14 October 2011

Italian Meatball Sandwiches - Comfort Food on a Roll

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

(Serves 4)

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

The Sauce

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

The Sandwich

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!


Thomas "Sully" Sullivan said...

Is that meatball on the left represented by an agent yet? That's the most seductive pose by a meatball I've ever seen (and it's not like I don't have any experience, you know). Barely wearing any cheese at all, but what it's wearing is so seductively arrayed with that split seam and carelessly draped folds. A real wanton. And I want-one…or three or six or ten! Anyway, run my offer past your model, will you? My…(y)um, bite out of the proceeds will be the usual…(y)um, 10 percent.

ZipZip said...

Dear Jean,

Yum! For some reason this looked so especially good today that I sat right up.

Am asking the boys -- grown and not grown -- if this suits for dinner tonight :}

Very best,


Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Sully, I'm afraid an agent can't help that meatball now! He didn't stick around for long! :D

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Thanks, Natalie! I hope your boys will enjoy the sandwich as much as mine did.

Sippity Sup said...

a sandwich like this is always delicious, but a sandwich like this made from the ground up, it a special special treat. GREG

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Greg, thank you! Yes, I do feel like I'm having a special treat when I sit down to a homemade meatball sandwich.

Charles said...

I've always found the idea of meatballs in sandwiches a curious one. I love meatballs, and sandwiches (boy do I love sandwiches) - just, something about meatballs inside seems odd. I think it's because meatballs are inconveniently sized and I have bad memories of taking a bite of a meatball sub and all the round meatballs shooting out of the end :p Still, these look beautiful, and it's definitely something I'd eat at home with a knife and fork - gotta save myself from the trauma of further meatball spillage!

Unknown said...

One of my all time favorite sandwiches!! Mmmm... and the picture looks amazing! I wish I could reach in my computer, grab it and take a bite :)

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Charles, thanks for your comment. I know exactly what you mean! That's why I make my meatballs a bit smaller than most AND flatten them slightly. I assure you the sandwich is very easy to eat when done my way. But usually I eat a meatball sandwich with a knife and fork anyway, just to be on the safe side!

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Thanks so much, Jenn! I'm really enjoying taking pictures of food. Much more than I ever would have imagined.

Dixie Caviar said...

I think my boyfriend would definitely approve of these meatball sandwiches (and he's a tough one to please). These will be a perfect winter meal; can't wait to try!

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Thanks, Nealey! Let me know how they turn out for you. Hope your bf likes them!

Karen Burns Booth said...

Thanks for sharing this luscious looking sarnie over at L and L - I DO love a good meatball sandwich! Karen

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Karen, thank you! I'd love to make one for you!

Random Musings said...

These look and sound delicious - great idea to flatten the meatballs slightly so there's less risk of them rolling out!
Thanks for linking up to #AnythingGoes :)

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Thank you, Debbie. And it makes the sandwich easier to eat.