Chicken Meatball Sub with Gobs of Fresh Mozzarella

June 14, 2010
10 Ratings
Photo by Mark Weinberg
  • Prep time 10 minutes
  • Cook time 30 minutes
  • Serves 4
Author Notes

While you don't have to use fresh mozzarella for a melty, gooey sandwich like this, it really makes it so much better. The whole thing is just such great comfort food. —Erin Jeanne McDowell

Test Kitchen Notes

WHO: Erinmcdowell is Food52’s Test Kitchen Manager and pie whisperer.
WHAT: The meatball sub had a mid-life crisis and bought a brand new car.
HOW: Brown flavorful chicken meatballs in a sauté pan with olive oil as you make a quick tomato sauce. Then, melt slices of fresh mozzarella on a baguette until they’re melty. Pile on sauce and meatballs, grab a handful of napkins, and start eating.
WHY WE LOVE IT: It’s the moment we’ve been waiting for -- the meatball sub is exciting again! With chicken meatballs, fresh mozzarella, and homemade tomato sauce, the classic sub has a whole new life. We recommend making extra meatballs and sauce to eat on pasta throughout the week. —The Editors

What You'll Need
  • For the chicken meatballs:
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil (15 g)
  • 1 sweet onion, minced (220 g)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced (15 g)
  • 1 pound ground chicken (454 g)
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste (35 g)
  • 1 teaspoon oregano (3 g)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil (6 g)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 pinch red pepper flakes
  • 1 egg (57 g)
  • 3/4 cup breadcrumbs, or more as needed (63 g)
  • Olive oil, as needed for cooking
  • For the tomato sauce and the finished sandwich:
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil (15 g)
  • 1 small onion, minced (170 g)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (10 g)
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste (17 g)
  • 4 to 5 tomatoes, roughly chopped (or one 15-ounce can)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Chopped fresh basil, to taste
  • 1 baguette, halved and cut into 4 pieces
  • 8 ounces fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced (227 g)
  • Pepperoncini or other hot peppers, optional
  1. In a small sauté pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Sauté the onions until translucent, about 4 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, 1 minute more. Set aside, and let cool.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the cooled onion mixture with all the other meatball ingredients. Mix well to combine. Using your hands, roll the mixture into small balls.
  3. Heat the olive oil over medium heat. Place the meatballs in the hot pan, and allow to cook until nicely browned on each side and cooked through, about 8 to 10 minutes (you can also sear the meatballs and finish them in the oven, if desired).
  4. To make the tomato sauce, heat the olive oil in a small pot. Add the onion and sauté until translucent, about 4 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, 1 minute more.
  5. Deglaze the pan with the tomato paste, then stir in the tomatoes. Season the sauce with salt and pepper, and bring to a simmer. Simmer until a good flavor develops, then stir in the basil just before serving.
  6. Place the mozzarella on half of the bread slices (if your bread is stale, you can toast it first; I used a fresh baguette, so it didn't need toasting). Run the bread under the broiler until the cheese is melted and bubbly, about 2 minutes.
  7. Toss the meatballs in the tomato sauce, and spoon some meatballs onto the bread. Garnish with hot peppers, if desired, then serve!

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • aargersi
  • Erin Jeanne McDowell
    Erin Jeanne McDowell
  • Lovisa Williams
    Lovisa Williams
  • Alice
I always have three kinds of hot sauce in my purse. I have a soft spot for making people their favorite dessert, especially if it's wrapped in a pastry crust. My newest cookbook, Savory Baking, came out in Fall of 2022 - is full of recipes to translate a love of baking into recipes for breakfast, dinner, and everything in between!

10 Reviews

Lovisa W. July 24, 2023
This is the second time (maybe the third time?) I have made this dish. I add half a bottle of beer to the sauce. Usually an ale or pilsner-style beer. I added more garlic - I come from a place where there is almost no such thing as too much garlic! I also added some dried basil to the sauce while it is cooking. I enjoy the fresh basil added to the end of the sauce too. For this batch, I realized I didn't have any onions. As a supplement, I used about 3-4 tablespoons of finely chopped shallots for the meatballs and sauce. Most people would never guess you are using chicken in the meatballs. To save additional calories I cooked my meatballs in the oven at 425 for 12 minutes. I added them to the sauce to absorb some of the flavors from the sauce (15-20 minutes) before serving. I agree with others on only using fresh mozzarella. Another alternative would be provolone cheese. I also add a pinch of freshly grated parmesan. I have served this as a sandwich and over pasta when I ran out of bread. It is a great comfort food dish. It is also a good crowd pleaser and good for picky eaters.
Alice May 21, 2020
Not worth it! The meatballs have no flavor and the sauce is blah. Fresh mozzarella and good French baguettes are hard to beat, but find a different recipe for the rest.
SwissKiki November 5, 2018
Made these last night and baked the meatballs in the oven at 400 F for around 15 minutes (I made them large - peach size) Fabulous flavor! I added a half teaspoon of Penzeys Italian sausage seasoning spice to the meat as well which really enhanced it.
Mark April 11, 2016
Unreal. Had a bunch of dudes over for the Master's this weekend and, of course, when boys get tot drinking beers they get hungry. I whipped a whole mess'ah these bad boys and silenced the growling stomachs. Did 'em in batches on the skillet then finished off in the oven for 12 minutes at 400 degrees. The sauce was V nice. I used a coupla extra vine ripened tomatoes just like they did in the old country. Felt like a regular Pete Clemenza. An agreed on the fresh mootz. That store bought garbage doesn't belong anywhere close to these little balls of perfection.
seasonalfeast September 30, 2015
I like the idea of finishing the meatballs in the oven. What temp and for how long? Guessing 425 for 10-12 min? These look yummy, can't wait to try them!
ghainskom September 28, 2015
This was good! Good enough to make again, definitely!
mklug October 6, 2014
You had me at "gobs"!
mstv September 24, 2014
This is one of the best recipes I have tried on this site. Very nice.
aargersi June 14, 2010
LOVE meatball sandwiches, and anything that calls for gobs of mozzerella is BOUND to be good!
Erin J. June 14, 2010
Thanks - I agree! I love this challenge and can't wait to try everyone's recipes!