Sunday, October 21, 2012

Italian Meatball Subs

Lately, I've been hearing radio commercials for Firehouse Subs' meatball subs. Their advertising must be working, because, for the last week, I've been CRAVING meatball subs. This in itself is odd, since I've never been a big meatball sub eater. Not that I don't LIKE meatball subs, just more than I usually go for something like a big oily Italian sub covered in olives and banana peppers. 

I could have gone to Subway and gotten a meatball sub, but, honestly, I HAAAAATE Subway. There's something about the way Subway SMELLS that turns my stomach (I know, it's the bread baking, but something about it smells kinda like vomit). I also could have gone down to Firehouse Subs, but I decided that I could just make my own. 

Now, I COULD have taken a shortcut and bought some premade frozen meatballs, a jar of spaghetti sauce, and some sliced cheese & bread from the Publix deli, but I decided I needed to make the meatballs from scratch. After all, I already make my Swedish Meatballs from scratch! 

The smallest packages of ground veal and ground pork I could find at the store were for 1 pound. So, I bought extra beef, measured out the remaining ground veal and pork, and combined everything to future meatball-making. Now, I have two bags in the freezer of "meatball blend"; later on, all I'll have to do is thaw the meat, add the other ingredients, and make more meatballs. I could have just made more meatballs and frozen them on their own (they do freeze REALLY well), but, honestly, I didn't have enough eggs. Oh well. 

Italian Meatball Subs
adapted from The Newlywed Kitchen via Use Real Butter

1 cup day-old white bread, cubed (crusts removed)
1/4 cup whole milk
1/3 lb ground veal
1/3 lb ground pork
3/4 lb ground beef (don't go too lean on these - shoot for 80/20)
1 egg, room temperature
1/3 cup grated Parmesan or Pecorino cheese
2 cloves garlic, finely minced or grated
3 Tbsp chopped parsley
1 tsp dried oregano
3/4 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 pinch red pepper flakes
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Tomato Sauce (You can also use store-bought):
3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 cup diced sweet onion
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 28oz can crushed tomatoes (do not drain)
3 Tbsp tomato paste
3/4 cup torn fresh basil
4 hoagie rolls, unsliced
8oz fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced

Prepare the meatballs: Soak the bread cubes in the milk for 5-10 minutes. In a large bowl, combine the soaked bread, veal, pork, beef, egg, Parmesan/Pecorino, garlic, parsley, oregano, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Mix together GENTLY with your hands until just combined (overmixing will make the meatballs tough), and form into 2" meatballs. 

You can actually make these meatballs up to 24 hours ahead of time and keep them in the fridge. In fact, making them ahead of time lets the flavors really meld together. Sometimes, I'll make the meatballs in the morning, keep them in the fridge all day, then brown them that evening. 

You can also go ahead and brown them, then freeze them in a single layer. Then, when you want to eat them later, simply heat them up in the sauce! OR, if you have the freezer space (luckily, I do), brown the meatballs, finish in the sauce, and freeze everything together - that way, all you will have to do is simply heat everything up. 

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Place the meatballs in the skillet, making sure they aren't touching one another. Brown on all sides, turning as needed with tongs (about 8-10 minutes total cooking time). If you chilled your meatballs, let them come up to room temperature before browning. 

Meanwhile, prepare the sauce: Heat the olive oil in a large skillet or Dutch oven over medium heat; add the onions and cook for 7-8 minutes or until golden brown and beginning to caramelize. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste and basil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Add the browned meatballs to the sauce and let simmer for 25-30 minutes.

To assemble the subs, cut a V-shaped notch out of the top of the hoagie roll, removing some of the inside if necessary - you want to form a nice little pocket for the meatballs to nestle in.

Arrange meatballs in the notch. Top with some of the tomato sauce, then layer on about 2oz of the sliced mozzarella. Repeat with the remaining hoagies, meatballs, sauce and cheese.

Place the hoagies on a foil-lined baking sheet and broil until the cheese has melted and the bread is toasted.

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