Chris Cooks

Meatballs, Sauce, and a Little Something Called the Meatball Hoagie

December 4, 2014

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Jules shared a pic on Instagram of some meatball hoagies I made a couple weeks ago. At least two of you requested the recipe, so… I’m gonna share it… Pardon the crappy pics, I wasn’t planning on posting about this so they’re just from my phone.

Meatball Hoagies

This post is really three parts. The first part is meatballs, second is the sauce and third is tips for assembling the sandwich (yes, it matters). Each part can be taken on its own and used in other ways (especially the meatballs – this meatball recipe is pretty slammin’), so do what you will with the information ahead.

Meatballs
• 2lbs lean ground beef (minimally 93/7)
note: you can use ground turkey, but you’ll want to skip the Worcestershire and use 2/3 cup bread crumbs instead of 1/2 cup
• 1/4 yellow onion, minced
• 1/2 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
• 2 egg yolks
• 2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley
• 2 tsp garlic powder
• 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce (seems out of place, I realize. but it totally works)
• 2 tsp kosher salt
• 1 tsp black pepper
• 1/4 tsp ground allspice

First thing to do, cover a baking sheet with tin foil and put it in a 400 degree oven to heat up. While that’s heating, put all your ingredients in a mixing bowl and mix together with your hands. Some cooks use stand mixers or even food processors. I’m not keen on that, because it often turns the meat into mush and you’re basically left eating dog food. And even when mixing with your hands it’s easy to over-mix in an effort to get everything distributed evenly. I find the best technique to be more of a poke action than squeezing. The key is just to poke and mix it with fairly open hands – no making fists and squeezing the meat through your fingers. Once mixed together, let it sit at room temp until your pan has heated in the oven for at least 10 minutes from the time it reaches 400.

Remove the pan from the oven (close the door quickly to prevent heat loss) and coat lightly with a little cooking oil. I try to be as sparing as I can with oil on these, because you don’t want the excess oil ending up in your sauce and turning it greasy. Using your hands, roll the meat into balls about the size of a golfball or a little smaller and place each ball on the lightly (but evenly) greased baking sheet. Bake at 400 for about 15 minutes, then broil on high for 2 minutes or so to develop some browning on the top of the meatballs.

Tomato Sauce
This tomato sauce is slightly different from my regular spaghetti sauce because a meatball hoagie does best (imo) with a more smooth sauce, as opposed to chunky.
• 1/2 yellow onion, minced
• 3-4 large garlic cloves, minced
• 1 Tbsp Italian seasoning
• 2 28oz cans of tomato puree (not paste, not sauce, not crushed tomatoes – tomato puree)
• Juice from 1/2 an orange
• 1-2 tsp sugar
• 1 tsp black pepper
• kosher salt TT
• cooking oil

Heat a medium-sized pot (preferably one with a glass lid) on medium-low heat on the stove top. Once heated, add about 1 Tbsp of cooking oil and the yellow onion. Sauté for 1 minute, then add the garlic and stir, sautéing for another 30 seconds. Add the Italian seasoning and mix again, sautéing for yet another minute. Add the tomato puree, orange juice, sugar, pepper and salt, stir and bring to a simmer. This sauce bubbles quite a bit and spits red bits of molten liquid on anyone within a few feet, so use a lid.

Free piece of info: when you cover a sauce as it cooks, if there are onions or other veggies in it it will become more liquid as the moisture from the veggies is released into the sauce because the lid traps it in. If you cook the same sauce with the lid off, it will become more liquid initially but will quickly begin to thicken and reduce. If you’re gonna simmer this sauce for a long time, keep the lid on. Short time (an hour or less), put the lid on crooked so it let’s steam escape, but blocks most of the bubbling. The more you know.

Bringing them together
Make the meatballs first, then make the sauce while the meatballs cook. After the meatballs are done, remove them from the heat and let them cool for about 10 minutes. Add the meatballs to the sauce, making sure to discard as much of the coagulated grossness that leached from the meatballs while baking as you can (too much of that stuff can ruin your sauce pretty quick). Let the meatballs simmer in the sauce for 1 hour, taste the sauce and adjust seasonings as needed. The reason you let the meatballs cook before adjusting the sauce seasoning is because the meatballs have their own flavors and salt levels. As they cook, they season the sauce and it takes about an hour to know what the sauce will actually taste like.

The Sandwich
• 20-25 fresh basil leaves, chopped
• 6 hoagie rolls
• 6 slices of provolone cheese
• extra virgin olive oil
• meatballs and sauce from above

Lay your hoagie rolls open-faced on a baking sheet, and drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil. Broil on high until toasted, and remove from the oven and turn the oven off (more on why this is important later). I pretoast the hoagie rolls because I find it slows the sauce from soaking through the bread. Assemble sandwiches like so:

Meatball Hoagies

Cute little half-hoagie, right? Turns out, that wasn’t necessary since Greta ate that and another full hoagie after.

Meatball Hoagies

Why put the basil down first, you ask? Great question. For one, it acts as a barrier between the sauce and bun, keeping the toasted texture in tact longer. For two, the warm sauce draws the oils from the basil, along with a bunch of flavor. Fresh herbs are best added to sauces at the last minute, because their flavor is best for about 30 minutes after hitting the heat.

Once you put the cheese on, put the sheet of sandwiches back in the oven. The reason it was important to turn the oven off earlier is because if you put the hoagies back under a hot broiler, the perfectly toasted parts will become imperfectly burnt. Since you turned off the oven, the bread won’t burn, but the residual heat will melt the cheese perfectly.

This is a great recipe for this time of year, especially when served with a salad of arugula, lightly tossed in garlic oil and topped with pomegranate seeds, salt and pepper. Hope you enjoy and, if you decide to make it, be sure to come back and tell me how you made it yours.

Later Sk8er.

What do you think?

  1. Therese says:

    I have never had a meatball sub that I liked so I am not sure what drew me to this one but I made them last night and I loved them! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Yum! This sounds so good. I’m embarrassed to say that I used to be practically addicted to Subway’s meatball sub. Now, I have a good homemade version to try.

  3. Lisa says:

    I’m fairly certain that I need these – now! They look so delicious that I’m not even going to complain about a meatball sandwich being called a hoagie. ;) Thanks for the recipe!

  4. Gabrielle says:

    This looks so tasty. Really glad you shared. Also really appreciate the explanation of why you did what you did. Great for learning.

    • Chris says:

      You bet. I always wonder why cooks do certain things, myself. Knowing the “why” helps me apply it to other stuff in the future.

  5. Shauna says:

    Thank you so much for posting this recipe! I was one of the ones who requested it on Instagram. You have amazing food – I may have been pegged as a cooking genius for making your Thanksgiving rolls two years in a row & most recently your apple cider pork for a fall party we had – everything I’ve ever made from your recipes has been a huge hit! Can’t wait to try this sandwich out; my husband is always trying to get me to make ‘simpler’ food, & this sounds right up his alley!

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