandwich.

It all started with a quest to find the perfect lunch for an upcoming youth camp (click on the link to check out the fun pics and recipes from last year’s camp!) for our church’s young men and young women.  I wanted some kind of sandwich we could assemble from pre-made components.  Often, for these events I pick up some pre-made sub sandwiches from Wal-Mart.  Not bad, but I was looking for much better.   I’m pretty sure we’ve found it.  This meatball sub sandwich recipe requires minimal last minute prep and it’s outrageously good.   This is also a good choice if you’re looking for a dinner to take to someone.  You can provide them the components and they can enjoy them at their own schedule.

Make Ahead Meatballs

This recipe uses my Make Ahead Meatballs .  You’ll love this meatball recipe.   It’s incredibly versatile.   A big plus is that the meatballs bake in the oven.  This not only keeps them from breaking up as you’re trying to brown them, it frees you to do other tasks (besides nursing burnt fingers from turning the meatballs in the scorching hot pan!).    It’s the only way I cook meatballs anymore.

You have many options with these make-ahead meatballs.  I’ve tried each and they all work very well:

  • You can bake the meatballs the day before.  To reheat, simply add the meatballs and the sauce to a pot and heat until sauce is simmering, or
  • You can assemble the unbaked meatballs up to 4 months in advance and freeze the the unbaked meatballs on a baking sheet covered with plastic wrap.  Once the meatballs are frozen, just transfer them to several heavy duty plastic freezer bags. To cook, place the frozen meatballs in a 475 degree oven and bake for 25 – 30 minutes or until heated through, or
  • You can simply freeze the cooked meatballs on a baking sheet covered with plastic wrap.  Once the meatballs are frozen, just transfer them to several heavy duty plastic freezer bags for up to 4 months.  To reheat, simply add the meatballs and the sauce to a pot and heat until sauce is simmering and the meatballs are cooked through.

Regardless of which method you choose, you end up with lovely meatballs.  I wished you could smell these.  They taste every bit as good as they look!

Best Buns

I generally don’t like Hoagie sandwiches.  For one thing, there’s almost always too much bread for the amount of filling.  Secondly, the bread doesn’t usually add much to the over all experience.   Fortunately, there’s an easy fix for both these shortcomings:

  • Reduce the bread-to-filling ratio by removing some of the bread to leave about 1/2 inch to 1 inch of top bun and 1/2 inch to 1 inch of bottom bun.  You can use the bread removed in the meatball recipe below if you wish.

 

  • Next coat the cut sides of each bun in lots of garlic butter and griddle them or place them under a broiler until they are golden brown.

Easy Sauce

I have an out-of-this-world old family Northern Italian Spaghetti Sauce recipe which I’ll happily share with you sometime, but this Meatball Sub Sandwich recipe is all about keepin it easy.  I simply buy a jar of my favorite spaghetti sauce (Prego Three Cheese) and then I unashamedly CHEAT.  To turn a plain store-bought sauce into something swoon-worthy, all you have to do is liberally scrape the drippings from the meatball pan into the sauce.  Trust me.  It works like magic.  You’ll want about this much sauce per sandwich:

Your Make-Ahead Sub Sandwich Game Plan

  • Once you’ve toasted your Hoagie buns, place both halves of loaf bun back together.  Wrap buns in foil or plastic wrap. Place buns and mozzarella cheese in a 1-gallon freezer bag.
  • When meatballs are finished cooking, place meatballs and sauce in a 1-gallon freezer bag. Freeze meatballs, sauce and buns for up to 4 months.
  • When ready to cook: Place frozen buns and cheese on the countertop,  Bread won’t spoil at room temperature, so you can thaw your Hoagie buns easily by simply removing them from the freezer and setting them on the counter, covered with the plastic wrap, so they don’t dry out as they defrost.  A single bun should thaw out in about 15 to 20 minutes. A full bag of buns will require about 45 minutes.
  • Finally, add the meatballs and the sauce to a pot and heat until sauce is simmering and the meatballs are heated through.
  • Assemble Sandwiches per the recipe below and serve.

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Meatball Sub Sandwiches - Freezer Meal
Prep Time
30 mins
Cook Time
20 mins
Total Time
50 mins
 

This is a wonderful make ahead Freezer Meal.  It's the perfect sandwich for a hungry crowd.

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Servings: 12 sandwiches
Author: Betsy Edwards
Ingredients
For the Sandwiches:
  • 36 meatballs See recipe below
  • 1 (24 ounce) jar spaghetti sauce (I use Prego Three Cheese)
  • 12 slices provolone cheese
  • 2 (6 count) packages Hoagie Buns
  • 2 sticks softened butter (16 tablespoons total)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons garlic salt
Special Equipment if Making and Freezing
  • (1 gallon-size) freezer bags
For the Meatballs (makes 36 medium-small meatballs)
  • 2 cups breadcrumbs made from white sandwich bread crusts removed, bread torn into pieces
  • 2 eggs
  • 2/3 cup milk - whole
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon oregano - ground
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 onion - diced
  • 3 garlic cloves - minced
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 ½ pounds ground beef - 90% lean
  • ½ pound sweet Italian sausage (do not use hot), casings removed
  • cooking spray
Instructions
  1. Assemble meatballs following instructions below.

  2. While meatballs are baking, slice hoagies in half lengthwise. To reduce the amount of bread proportionate to the meatballs, if necessary remove another ½ inch or so from each cut side, so thickness of each bun half is 1 1/2 inch. You can remove some of the bottom bun to form a ‘canoe’ like shape to better hold the meatballs. Combine butter and garlic salt. Generously spread butter on cut of each bun.
  3. To serve, heat meatballs and sauce in a pan on medium high heat until hot.
  4. Place buns, cut side up, under broiler. Broil until golden brown. Set bun tops aside.
  5. Place 3 meatballs on each bottom bun and ladle sauce over meatballs. Place 1 slice of provolone cheese on top of sauce. Place sandwich (open face without top bun) under broiler until cheese is melted.
  6. Place top bun on sandwich and serve.
MAKE AHEAD NOTE: Place both halves of toasted bun back together. Wrap buns in foil or plastic wrap. Place buns and mozzarella cheese in 1 gallon freezer bags. When meatballs are finished cooking, freeze on a baking sheet then transfer frozen meatballs in 1 gallon freezer bag. Freeze meatballs and buns for up to 4 months. When ready to cook: Place frozen garlic bread, meatballs and mozzarella in refrigerator to thaw until ready to eat.
To Make the Meatballs:
  1. Spray a large rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray
  2. Pre-heat oven to 475 degrees
  3. Tear bread into rough chunks and pulse in the food processor until reduced to fine crumbs.
  4. In a large bowl, whisk eggs and milk and seasonings. Stir in garlic and onion. Add breadcrumbs and Parmesan. Stir to combine.
  5. Add ground beef and Italian sausage meat (make sure you discard the sausage casing). Gently combine mixture with your hands, working the mixture into golf-ball size balls uniform in size (so they cook at the same time). The light touch of your hands will incorporate all of the ingredients without crushing the meat. You don't want to over-mix into a paste, instead make sure full pieces of ground meat are still visible. Makes 35 - 36 meatballs
  6. Place the balls on a large rimmed baking sheet as you work.
  7. Bake at 475 degrees F for 20 minutes until no longer pink inside (160 degrees internal temperature).
  8. Remove from oven and when cooled slightly remove meatballs from sheet. Pour grease off sheet and scrape browned meatball bits into the spaghetti sauce.

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