Whenever I think of meatball subs, I always think about Joey on "Friends." Meatball subs were on the top of his list of favorite foods, so much so that you could bribe him to do almost anything if you gave him a sandwich. I only indulge in this sandwich once in a while, but every time I do, I understand where Joey is coming from. Today, I wanted to turn the classic meatball sub into a grown-up version. Introducing spicy meatball subs with burrata and roasted broccolini. Don't get me wrong, the original version is always great, but this may even be a little better.
Spicy Meatball Subs with Burrata
- 1 tablespoon oil
- ½ onion chopped
- 2 garlic minced
- 28 ounce canned tomato sauce
- ¼ cup white wine
- 1 teaspoon dried parsley
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- salt and pepper
- 2 slices white bread
- ½ cup buttermilk
- 1 lb ground beef
- ½ lb ground pork
- 1 egg
- 2 garlic minced
- 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 bunch broccolini
- juice of ½ lemon
- salt and pepper
- 6 submarine bread
- 1 lb burrata
- Prepare the spicy marinara sauce. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the chopped onions and saute until softened, about 3-4 minutes. Add the garlic and saute 1 more minute. Add the remaining ingredients (canned tomato – red pepper flakes) and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer.
- Make the meatballs. Combine the white bread with buttermilk and let sit for 5 minutes. Squeeze out the excess liquid and crumble the bread into small pieces. Combine bread with remaining ingredients (ground beef – black pepper), mixing until well combined. Form about 18 meatballs and carefully drop them into the sauce. Continue to cook the meatballs in the sauce until they are firm, about 20 minutes.
- Meanwhile, cook the broccolini. Heat 1 tablespoon olive in a medium saute pan over medium heat. Add the broccolini and sear on all sides, cooking until the thickest part of the stems are tender. Season with the juice of ½ a lemon, salt, and pepper. Set aside.
- Assemble the sandwiches. Cut the submarine bread in half and stuff with broccoli rabe, 3 meatballs, and burrata. Finish in the broiler if desired for 1-2 minutes or until the tops of the sandwiches are slightly charred. Serve immediately.
**Helpful tips and common mistakes
In my opinion, meatballs are one of those foods that everyone tinkers with to get just right. I've seen many different variations playing around with the types of meat, the binder, and the cooking method. This recipe is what works for me, especially for these spicy meatball subs.
Start by making the marinara sauce. I prefer to use San Marzano canned tomatoes but you can also use canned tomato sauce as well. If you're using San Marzano canned tomatoes, make sure to mash the tomatoes as they cook to make a smooth sauce. If you're feeling especially brave, you can always increase the red pepper flakes to make it extra spicy.
Now time for the meatballs. I like to use a combination of ground pork and ground beef for the added flavor and fat of the pork. You can choose to use only ground beef or even make turkey meatballs. The buttermilk-soaked bread adds moisture to the meat vs just adding breadcrumbs so take that extra step - it will be worth it! Add the remaining ingredients and form about 18 meatballs.
People always used to ask, "how can you test the seasoning of burgers or meatballs?" The answer is simple. Simply pan-fry a small amount of the meat in a saute pan and taste away!
I used to brown my meatballs before adding them to the sauce but recently have been adding them directly to the sauce. By cooking them on low heat, they won't fall apart and will soak up all the goodness of the marinara sauce. Stir occasionally to make sure all sides of the meatballs get coated in the marinara.
While the meatballs are cooking, cook the broccolini. Broccolini is a long slender vegetable, belonging to the broccoli family with a slightly bitter and nutty taste. To offset the bitterness, squeeze fresh lemon juice. If you can't find broccolini, kale would be a great substitute.
Assemble the sandwiches, piling on the broccolini, meatballs, and of course, the burrata. Make sure to use room temperature burrata - no one likes cold cheese! Cut the burrata in half and spread the cheese to make it easier to eat.
One bite into these spicy meatball subs with burrata and I don't think I can ever go back. The rich creamy burrata with the lemony, bright broccolini, and spicy meatballs, the combination is unbeatable. Take about taking a classic to the next level!
For more sandwich inspiration check out these spiced lamb pita wraps!