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Meatball Subs


a meatball sub cut in half, looking at the crosssection

If you didn't know this already, my company name (after I put Fidel Gastro's to rest) is Meatball Warrior Inc. Don't ask me how the name came to me, but, I am Italian after all. When I had my restaurant, Bar Lisa Marie, every Wednesday night we had a spaghetti and meatballs special. I want to think that the half price bottles of wine was only part of the reason why people loved our Wednesday specials so much, and that the promise of spaghetti and meatballs was really the driving force. Then, a couple of years ago, mid-pandemic, and over a year after I sold Lisa Marie, I was part of a collaboration with Stackt market here in Toronto, where I was part of their food program at their brewery and patio. Cue Meatball Warrior coming to life in a new way - we served up meatball subs and other Italian-inspired sandwiches and side dishes like burrata fries for the summer. It was a huge hit. I made a lot, like a lot a lot of meatballs and meatball subs. All this is to say, that this in theory makes me the unofficial connoisseur of making the perfect meatball and therefore meatball sub. And I'm sharing my recipe with you. This version is extra tasty because there is the added flavour from cooking over live-fire on the Alchemy, but, you can definitely still make this recipe on the stove or in the oven. Just however you make them, please, please, don't forget to sear your meatballs before you cook them in your sauce. If you want to find out how to make my famous Meatball Subs, keep reading, or jump to the full recipe.


milk being poured into a bowl of white bread

Cut the crust off of the white bread and place in a bowl. Add milk and let it soften a couple of minutes.


the bowl of white bread and milk being broken up with a fork

Once the bread has softened, mix together and break it up with a fork or spoon until it forms a kind of paste.


mixing the meatball ingredients by hand

In a large bowl, add all the ground meat, 2 tbsp chopped fresh basil, salt, pepper, 1/2 cup parm and mix with hands.


the meatballs rolled into the proper size on a sheet pan with parchment paper

Add in eggs and mix again, then breadcrumbs and mix well again. Roll into 12, 2 oz meatballs.


the meatballs being seared in a cast iron pan with a bit of oil

Place a cast iron pan on the elevated grill rack, add about an inch of canola oil and heat it up. Sear the meatballs on both sides, then set them aside once done.


the seared meatballs being placed in a pan of red sauce

Place a sauce pan on the elevated grill rack, add in 1-2 tbsp oil and let it heat up. Add the garlic, cook 1-2 minutes until fragrant, mixing so it doesn’t burn. Add in the jar of passata then place the meatballs down.


butter being added to the pan of meatballs and red sauce

Add about a cup of water to the passata jar, shake to get all the sauce of the sides of the jar, then pour the water into the saucepan with the meatballs, until they are almost covered. Add the butter to the sauce. Cover and bring to a simmer. Allow to cook about 2 hours, mixing occasionally.


grilled onions on the plancha

Slice the onion into rounds and place on the grill with oil. Cook until golden and softened, flipping midway.


chopped basil being added to mayo in a small bowl

Chop about 1 tbsp fresh basil. Drizzle with oil and chop more. Add zest from one lemon and chop to combine. In a small bowl, add the basil to the mayo and mix.


slices of provolone cheese being added to the plancha

Cut the slices of provolone in half, place on the plancha grill. Cut the buns in half, keep them connected on one side, and toast on the grill.


fresh parm being sprinkled over the meatballs

 Sprinkle the finished meatballs with more grated parm.


the grilled provolone cheese being placed on top of the grilled onions on the sub buns with basil mayo

Spread the basil mayo onto the buns and add the grilled onions. Once the cheese is melted and crispy/golden on the bottom, place on top of the onions.


parmesan cheese being sprinkled on top of the meatballs in the sub buns

Add three meatballs per bun and spoon on extra sauce on top. Sprinkle with more grated parm.


fresh arugula being added to the meatball subs

Top each sandwich with fresh arugula. Wrap the sandwich in parchment paper to keep it all together, then cut it in half.


And now for the full recipe...


Meatball Subs

Makes 4 sandwiches

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 2 hours, 10 minutes

Total Time: 2 hours, 25 minutes


Ingredients:

1/2 lb ground beef

1/2 lb ground pork

1/2 lb ground veal

3 slices white bread

1/2 cup milk

1 cup seasoned breadcrumbs

Salt

Pepper

2 eggs

3 tbsp fresh basil, divided

1/2 cup grated parm, plus extra for garnish

1 jar passata

2 cloves garlic, grated

1 cup water

3 tbsp butter

4 thick-cut slices provolone cheese

1/2 white onion

Zest from 1 lemonn

2 tbsp mayo

4 sub buns

Fresh arugula


How to Make the Best Meatball Subs


Cut the crust off of the white bread and place in a bowl. Add milk and let it soften a couple of minutes, then mix together and break up the bread with a fork or spoon.


In a large bowl, add all the ground meat, 2 tbsp chopped fresh basil, salt, pepper, 1/2 cup parm and mix with hands. Add in eggs and mix again, then breadcrumbs and mix well again. Roll into 12, 2 oz meatballs.


Place a cast iron pan on the elevated grill rack, add about an inch of canola oil and heat it up. Sear the meatballs on both sides, then set them aside once done.


Place a sauce pan on the elevated grill rack, add in 1-2 tbsp oil and let it heat up. Add the garlic, cook 1-2 minutes until fragrant, mixing so it doesn’t burn. Add in the jar of passata then place the meatballs down. Add about a cup of water to the passata jar, shake to get all the sauce of the sides of the jar, then pour the water into the saucepan with the meatballs, until they are almost covered. Add the butter to the sauce. Cover and bring to a simmer. Allow to cook about 2 hours, mixing occasionally.


Slice the onion into rounds and place on the grill with oil. Cook until golden and softened, flipping midway.


Chop about 1 tbsp fresh basil. Drizzle with oil and chop more. Add zest from one lemon and chop to combine. In a small bowl, add the basil to the mayo and mix.


Cut the slices of provolone in half, place on the plancha grill. Cut the buns in half, keep them connected on one side, and toast on the grill. Sprinkle the finished meatballs with more grated parm. Spread the basil mayo onto the buns and add the grilled onions. Once the cheese is melted and crispy/golden on the bottom, place on top of the onions. Add three meatballs per bun and spoon on extra sauce on top. Sprinkle with more grated parm.


Top each bun with fresh arugula. Wrap the sandwich in parchment paper to keep it all together, then cut it in half.


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Matt Basile

MEET THE CHEF

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Chef Matt Basile is the founder of the Toronto-based street food brand, Fidel Gastro's, which, within four years, went from an underground sandwich pop-up to an internationally recognized food brand. Now almost a decade later, Matt has a still growing business of food experiences, restaurant consulting and new and exciting foodie-filled projects on the way. Matt always strives to be different in an industry steeped in tradition. Matt is also the author of the best-selling cookbooks Street Food Diaries and Brunch Life, and was the host of the travel food show Rebel Without a Kitchen for two seasons. More here!

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