My favorite meatball sandwiches come from DiCiccos restaurant in my hometown. I don’t order them anywhere else because I’m always disappointed. I’ve never tried making them at home either. I just wait until I go home to visit and make sure to hit DiCiccos at least once while I’m there. But it’s been a very long time since I’ve been able to enjoy my favorite meatball sandwich and I decided that it’s time to take the matter into my own hands.
I think the key to a good meatball sandwich is the sauce. You’d think it would be the meatballs since that’s the main component of the sandwich but I think if you have a good sauce, decent bread, and right type of cheese, you can get away with a mediocre meatball. Not that I planned to make any mediocre meatballs!
I remembered a pizza sauce recipe that I had tried from one of my favorite cookbooks Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison. The sauce was so simple but it was nice and tangy…perfect for the sandwich I had in mind. Yes, maybe it’s a little ironic that I found the perfect sauce for my MEATball sandwich in a VEGETARIAN cookbook but I really think that you could replace the meat on this sandwich with grilled eggplant or some grilled portabellos and you’d have something just as good!
For the bread, I just purchased the best looking sandwich rolls at the grocery store and for the cheese, I picked up some packaged pre-sliced mozzarella cheese. This is a sandwich that doesn’t need anything fancy. If I had the time, I would have bought bread from a bakery or made my own but the pre-sliced mozzarella was exactly what I wanted.
The meatballs are what intimidated me. I’d never made any type of meatball in my life and I don’t even have much experience with regular meatloaf. So I read all the meatball recipes I could find in my cookbooks (that took a while since I my cookbooks are taking over my house!) and then got started working on my own meatball recipe which was a combination of what I liked from the other recipes.
Once I had a plan as to how this sandwich was going to come together, I started the sauce so that it could simmer and thicken while I was preparing and cooking the meatballs. I decided to make the meatballs extra large since my sandwich rolls were pretty big. I turned one pound of beef into eight meatballs (and these in turn made two enormous sandwiches!). I cooked the meatballs on the stovetop but I think next time I’ll try baking them instead. When the meatballs were almost cooked through, I put them in the sauce and let them simmer until they were finished.
Finally, I loaded each sandwich roll with four big meatballs, covered them with sauce and then put two slices of mozzerella on each. I finished them off under the broiler for a minute to make sure the cheese was completely melted. It turns out that DiCiccos isn’t the only place that can make a decent meatball sandwich But I’ll certainly be going there the next time I visit home anyway!
Here are the recipes:
Tangy Tomato Sauce:
2 T. olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 large can crushed tomatoes
Pinch of salt
fresh ground pepper
1. In a medium saucepan, saute garlic in olive oil for one minute.
2. Add tomatoes, salt and pepper, and cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally until thickened (about 30 minutes).
1 T. butter
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 lb. ground beef
1/2 C. seasoned dried breadcrumbs
1/2 C. fresh-grated parmesan cheese
1/4 C. minced flat-leaf parsley
1 t. salt
a few grinds of fresh black pepper
1. In a small skillet, saute onion in butter until translucent. Add garlic and saute for 30 seconds. Remove from heat.
2. In a medium bowl, combine ground beef with all remaining ingredients, including onion and garlic. Mix well (I use my hands for this).
3. Turn meat mixture out onto a sheet of waxed paper, form into a rectangle and cut into 8 equal pieces. Form each piece into a ball and set aside.
4. Heat a little olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat(I used a 12-inch cast iron skillet) and carefully place the meatballs in the skillet to brown.
5. Carefully give the skillet a shake now and then to keep the meatballs turning in order to brown evenly and keep their round shape. Or, carefully turn meatballs with tongs frequently (I found it easier to shake the pan). Continue cooking for 15 – 20 minutes or until the meatballs are completely brown all over and have almost cooked through (about 160 degrees on an instant-read thermometer).
6. Drain meatballs on paper towels and then transfer to the simmering tomato sauce. Simmer sauce and meatballs together for about 20 minutes or until the internal temperature of the largest meatball reaches 175 degrees.
Monster Meatball Sandwiches for Two
2 large, crusty sandwich rolls, sliced almost through but still connected
8 Monster Meatballs
Tangy Tomato sauce
4 slices mozzerella cheese
1. Lay sandwich rolls open flat on a baking sheet. Place four meatballs on each sandwich.
2. Cover meatballs with tomato sauce.
3. Place 2 slices of cheese on top of each sandwich.
4. Place under broiler just until cheese is melted, not browned.
5. Fold top of roll over the cheese.
Now I have to tell you that these sandwiches are ridiculously big! They were actually a special treat for my husband right before he left for a deployment. Yes, he did polish off his entire sandwich but I didn’t even make it halfway through mine! So, the recipe can easily be changed to make four sandwiches instead of two. Just make 16 small meatballs instead of 8 large ones and then divide them between four sandwich rolls. There should be plenty of sauce for four sandwiches.