By Emma Haberman | November 22, 2011

Those who celebrate Thanksgiving are entering a week of eating lots of poultry. Unless you really dig in at the main event, you’re looking at several days of turkey sandwiches, turkey chili and turkey salad. Pre-game this tryptophan extravaganza with something completely different: a meatball sub.

I used to have the pleasure of living across the street from one of New York City‘s best meatball sandwiches, and there’s been a meatball-shaped hole in my stomach ever since I moved. I finally took matters into my own hands and made my own meatball subs, and am happy to report that they are an excellent substitute. I used a blend of ground pork and beef and a classic tomato sauce, but you can use any combination of ground beef, pork, chicken, turkey or veal (if that’s your thing) for the meatballs, and your favorite pasta sauce as the topper. Be gentle when handling the meatballs; the fresh breadcrumbs make these little guys light and fluffy, but also delicate. Careful not to overcook the meat – a dry, crumbly meatball is no meatball at all.

Enjoy this prelude to the holidays, and have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Meatball Subs Recipe

Adapted from The Smitten Kitchen

Ingredients:

For meatballs:
1/3 cup fresh breadcrumbs from hero rolls, torn into tiny pieces
1/4 cup warm water
1/2 pound ground pork
1/2 pound ground beef
1 tablespoon parsley (fresh or dried), chopped
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
Dash of red pepper flakes
1 small garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 egg
Olive oil
2 cups tomato sauce

For caramelized onions:
1 yellow onion, sliced thin
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt

For assembly:
1/2 cup grated Gruyere
1/2 cup grated mozzarella
2 whole wheat hero rolls

Method:

  1. Slice the rolls lengthwise, leaving one side attached, then cut each roll in half. Scoop out a groove on each side of the roll for the meatballs to rest in. Use the scooped-out insides as the breadcrumbs for the meatballs.
  2. In a medium-sized bowl, add the bread crumbs and warm water. Add in the rest of the meatball ingredients except for the olive oil and tomato sauce and mix with a fork until combined. Form the mixture into 2-inch meatballs and arrange on a tray.
  3. Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a medium-sized saucepan. Brown the meatballs in batches, setting them aside on a paper towel-lined tray until all meatballs are browned. These babies are delicate, so try not to disturb them too much as they brown.
  4. Pour out any excess olive oil. Heat the tomato sauce and add the meatballs. Simmer on low heat until meatballs are cooked through, about 30-35 minutes.
  5. While the meatballs simmer in the tomato sauce, heat the butter and olive oil in a frying pan. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally so that they don’t burn. Add a bit of salt and cook onions until they are soft and brown, about the same amount of time as the meatballs take to cook.
  6. Arrange the meatballs on the hollowed-out rolls, using 2 meatballs per sandwich. Top with tomato sauce, divide the onions over the sandwiches and top with Gruyere-mozzarella blend. Arrange the sandwiches, open faced, on a foil-lined baking sheet and broil until the cheese is melted. Serve with a green side salad; makes 3-4 sandwiches, depending on how large you make your meatballs.

You can follow Emma on Twitter (@habermania)

Photos: Emma Haberman

To read more tips and recipes from Emma, follow me on Twitter (@MarcusCooks)

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