14 October 2011
Italian meatball sandwiches make a great cool-weather meal. Meatballs and sauce freeze well, so make a double batch whenever you have time and freeze half for another cool evening when you want something warm and comforting but don't have the time or energy to cook. If you're like me, you might have the energy to cook but not to clean up (My husband sometimes calls me The Black Tornado - a reference to an old commercial for a cleaning product nicknamed The White Tornado).
BTW - I know, I know ... meatballs two weeks in a row. What can I say, I'm on a meatball kick. But Italian meatballs are entirely different from Mexican meatball soup!
I like to use fresh herbs when I have them, but developed this recipe with dried herbs so that it could be what I call a Pantry Meal - a meal I can make from what's always on hand rather than having to make a grocery run.
How many sandwiches this recipe makes depends on what size rolls you get. Today the bakery had some crusty French rolls that were just under four inches, so I put two meatballs on each one; so I could make eleven sandwiches. If they'd had the rolls that are just under six inches, I would have put three meatballs on each and made seven sandwiches. (Ooh, the math, my brain is smokin'!) Though I usually aim for perfectly round meatballs, when making them for a sandwich I like to flatten them out slightly.
Some people put the meatballs straight into the sauce, but I like to brown them first, get a nice crust on them before simmering them in the sauce. But if you do it the other way, that's okay too.
Italian Meatball Sandwiches
The Meatballs (Makes 22)
2 slices good white bread, crusts removed, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/4 cup milk
1 large egg
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan
1 1/2 teaspoons very finely minced shallot
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1 tablespoon dried parsley flakes
1/4 teaspoon basil
1/4 teaspoon oregano
Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
1 pound very lean ground beef
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup very finely shredded carrot
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes (Muir Glen organic fire roasted)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1 tablespoon dried parsley flakes
3/4 teaspoon basil
3/4 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Crusty French rolls or homemade buns
Thinly-sliced Provolone cheese
1 In medium bowl, combine bread and milk and let stand a few minutes before mashing to a paste with a fork. Add remaining meatball ingredients, except ground beef and olive oil, in the order given. Using hands, mix in the ground beef until everything is well combined. Chill in refrigerator for at least an hour, or in freezer for 5 minutes or so, to make mixture easier to handle.
2 Roll #40 scoops of meatball mixture with both hands to form meatballs. (First I scoop all of the meatball mixture and then roll all the meatballs.)
3 In 12-inch skillet*, heat olive oil. Brown the meatballs in two batches, rolling them around, browning on all sides. Remove to a plate or bowl.
4 In same skillet, cook onion for a few minutes, add in shredded carrot, and then stir in crushed tomatoes, scraping up brown bits in the pan. Add remaining sauce ingredients. Bring just to a boil, then reduce heat. Add meatballs to sauce. Simmer, covered, for 30 minutes. Sauce should be quite thick; you don't want a soggy sandwich.
5 Split rolls and line each with thin slices of Provolone. That's another thing that will prevent sogginess. Much better than putting the cheese on top. Heat the sandwiches in preheated oven, toaster oven or broiler just enough to melt the cheese.
* I love my All-Clad 5112 Stainless 12-Inch Fry Pan!