When I was growing up, my parents would take me to their favorite Italian food ‘joint’, known as a tavern to enjoy a sloppy, messy, but delicious treat — a Cheesy Italian Meatball Sandwich. They would get these spur of the moment hankerings for this classic Italian comfort food (or for an Italian Sausage and Peppers sandwich). They’d pack my siblings and me up in the huge (tank) 1962 Mercury station wagon and off we’d go to ‘the tavern’. Or they’d take us to an Italian-American festival where pigging out on an Italian Meatball Sandwich was tradition!
These are some huge, open-your-mouth-wide, killer sandwiches. It takes a big appetite to eat only one of them. And they are not served in Italy. This is true Italian-American food found in bars, old-time (think Chianti bottles with dripping candles and red and white checkerboard tablecloths) spaghetti joints. If the place had spaghetti and meatballs on the menu, then Italian Meatball Sandwiches were also offered. Again, you won’t find spaghetti and meatballs anywhere in Italy . . . meatballs (polpetti di carne al sugo) are only served alone in Italy, primarily in Southern Italy.
The verdict on these sammies from Mr. Meat and Potatoes: “Quite Delicious!”
I hope that you enjoy this delicious recipe for a Cheesy Italian Meatball Sandwich!
I made each of these meatballs into 3 oz. (monster-size) balls. They are huge, so forming them into 2 oz. balls is sufficient. I would not make them any smaller because this is supposed to be a huge, sloppy, 5-napkin sandwich. You can always cut them in half if you like, but that defeats the purpose of being a meatball when you do that.
This recipe makes about 25 – 30 large meatballs, so you can pop those that you don’t serve in the freezer to use later for either more meatball sandwiches or with pasta and marinara sauce. Perfect for those busy nights or for last minute guests who you’ve just invited over for dinner!
Tips for making your Cheesy Italian Meatball Sandwich more outstanding than any other:
- Make superior meatballs (see my recipe), adding prosciutto and pancetta to the meat mixture
- Use top-quality marinara sauce
- Use soft ‘ball’ mozzarella plus provolone slices
- Use hefty bread/buns such as ciabatta or hoagie buns
- Brush olive oil all over the insides of the buns
- Slice a big clove of garlic and generously rub the sliced side of the garlic all over the oiled buns
- Toast the buns!
- Spread some sauce on the bottom half of the bun
- Layer provolone cheese on top of sauce before placing the meatballs on top
- 1 large onion, minced
- 3 Tbsp. olive oil
- 4 large cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 slice of prosciutto cut ¼" thick, sliced into strips and then ground
- 2 slices of pancetta cut ¼" thick, then diced, sliced into strips and then ground
- 1 pound ground round beef
- 1 pound ground mild Italian sausage
- 2 cups Italian-seasoned bread crumbs
- 2 jumbo eggs
- ½ cup chopped Italian parsley
- ⅛ cup chopped fresh basil
- ½ cup finely grated parmesan cheese
- ½ cup finely grated pecorino cheese (you can also use asiago)
- 2 Tbsp. Italian seasonings (dried or fresh Italian herbs: oregano, sage, rosemary, basil, etc.)
- 1-½ tsp. whole fennel seeds
- 2 jars homemade or store-bought marinara sauce (plain)
- 2 Tbsp. Italian seasonings (dried or fresh), extra if needed to suit your taste preferences (which I tend to heavily season my sauces)
- ¼ tsp. red pepper flakes
- 1 tsp. freshly cracked sea salt
- 1 - 2 hefty breads (Ciabatta) or large hoagie/submarine buns
- olive oil
- 1 large garlic clove cut in half
- 2 balls of fresh mozzarella, sliced about ⅛ - ¼" thick
- Pour olive oil in large heavy pot on a medium heat stove.
- Saute' onions until clear and transparent.
- Add garlic and saute' for 2 more minutes making sure that the garlic does not burn.
- Add the ground prosciutto and ground pancetta to saute' for another 5 minutes.
- Remove from heat and place in a very large mixing bowl.
- Allow to cool.
- Add the ground round beef and ground Italian sausage; mix slightly.
- Add remaining meatball ingredients and thoroughly mix everything together BY HAND.
- Form 2 or 3 ounce balls (use a little scale to weight them) and place on a well-oiled baking sheet.
- Bake for 30 - 45 minutes on 375 F degrees.
- Turn the meatballs over occasionally to brown on several sides.
- In a large, heavy sauce pan, on a low-medium heat stove, prepare the marinara sauce with all ingredients listed -- making sure that the bottom of the sauce does not burn.
- When meatballs are finished baking, immerse them in the marinara sauce (optional).
- Slice buns in half.
- Brush olive oil on each half of the buns.
- Rub the sliced garlic clove generously all over the olive oil, using the cut side of the garlic.
- Roast the buns on a baking sheet in a 400 F degree oven until golden brown -- keeping an eye on them so they do not burn.
- Spoon a layer of marinara sauce on the bottom half of each bun.
- Layer 2 - 3 slices of provolone cheese on top of the marinara sauce.
- Place 3 meatballs on top of cheese.
- Spoon marinara sauce over the meatballs.
- Generously layer the sliced fresh mozzarella on top of sauce.
- Bake in 400 F degree oven until cheese melts and turns golden brown.
Here is another FANTASTIC recipe for meatballs . . . just ‘skinny-fied’ by using turkey!